Thursday 24 July 2014

The WheelmanThe Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is one perfect reason why I consider Agatha Christie as one of my favourite authors, because she was not pretentious and knew that what she wrote was crime fiction with the sole purpose of entertainment. Her books were not commentaries on racism, on human psychology or something
“much deeper than just a crime novel”. Then smartass writers started criticising Christie and started writing Crime fiction with a “Broader Perspective”, and managed to make the crime, twist and solution take a back seat to things like human psychology, atmosphere and every other stuff which made no contribution to the plot, pace or entertainment in any way whatsoever.

Duane S scores here, and scores a perfect 10. This book, The Wheelman, just as the name suggest is a pure crime fiction and nothing more. Just like a wheelman, whose sole aim is to get the men out into safety, Duane S made sure that this book’s main aim is to satisfy the reader, and present him with a purest form of crime fiction.

He was successful. He offered no commentary as to how a man could commit crime, what made him do it. No opinion and sympathies as to how human kind is getting scarier day by day. Or how corrupt the law has become. He merely states that humans can be dangerous, some of them rob banks and kill people, and the city of Philly has a darker side and there are corrupt police officers. To these facts he adds a huge….huge dollop of twist, right up to the last page. And adds a liberal sprinkling of pace and serves the reader with a work of crime fiction which deals with a crime, its outcome and the twists in between. And nothing more.

So, in my opinion if Duane S is the future of Crime writing, then the future is pretty safe. If not there is a twist in the future in the same way he twisted us readers in his book.

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Tuesday 22 July 2014

The Darkest Room (The Öland Quartet #2)The Darkest Room by Johan Theorin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I had read Echoes from the Dead, I was not really expecting a taut thriller, with a sad and believable protagonist and a plot which racing between two time periods and an unlikely outcome, a twist in the very last pages. It kept me hooked up to the last page. I made the mistake of underestimating the book, and I was properly thrilled with its stature. And, then I made the mistake of over estimating The Darkest Room, and was not really thrilled by the book and its contents. Make no mistake of the fact, Johan Theorin is a great writer, and I still consider him a personal favourite, but somehow I guess he tried a little too hard to make this book exotic and in the process ended up in writing a book which neither could become a complete thriller nor a complete family drama.

The publishers note in my edition said, “In this powerhouse of suspense–at once a crime novel and a searing family drama…” So, from a purely crime fiction point of view I was sorely disappointed. The plot was not fast, it wasn’t well weaved, the crime never looked like a crime until almost 65% of the book had gone by, the criminal had, at most a total of 5 paragraphs dedicated to him and at the end neither did we get to know what was his fate. There was a subplot which at the end was revealed to be connected to the crime, but the sub plot was way too long and could have been shortened without causing any harm to the main plot. But I never skipped pages, because Theorin after all is a good writer. The book looked like a family drama, sounded like a family drama, read like a family drama, with a bit of supernatural thrown in. As for a work of crime fiction, it was not worth it.

The characters unlike the first book failed to make any mark on me. The semi-protagonist of Tilda Daviddsson gets way to little space to be fully developed, Joakim Westin also comes out as unfinished. His situation brings out sympathy but that’s not the credit of the writer. Reading about him made me bored, but thinking about a man who lost his wife made me sad. A character from the first book makes a cameo appearance and does the Mycroft Holmes thing by pointing out the crime, but sadly that doesn’t salvage the book. Even the old-new connection which worked so well in the last book failed this time. It was boring, and never felt remotely connected to the main plot.

Final verdict, this book, as a work of crime fiction doesn’t stand up. But as far as reading it like a family drama goes, there might be some merit. But then again why would a reader read Johan Theorin to read a family drama???

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Friday 18 July 2014

The Sins of the Fathers (Matthew Scudder, #1)The Sins of the Fathers by Lawrence Block
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this short length debut of Matthew Scudder, prolific author Lawrence Block introduces a scene where Scudder is seen offering money to a police officer in exchange of information on a case Scudder is working. When the cop hesitates to take the money, Scudder deftly gives him a short but effective advice on why should he grab the money, and why him not taking the money might cause serious jeopardy to the his career. To that the cop replies that he guess he has a lot to learn. This scene told me first-hand that why Block is considered to be a class in crime writing, why Scudder stands apart from the pack of PIs working in the world of crime fiction, and lastly why a lot of “celebrated” crime writers has got a “lot to learn” from Block when it comes to crime writing.

My version of a perfect crime novel, this book incorporated everything that makes a particular book or a series successful. The book had pace, it had quality and when the ending came it was like coming down from a roller coaster ride which you have rode earlier but was equally enjoyable this time. As far as the plot goes, the whole concept was nothing new; in fact this same plot has been used over and over again. But, somehow Block turned this same old wine into something exotic by sheer speed, a hugely enjoyable and fascinating protagonist and by shedding any extra fact related to the plot, and presenting the whole book devoted to the crime and its solution. Not a single page was not somehow related to the plot. Not a single moment did it cross my mind to skip a page or a paragraph. Books like these never make into a top-100 lists or something like that, instead we get trash(disguised as highbrow crime fiction) listed in those lists.

And lastly, Matthew Scudder, a revelation. An ex-cop, who left the system after he got burnt in it. A PI without a license, a no-nonsense man with a streak of violence in him. A divorcee with two kids. The man could have just turned into another gloomy clichéd American PI. But, thanks to Block he doesn’t. How many protagonists do we have in this world of crime writing who tells a cop to accept money in return for information? Who tells a gay bar-owner to bribe the city police chief in order to make him raid his place and arrest the troublemakers, or drops two hundred dollars into church’s poor box? Not many, but Scudder does. This man along with Morse, Poirot and Millhone is sure to go to the top of my list of favourite protagonists.

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Wednesday 16 July 2014

Irene (Verhœven, #1)Irene by Pierre Lemaitre
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What were the publishers thinking when they published the second instalment in the trilogy before they decided to translate and publish the first??? They were thinking right in doing so. Why?? Will come to that. Before that a bit of the plot, where a serial killer is on a killing spree with mutilated victims strewn all around. He kills them, tortures them, and uses classic crime fiction novels as his point of reference on torture methods and settings. As far as the basic premise of his crime and modus operandi goes he is clichéd to the core, with violence and madness mixed with the usual serial killer antics. Camille gets involved in the case and for those who have read Alex, will know gets involves personally too.

Now the publishers thought right because Alex is a far better Crime novel than Irene. If seen from a purely Crime Fiction POV Alex offered a lot of newness, ranging from the plot, the victims modus operandi, the change in the identity of a character from being good to bad, and back to being good again, or the nastiness of the violence made all the more potent with the mental brutality mixed with it. Compared to that, Irene was brutal, but so is most of the Scandi novels, even the new Robert Galbraith novel is brutal. Brutality didn’t work for me in this book. They were horrifying but it failed to create the level of horror which would make me sit on the edge of the seat.

The plot too, was nothing new. A serial killer taking on the main protagonist in a cat and mouse game, trying to show who is the boss. Been there done that. The use of classic Crime novel as a point of reference though new but is not that ground-breaking. Yes, it does offer a comprehensive course on Crime fiction of sorts, but we have had serial killers referencing ancient Spanish inquisition methods to torture the victims to killers leaving classic rock albums in their victims’ tortured bodies. So, this proved to be “not so exciting” to me. As it was the case with the “TWIST” in the last pages. Somehow the book was so long and a bit slow that by the time the twist came it failed to twist me in any way.

So, when the publishers decided to publish the second book first they knew they were publishing the better of the two books. And indeed it was a success, and for the sole reason that I enjoyed Alex, did I decide to stick with Irene up to the end. Had it been the other way round maybe Irene would have been shelved as UNFINISHED. But, the end result is that Pierre Lemaitre is one hell of a writer. Maybe this was a first-book-blues but he got class, and whoever had read Alex will surely agree that though slow, Irene wasn’t a pushover novel, and that maybe the third book in the trilogy will surpass the first two.

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Tuesday 8 July 2014

Cast, in Order of Disappearance (Charles Paris, #1)Cast, in Order of Disappearance by Simon Brett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Simon Brett is a prolific writers of whodunnits, with four series and more than 30 books to his credit. So, whenever I am toiling my way through an insanely slow and boring book which I decide to not to finish, I pick up one of his books, which instantly provides me with a sense of satisfaction, which I get from reading a good work of crime fiction.

Charles Paris, a mid 40s theater actor, the protagonist of this book is approached by an young girl, who wants him to be a bridge between an aging superstar and herself. She was besotted to him, even a few days back, but recently she got the boot from the old man. And now she is receiving threatening letters from the old man. So, as far as the plot goes there was nothing new to be found, but since I was not searching for anything new but something stable, I was more than happy with the pace and the line of the plot.

Like an economical medium pacer the book kept its line and length intact, and managed to survive without many down points or yawn moments. Yes, the pace was slow if compared to today’s style, but this was not a gory Scandi thriller, thereby breath-taking pace was never needed. The subtle humor, present in almost all Brett novels was very much present. But, the best part of it all was that the writer never made Paris to look like an official amateur detective. All along the plot he maintained a stance which showed clearly that he didn’t have any official authority to snoop, but did that just because somehow he got caught up in the whole mess.

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