Saturday 30 August 2014

Sidetracked (Wallander #5)Sidetracked by Henning Mankell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My first brush with Mankell and Wallander wasn’t as exciting as I would have liked it to, or as I was lead to believe it would be. There was nothing wrong with the book; neither was there anything out of the world, or special about the book. It was just another Scandi crime thriller with some gore, a serial killer and a dose of “broken” police officer with a family and some personal troubles. The book wasn’t a dud, but to compare with Morse is a bit too much.

The problem began with the plot. I have serious issues with serial killers as focal point of a crime novel. Serial killers tend to be erratic, and they kill without any apparent motive, which in turn turns the book into a lengthy process of catch the guy with no motive to spice thing up in the finishing chapters. Though this wasn’t the case here, not at least in toto, but somehow by the end of the book I did feel that Mankell forgot to provide the reader with a motive as to why the four guys got killed. Yes, the motive is simple and the reader can sum it up on his own, but I guess it’s the duty of the writer to elucidate on that point. Bottom line, the book got over but we never got a motive.

And lastly the translation. I know it’s hard to capture the essence of a book when it’s getting translated, but is it too hard to try and not make the book sound like robot? Because that’s how the book sounded to me. Wooden and bland dialogues. Mankell took the way, where he shows us the culprit, and then takes us through a cat and mouse game where both the cat and the mouse is known to us. The tact was good, it was filled with suspense but the wooden words killed off any kind of suspense that was meant to be present.

Summing up, this is not a dud, as I had said earlier. But, neither is this a piece of art.

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Monday 25 August 2014

Word of HonorWord of Honor by Nelson DeMille
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The last Demille book I had read was THE LION. And, I couldn’t wait to get it off my back. It was that bad. So, it was with great reluctance that I picked up the WORD OF HONOR. Reluctance because it was written by Demille, and THE LION was still chasing me. And, secondly the book was blurb-ed as a courtroom drama, with a Vietnam connection and it was 700 pages long. Long books with Nam connection makes me weary. They tend to go the Clichéd Street with half drunken genius protagonists and beautiful agents to rescue them from self destruction. And my single encounter with a John Grisham legal thriller didn’t turn out good.

But, within the first 50 pages my fears were laid to rest, as the book hit the gas right away. The plot never did slow down, and for a 700 page LONG book it’s a commendable job. Demille’s UP COUNTRY was long too and I loved it, but even that book had around 50 pages which could have been skipped without missing much on the plot. But, this book was free of any such “skip worthy” pages. The book was taut with little room for boredom. Even the courtroom scenes laced with legal jargon was fast and was written in a style where the legal jargon which important but without any thrill was alternated with highly charged witness dialogues which were an integral part of the plot and were “entertaining” to read. But, mostly what grabbed my attention was that the book never slowed down for once even. The whole thing just breezed past, without a moment to consider whether the book was getting too slow to be marked as “READ-LATER”.

And lastly the characters. Ben Tyson irritated me. With his chivalrous attitude, a BIG ego and confused relation with his wife was not someone to look up to. But that’s why this book was a success, because in reality if someone is faced with a similar situation that person would turn into a confused person irritating everyone. Marcy Tyson, was confused too and she too turned out to be a real character. The point is has these people been shown as someone who is taking the whole thing very sportingly, or “Who gives a F***” attitude the book would have seemed unreal though the characters might have been more tolerable, but the book would have turned into a fantasy. But the real hero of the book was Vincent Corva. With his attitude, his courtroom skills, and his ability in turning up with a key witness made him overshadow Ben Tyson in every department.

P.S. Had Tyson been a bit less egotistic and practical and signed the papers given to him by Chet Brown, this book could have been over in 100 odd pages. But, practical and sane men have never been the subject of a popular novel. Thanks to Ben Tyson’s ego we got to read a book that was highly entertaining.

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Friday 1 August 2014

The Gone Dead Train: A MysteryThe Gone Dead Train: A Mystery by Lisa Turner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What happens when two bluesmen die under mysterious circumstances, an ex-ball player dies under violent circumstances and we have a duo of an cop(recently kicked by his former beau) and a “Polize-Goddess” (recently out of a violent illicit relationship) to solve the case? We get The Gone Dead Train by Lisa Turner. A decent sophomore effort that won’t make you sit up and take notice but which won’t make you yawn and roll your eyes either.

This book succeeds with mediocre but solid marks. Though being filled with clichéd moments involving blues music, voodoo, a cult called Santeria and downfall of an famous ball player, and clichéd characterisation in the protagonists of Memphis Detectives Billy Able, who comes out as a semi-renegade officer who pokes his nose into a case which is not his, and who is suffering from his girlfriend’s decision to open a bakery in Atlanta; and lady cop Frankie Malone who is eager to get promoted but fails to notice that getting into a relation with a married colleague might just prove to be a hurdle in her dreams.

With these the author decided to threw in some Memphis ambience, a civil rights lawyer and a deep connection with the civil rights movement, and the assassination of Dr. King. All these moments might have just turned sour, but the lady writing the book saved it. She with her style of writing kept the book fast and full of suspense. Apart from some loose ends regarding the deaths of the Bluesmen, and the modus operandi of the killer, the book was surprisingly fast. And because of this sole reason the book passes the test, as it scored on pace. And a thriller with good pace is always OK with me, even if it is garnished with a few loose ends.

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