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Archive for July, 2010

Review of The Complaints by Ian Rankin

Another good thriller from Ian Rankin. This is a straightforward police story, bringing together multiple threads – an internal police investigation, child pornography and straightforward murder – into a well-paced tale. A knowledge of Edinburgh & a familiarity with Scottish terms and mannerisms will only add to the experience. I rather like the way in which Rankin is able to convey the atmosphere of Edinburgh & Scotland, the warmth of the people and the misery of the weather. With each book, Rankin’s shedding off some of the legacy of his famous hard-drinking no-nonsense Detective Inspector John Rebus, whom we continue to miss and hope that he will find resurrection at some time.

For those of you who can’t have enough of Ian Rankin, this is a cracking nice read. If you’ve never read Rankin before, this is a very good introduction to one of the best current authors of crime fiction.

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Awesome, what a superbly crafted tale! Stieg Larsson’s final part of the Millenium trilogy is a superlative example of his mastery over the art of crime writing. The book takes the story of Lisbeth Salander to a much-awaited and expected conclusion, but it’s the manner in which we are taken to the conclusion that makes this book an unputdownable read. For sheer joy of reading, this book – and the entire series – is wholeheartedly recommended. This book takes off from where the second book in the series – The Girl Who Played With Fire – stopped. It opens with Lisbeth Salander coming in to hospital, having taken a bullet to her head and a couple to her body. Her intrepid journalist supported Mikael Blomkvist has a huge fight on his hands as the state security police use all means in their hands to get Lisbeth locked away forever. In it, he needs the full support of Lisbeth herself, how they manage that with her locked up under round-the-clock scrutiny is what most of the book is about. The finale is as thrilling as the series, right upto the last page as Lisbeth finally emerges free of the shackles.

Excellent excellent work!

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The Page 3 Murders, by Kalpana Swaminathan

This is supposed to be a murder mystery but if you have expectations of a fascinating tale of crime & detection, then revise your expectations. I am yet to come across a murder mystery where the first corpse only turns up around page 175 of this 280-page first novel by writer Kalpana Swaminathan. So if you are wondering what happens in the first 150 pages of the book – its largely about food. All the build-up that Kalpana takes us through about a motley bunch of people getting together for a grand dinner at an isolated beach-side bungalow at one end of Bombay is good, but page after page talking of food is a put-off. As is the lack of a corpse. However, once the first one turns up, the story is fast-paced, as our likeable ex-policewoman detective Lalli – a combination of Miss Marple and Poirot – cracks the case with ease. The tale is narrated by a niece of Lalli’s, somewhat in the style of Watson writing about Holmes. The writing is easy & simple but the larger-than-life profiles of the characters somehow spoil the overall effect and attractiveness of the story.  Overall, not very happy. However, I might still try to read her next Lalli offering before deciding whether to add this detective to my collection.

Read this book only if you are fond of food.

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Apparently Mumbai – and the old Bombay – is the favourite setting of Indian writers writing in English, according to a BBC article that appears here. The BBC’s Soutik Biswas who writes a regular blog connected to the BBC News website discusses quite a few books – new and old – set in this city. Its an interesting study and one that made me feel good, which is why it is here.

Now I wish we had more options to buy books too – new or second-hand – here in this lovely city!

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The Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk) carries an article today stating that there is a possible fourth story that in the Millenium series by Stieg Larsson. It is believed that Stieg’s partner has the never-before-printed draft of the next adventure featuring the unforgettable Lisbeth Salander and her journalist friend Mikael Blomkvist. For the millions of fans of Lisbeth and the Millenium series around the world, this would be a dream come true and it is with bated breath that we all await further developments on this front.

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This is classic James Hadley Chase set in an Indian context. Bunch of guys plan a robbery, execute it deftly and then things begin to go wrong & unravel. There is always one fall guy amongst the robbers. Surender Mohan Pathak, who wrote this book, used to be a translator of James Hadley Chase books for the mainstream Hindi-speaking population of North India. From that he graduated to writing Hindi pulp fiction, of which this is the first to be translated into English. To properly enjoy this book, one has to accept that it is pure pulp and that the style of writing doesn’t aspire to be literary. Its then a rather enjoyable light read. Do not expect great morals, do not expect a quality of mystery or detection of the Poirot school, instead just relax and imagine you are watching a Bollywood masala movie. Set the brain aside and you will like this story of a likeable crook getting involved in a robbery, getting double-crossed and how he gets his revenge. James Hadley Chase, set in Delhi and the North Indian environs.

Fun.

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This is one of the best sequels I have read – if you enjoyed The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, then you will enjoy this even more. Lisbeth Salander – what a babe! – is as unpredictable as ever. There are parts when she seems to have disappeared completely, leaving the action with Mikael Blomqvist but then she pops back and sets the direction for the story to move. The incidents in this book are set a year after the first book, with Mikael working on yet another expose while Lisbeth is enjoying her new-found freedom & wealth. Suddenly a series of murders brings the spotlight on both of them in different ways and then it’s a race to ensure that the wrongs are righted. What is wonderful about Lisbeth’s character in the book is the manner in which she blooms from the wild girl with a dragon tattoo to a more mature individual who still doesn’t care about society yet begins to feel some kind of responsibility atleast towards herself. She does play with fire & narrowly gets away with it. It would be wrong to say that this book has a clean finish – it does not, and only sets the show for the third book in the series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Its on my desk now and I can’t wait to pick it up – the review will follow shortly.

Extremely enjoyable book, this one.

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