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Archive for August, 2010

Review of H R F Keating’s Inspector Ghote Trusts His Heart

Its hard not to like Inspector Ganesh Ghote of the Bombay CID. He is unlike the traditional picture of a Bombay policeman – he is averse to using force where tact can get him results, he is dogged in his pursuit and at getting the right result and he is a rebel who pursues the criminal for the sake of getting justice done. In this outing, Inspector Ghote is assigned the task of advising a businessman who’s son has been the attempt of a kidnapping. The kidnappers were successful but they ended up with the wrong child – the son of a tailor who does the laundry for the businessman’s household. Ghote’s efforts are directed towards retrieving the child, even if that means initiating a dialogue with the kidnappers & paying part of the ransom, but this goes against the grain of his superior Superintendent Karandikar – the “tiger” of the force – who has been made to oversee the case. The story does drag a bit in the middle, when Mr Desai – the businessman & personal friend of the Commissioner – is made to run around the city trying to pay the kidnappers, but the overall narrative of Ghote going against the instructions of Karandikar to apply his brains in solving the case is a fairly engrossing read. Inspector Ghote’s successful apprehension of the mastermind and the discovery of the kidnapped child, only to find cold water poured over his efforts very quickly by the arrival on the spot of Superintendent Karandikar is typical of how Keating has built up the character of Ghote, someone who is always condemned to remain in the shadows, with his good efforts going unrecognised.

Keating’s series of Inspector Ganesh Ghote is a poignant look at everyday life in this bustling metropolis for an honest policeman, who has to deal not only with criminal elements but also influences from all sides as he strives in his individual effort to maintain justice in the city.

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Review of The Vendor of Sweets by R K Narayan

R K Narayan’s lovely stories set in Malgudi take you back to an age and day far removed from the hectic stress-filled days that we live in. For those of us who have grown up in crowded cities, the idyllic life that Narayan describes is hard to imagine. Equally difficult to picture are the lifestyles of the characters themselves, set in a time when society and being part of a larger social whole set the nature of our activities. R K Narayan captures that atmosphere of mild gloominess yet peaceful living so evocatively in all his books about Malgudi. This one is no different. Jagan is a prosperous sweet vendor who tries to live his life to Gandhian principles. His son Mali is made of different material though and he escapes to America to learn story-writing, returning with a gori wife and a grand scheme to manufacture story-writing machines. It is hard for Jagan to reconcile himself with his son’s activities after he returns and the clash of principles is beautifully captured in this humourous yet sensitive tale.

If you are a fan of R K Narayan or want to know how a large part of India probably was around half a century ago, this is a very good book to read.

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Rumpole on Trial, by John Mortimer

A classic collection of Rumpole tales by John Mortimer. This has the usual courtroom ingredients, old criminals but new frauds, the not-so-likeable judges and the never-a-dull-moment surroundings of 3 Equity Court. There is a family tone to the set of stories in this collection, right from the start, with She Who Must Be Obeyed not really having to live up to that name. In fact in the first story… but never mind, read this collection and enjoy.

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Review of The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall

Top class! Or as the hero of this book would have said, “Ek dum world-class!”. I would rate this book 5 out of 5. The writing is engaging and the language transports one to Delhi and the north. Vish Puri is a very believable detective, a cross between Poirot, Sherlock Holmes whom he doesn’t like (“Sherlock Holmes was fiction, but I am very much real”) and Bentley’s Trent. With his trusty lieutenants in Tubelight, Flush and Facecream, not to mention his Mummy-ji, Vish Puri runs The Most Private Investigators ferreting out dark secrets in the National Crime Region that is Delhi and its commuter districts. Normally kept busy with simple “matrimonial investigations”, he is thrust into a case where he has to use all the resources of his team and all his wits to nail the culprits. And its a rollicking ride for the reader as we accompany Vish on his many adventures!

Tarquin Hall’s writing captures the ethos of the north so effectively that we can almost smell the pakoras! And the storyline is good too, with enough twists and turns to keep us hooked till the very last line and page.

Can’t wait to start on the next one.

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Review of Death on the Cape and Other Stories by Mary Higgins Clark

This is not a recent book but I am a huge fan of short stories of any genre, so when I came across this collection by a well known writer of suspense & crime fiction, it was hard to resist the same. The stories in this are largely of the crime-fiction variety, with the last three – including the title story – featuring a husband-wife pair of amateur crime-fighters. They cover a variety of settings and storylines, so the entertainment value out of this book is very good. I liked the title story – well written and a good plot. The lone psychological suspense story in the collection is a bit of a chiller – if you are fond of camping, perhaps it may give you the odd nightmare.

Enjoyable read.

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