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Archive for February, 2012

For all those who thought that crime thrillers are serious stuff, here’s a book to make you change your mind. Tom Ripley returns as the audacious crook now living the good life in France, married to a rich & beautiful girl. There is reference to his past life as Dickie Greenleaf’s friend but the story starts with the dust having more or less settled on that affair. Instead, we learn of Ripley’s discrete involvement in a long-running forgery scam which shows signs of unravelling when a rich American connoisseur becomes suspicious of a painting by the famous Derwatt which he feels is a forgery. It is indeed a forgery, for Derwatt has long been dead and all his paintings are the works of a minor painter – which is the basis of the scam architected by Ripley & his friends, which includes the guilt-ridden painter Bernard Tufts. Tom Ripley, however, doesn’t want the beans to be spilled on a financially enriching scheme that’s been working well. The book takes us on a hilarious yet thrilling journey from France to London and around Europe as Riple resorts to all means to justify his ends.

Ripley is a rogue, street-smart made rich, amoral and free from the trials of guilt or conscience, yet very likeable, to the extent that one keeps wishing – secretly perhaps – for him to succeed.

Ideally this book can be better enjoyed were one to read the series in order, but even otherwise its fun. This was my first Ripley book and not having read the first one made no difference. I can’t wait to start on the next though.

 

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What a fascinating and enjoyable book this is! The periodic table is something that we all learn about first in school and then for most of us, its relegated to a corner of the brain hardly ever figuring in our daily lives.
We know the table exists but it barely registers on the surface. In this brilliant book, Sam Kean brings it back with a bang and takes us on a journey across the rows and down the columns of the table, giving us a view of its history, how the table got its present shape and the elements that make it up. In the process, we are re-introduced to the elements, their characteristics & general properties, how they relate & intermingle with other elements, what makes them interesting or unique, etc. The chapters in the book group elements by properties that we can relate to, for instance their use in money or in medicine. The author has also avoided repeating the same elements in chapters, so each chapter presents a new set of stories & incidents around a fresh set of elements. Sam Kean’s writing style is light, easy & witty and he avoids getting into too much technical detail, so the lay person who last came across the periodic table in school can still enjoy this book and share the thrill of the early chemists & scientists in their discoveries & inventions.

This book deservedly made it to the shortlist for the Royal Society’s award for Science books in 2011.

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John Le Carre’s likeable and intelligent detective George Smiley is requested to investigate a murder in one of England’s leading schools. The victim seems to have foreseen her own murder but as Smiley finds out when he gets there, everything is not as straightforward as it seems. The police are unable to penetrate the upperclass snobbishness of Carne’s masters to conduct a regular investigation and it requires Smiley’s ingenuity & easy charm to get to the bottom of the puzzle. The quality of writing is excellent and the atmosphere of a leading public school is captured brilliantly in this relatively slim work.

 

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The Maigret series had been a conspicuous omission from both my collection and the list of books that I have read, so when I came across this English translation of Mon Ami Maigret, I couldn’t wait to start on it and judge for myself how good this much-written about French detective is. I enjoyed the book. Maigret is a little similar in his style and approach to the Colin Dexter creation Inspector Morse. He’s easy-going, not too particular about procedures and sharp but without giving the impression of smartness. This particular story is about the death of a trampish character in a sunny French island. The evening before his death, he announces to all that he is a friend of Maigret’s and that night he is killed. Maigret is called in because of this connection and he’s only too happy to escape from a rain-drenched Paris to sunny Porqueroles. He is accompanied by a Scotland Yard inspector who has come over to study Maigret’s methods. The location is exotic with a good mix of colourful characters. Simenon conveys the atmosphere of the place very well. The mystery itself is light but its enjoyable to keep company with Maigret as he progresses it at a steady pace to a satisfactory conclusion.

Good, light, enjoyable read.

 

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