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Archive for June, 2012

When I was buying this book, the list of authors who’s stories are in this collection didn’t look very impressive, most of them are authors who are no longer well known today. But given the praise from Ruskin Bond in his introductory note for both the stories and their authors, I decided to take a chance. After all, it is a collection of short crime stories so how wrong could it go? But my opinion changed after reading the very first story and then it was just a matter of a few hours before I had finished all of them. The stories in this collection are excellent – the crimes are devious and very cleverly conceived. The first story – Death At The Wicket – will appeal to lovers of cricket – its an ingeniously engineered murder of a batsman. Query describes the agony of a man wrongly accused and jailed of murder, but its the manner in which he proves his point that makes this story interesting. In A Considerable Murder everyone has a reason to kill the old codger, but who’s successful in the end? These and other stories, including a nice one by Ruskin Bond himself, make up this wonderful selection.

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This is the second outing of Malcolm Fox of the Lothian and Borders Complaints team, or to give them their formal name, Professional Standards. Fox and his team are investigating whether the colleagues of a convicted policeman in Fife knew of his misdoings and condoned the same. The Complaints team – never welcome anywhere – come up against the usual type of hurdles and excuses from getting to their men. But what started off as a low-key relatively insipid investigation soon turns exciting for Fox when the original complainant is found dead. Is it suicide or is it a carefully executed murder? Fox starts unravelling the threads, which lead him back to events in the spring of 1985. But what should’ve remained as mere happenings from over two decades back seem to be still capable of influencing incidents in this present time. It all comes to a head when Fox finally pieces the jigsaw together, but will he survive the danger that he has cast himself into?

The writing is crisp as ever and the story has a good pace. A couple of coincidences at the end seem to be a little over the top, but that’s only a small blemish on an otherwise excellent Rankin novel.

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get shorty

Chili Palmer is a Miami loan shark who is considering a change of job when one of his “clients” goes missing. For more than the usual reason, Chili follows his trail to LA and promptly gets tangled up with a film producer past his prime & his horror-film starlet. Very soon he is bitten by the movie bug and realises that he has the best script of them all – his own life story. Add in a diverse cast of characters – the current top gun actor, a local trigger-happy drug dealer who wants to launder his money by investing it in films, Chili’s -client who’s living the life of his dreams if only temporarily and a mobster from Miami out to settle old scores with Chili – and we have a complex set of plots & subplots, all of which get neatly resolved at the end. That’s also when we get to know the real meaning behind the title.

The writing is excellent, crisp and without a single word out of place. The dialogues are street-smart and bring the characters to life. This is a crime caper at heart, but there is an everpresent undercurrent of humour and satire.

A thoroughly enjoyable book, from the first word to the last. 

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goopy gyne bagha byne This is a wonderful selection of stories for children, though adults will enjoy it in equal measure. The author –  Upendrakishore Roychoudhury – is a well-known Bengali author and will be easier to identify as the grandfather of film-maker Satyajit Ray. He wrote a lot of stories for children, of which some of the best has been brought together in this translated collection.

The title story is the tale of two people – Goopy the singer (“gyne” in Bengali) and Panchu the drummer (who would occasionally roar like a tiger, hence his nickname “Bagha” meaning tiger and “byne” meaning drummer). Goopy could sing only one song and Bagha could drum only one tune. When their folks could no longer bear their music, Goopy & Bagha are sent into the forest where they meet up. This tale tells us how they manage to win the favour of the king of the ghosts in the forest, get boons for their “musical abilities” and eventually end up marrying the local king’s daughters.

The stories in this book are grouped in five categories – tales of men, of grandmothers, of birds, of foxes and a lone story of a cat. All of them are told in language that will appeal to both young & old alike. I actually bought it for myself but both my kids loved the stories when I read it out to them.

Anyone who enjoys a good fairy-tale will love this collection of light feel-good tales.

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Inspector Ghote of the Bombay CID has landed what seems to be a straightforward assignment. All he has to do was to go to Calcutta and escort a notorious confidence man back to Bombay to stand trial. But if there’s an easy way to do it and a roundabout way to do it, trust our friend to take the long route. Here it takes the form of a 2-day train journey from Bombay to Calcutta across the Indian sub-continent which Ghote hopes to enjoy to the full. However, his well laid out plans are thwarted by his companions – a glib talker, two hippies and their guru, and an Indian Railways official. Halfway through his onward journey he also gets a telegram that puts an unexpected spoke in his plans. As the train carries him and his companions closer to Calcutta, Ghote realises that perhaps the antidote to his troubles could be amongst his travelling companions themselves. And no sooner has he reached Calcutta than he must start on the return journey over the same route, and one that has its own perils.

Keating has marvellously sketched out this story over two train journeys. Inspector Ghote may come across as a bungling clueless character initially but his doggedness and a late-awakening sense finally get him his man.

A nice story set in the never-a-dull-moment Indian Railways environment. No great mystery here but like the steady pace of the great train that cuts across the subcontinent, so too are we kept entertained by this story to a steady soothing rhythm.

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Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn is on the hunt for a murderer who has used a house-party theme around murder to stage a real one. A few select guests have been invited to the country estate of Sir Hubert Handesley to take part in one of his unique themed parties. This weekend the theme was murder, except it ends with a very real corpse and a very real dagger pierced through its heart. Alleyn is called in to investigate and gets on with it in his usual disarming manner. But this is not a straightforward investigation – very quickly Alleyn finds himself investigating not just this murder but its possible links to a shadowy group of people and another recent murder in London. A cocktail of characters including a mysterious Russian doctor, the butler who goes missing and a lovely lady with something to hide make the right ingredients for this fast-paced & richly cast tale. The denouement at the end, in characteristic Alleyn style, is convincing and not easy to guess. A good mystery.

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