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Archive for July, 2012

the all bengali crime detectivesFor a first time crime writer, Suparna Chatterjee gives us a very enjoyable read. Though the book is meant to be read as a crime thriller, let me tell you its only masquerading as one. True, there is a crime that has to be investigated and solved. But the book is more about the daily life of the protagonists – four retired Bengali gentlemen who meet most mornings in a small park in their paara to discuss & indulge in light debates. The author has captured the environment, the ambience and the situation very nicely and expresses it in a manner that makes it very easy to visualise the morning meetings of our ABCD friends. The detection portion happens by chance – a crime happens under the very noses of our friends – and as they discuss & debate it over the new few mornings, their natural inclination to solve the mystery energises them to go beyond mere debate & attempt to solve the problem. Intertwined with the main story are parallel threads, including a (not surprisingly!) buildup to the Durga Puja. The four heroes of our story are well-captured and very believable. The story is well-written, proceeds at a steady pace and while being a little heavy with Bengali terms, is nevertheless a good read.

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Considering I was a little disappointed with the first book in the series – Roseanna – but at the same time having enjoyed one of the later books – The Locked Room – this one was to be my decider for continuing with the series (never mind that I’ve already purchased the rest!). So I was really hoping that Martin Beck will not disappoint me this time, mainly because he’s such a down-to-earth character. In that this book was enjoyable. The book was published in 1966 and its important to read it keeping that in mind. Many of the things in this can’t happen in today’s world but its important to remember that the world half a century ago was a very different place.

The Man Who Went Up In Smoke is about a Swedish journalist who disappears on what appears to be a routine trip to Budapest in Hungary. A slightly convoluted reason – again, this perhaps relates to the thinking of that age – sees Martin Beck given the seemingly hopeless task of trying to trace the missing man, a few weeks after the event. He arrives in Budapest with no clue but as he probes into the mystery, he does get somewhere. What he finally uncovers is very different from what he set out to do. But the story doesn’t end there – Martin and his colleagues have to just look at the problem in a different way if he has to work out the truth of the matter.

I liked this one. The story is well-knit and the characters & the storyline is very believable. An enjoyable light thriller.

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This is the first book in the Martin Beck series. I read The Locked Room which is one of their more acclaimed books and decided to start from the beginning. However, honestly this book was a little disappointing. The pace is rather slow at the start but suddenly gets to a galloping pace in the later sections. The deductions are good to start with, but the intuitive manner of identifying the murderer and then setting a bait for him don’t make for great detective work. At the end of the tale, there is no sense of achievement for the eager reader – small consolation that the authors also make Martin Beck admit to the same feeling.

So what’s good about the book? The characters are all people we can empathise with. Martin Beck is not James Bond, on the contrary he is a regular person with his own problems which he tries to cope with. He solves the crimes with the help of his colleagues, so its not a one-man show. There is a down-to-earthiness about these books, which I find rare in books of this sort. It is almost possible to empathise with one or more of the characters.

So, I have now started on the second book in the series and am hoping that this will score higher on the detection scale than the first one.

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