Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reading Challenge: Dread and Read

Earlier this year, I decided to join the Dread and Read challenge @ Hotchpot Cafe which (as the name suggests) challenges us to read the books that are there on our TBR piles but that we dread reading. To make the task easier, our gracious hostess, Jane,  has offered us sweeteners.



What with one thing or the other, however, I quite forgot to write a sign-up post for it. But better late than never and so here I am committing myself to read four books that have been languishing on my shelves. All of them are auto/biographies of Indian freedom fighters.

1. Bandi Jeevan by Sachindranath Sanyal.
2. Aap Beeti by Bhai Parmanand
3. Inquilabi Yatra by Manorma Dewan
4. Lala Lajpat Rai by Feroz Chand


Want to join too? You can sign-up here before the 1st of December.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Review: Envious Casca

Envious Casca Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After being majorly disappointed with WHY SHOOT THE BUTLER? I had kind of given up on Georgette Heyer but then found a lot of people talking about this and so gave it a go. Am glad that I did because it is quite enjoyable and though I guessed the modus operandi (and by extension the murderer) it is a decent locked-room mystery.

First Line: It was a source of great satisfaction to Joseph Herriard that the holly trees were in full berry.

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Review: Journey Under the Midnight Sun

Journey Under the Midnight Sun Journey Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

SPOILER ALERT. Read it only if you have read the book.


"Some people walk forever in the sunlight, and some people have to walk through the darkest night their whole lives.... I've never lived in the sunlight....No, there never was a sun in the sky over me. It's always night...."

Excuse me, while I puke because these sob lines are spoken by one of the most sadistic, manipulative, cold-blooded b%*#s I have come across in books. The woman who uses men and then throws them over and who gets her female competitors raped really wants us to believe that she has had a hard life. This one doesn't spare even her friend. Why? Coz the friend one day turned smart and beautiful and started garning male attention. And, of course, our self-pitying female couldn't bear it, and so got her sexually molested by her pet-dog Ryo, who would go to any extent to satisfy her- murder, rape, betrayal. She even gets him to rape her underage step-daughter and if that wasn't enough, forces herself also upon the young girl.

And what is her rationale? Because she was sexually abused as a young child so, of course, everything is justified. Even killing her foster mother because the old lady was lingering on.

And Ryo? The boy who killed his father when he saw him sexually assaulting a young girl, in the end rapes a young girl himself.

Giving it two stars only because of my loyalty towards Higashino and because Kazunari was able to manfully resist Yukiho (Three cheers for him).

*

First Line: Sasagaki left the station and headed west along the tracks.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Review: Christmas is Murder

Christmas is Murder Christmas is Murder by C.S. Challinor
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this up with a great deal of anticipation. Christmas, snow all around, cut-off from the world, the odd guests, the sinister servants, the piling dead bodies....but where was the terror,the growing distrust, the suspicious glances, the false faces??????????????...A totally non-atmospheric mystery. Not keen to read more of the series.

First Line: Mrs. D. Smithings requests the pleasure of the company of Reginald Graves, QC at Swanmere Manor, December 23 to 27.
RSVP

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Forgotten Book: The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

A couple of years back, I read Josephine Tey's Miss Pym Disposes which was not so much about a murder in a boarding school as a deconstruction of the process of detection where it was the limitations of the detective - subjectivity, prejudices, likes, dislikes, - that was interrogated. It was a novel that broadened the scope of a detective novel.

This week, I read Tey's Daughter of Time, a book that often features in the best -100 -mysteries- of -all- time lists. Again Tey broadens the scope of a detective novel, this time examining a historical mystery which gives her the opportunity to examine the way the past comes down to us.




Bored stiff after fracturing his leg while pursuing a criminal, Inspector Grant becomes interested in the man generally viewed as a monster: Richard III, the last of the Plantagenets and the man considered to be the killer of his two young nephews. Fascinated by the portrait of Richard, Grant dwells deeper into the story and with the help of a young research scholar (who does all the leg-work for him) makes a convincing case that rather than being a murderer, Richard was instead a victim of false, malicious propaganda initiated by the Tudors and their lackeys, especially as that first Tudor - Henry VII's claim to the throne was rather shaky.



But as said earlier, the novel is more than just an investigation into a murder done long ago. It is also about how the past gets narrated - Who is writing it? - How objective is the account?' What are the writer's intentions? - Is there anyone to whom the 'historian/ writer/ narrator' is bowing to? - Who is in power? -In fact, while reading the book I kept on thinking about that Big Brother maxim - "Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past."




I quite enjoyed the book but I have a few reservations. Through Grant, Tey pokes a lot of fun at Sir Thomas More whose The History of King Richard III has been used as a standard book of reference by writers and historians. The 'Saintly' More is shown to be in a despicable light who fudged facts but Tey hardly mentions the even more saintly Shakespeare whose play Richard III presents the king as a deformed hunchback as villainous as villainous can be. Wasn't Shakespeare also through his History plays pandering to the Tudors? Why does Tey not question the Bard-of-Avon?

And for a novel that asks us to question the veracity of historical narratives, to dismiss the IRA as a murderous mob is a travesty.



These things apart, I really liked the novel. And yes, Richard III has a very-very strong case in his favour. But then I always liked the Richards more than the Henrys:)


*

First Line: Grant lay on his high white cot and stared at the ceiling.

Source: Project Gutenberg Austalia

Other books read of the same author: (Amongst others) The Franchise Affair

*

Submitted for Friday's Forgotten Books, today @ Todd Mason's Sweet Freedom.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

1977: Invisible Green by John Sladek

1977 is the year chosen for this month @ Past Offences' Crimes of the Century meme and that has given me the opportunity to read the book that had long been on my wishlist: John Sladek's Invisible Green.





The novel opens on a day in 1939. The world is sitting on a pile of dynamite as the seven members of the murder club meet to discuss a Sherlock Holmes adventure and have a group photograph taken.





Time passes. One day, the only female member of the group, Dorothea Pharaoh, now in her sixties, decides to host a reunion of the club. One member is dead but the others all receive her invitation. One of the members, Major Stokes, a rabid anti-communist in the days of yore, rings up to tell her that a certain Mr. Green is planning to kill him as he is about to uncover a great communist conspiracy to take-over Britain. Ravings of a lunatic? Perhaps. But Dorothea is still concerned enough to call her friend, the detective Thackrey Phin, to look into the matter. He keeps an all-night vigil outside the Major's house.... but to no-avail...come the morning and the Major is dead. The police dismiss the death as heart-attack but then two more members of the murder club die. So who is the person behind these murders? What are the secrets that the members are trying to hide? And what is that unsavoury story behind the one member who is supposed to have died during the Blitz?

I guessed the identity of the killer because of a slip that the murderer made but it gave me no pleasure and I kept on hoping that I was wrong about his/her identity.




That apart, I enjoyed this novel and it is sad that the author wrote no Phin mystery after this, turning to SF for financial reasons. And I also found an underlying note of sadness in the novel. Part of it was that it is written in the style of an age that was past (and going by the writer's comments had no market value during the seventies). Part of it was that with the passing of an era, some of the characters seemed to have no place in the world:

Phin read it through, half-horrified at the writer's obvious mental anguish, half admiring his fertile imagination. The letter stopped just short of Martians and the great Pyramid, but it was of the same order of madness: An unhappy, lonely, probably ailing old man magnifying his misery into a world-wide plot against him.

In a sense, the plot was all too real. The world had indeed turned against people like Major Stokes. The battle was not between the long-defunct "NKVD" and "M.16" - it was between that sinister and nebulous force called Modern Society and a handful of forgotten pensioners. Society, employing the weapons of neglect, starvation, indifference, and bureaucracy, was certain to triumph.

Ah... the unrelenting march of time.




*

For more on the book, here's Sergio's review it and here's Bev's.

*

Opening Lines: Autumn, 1939.
                   "LOOK PLEASED, EVERYONE," said the photographer.


Source: Open Library

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Review: Death And The Pleasant Voices

Death And The Pleasant Voices Death And The Pleasant Voices by Mary Fitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A gem of a read. A good mystery with the right sort of intrigue and atmosphere. The Anglo-Indian's angst was a tad exaggerated though. Poor fellow. To imagine that he was the result of two people's love for each other and yet to be so lonely and wretched.


First Line: I have never seen such lightening or such rain in all my life.

Source: Open Library

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