Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I had never heard of the title or the author, but I didn't care. The decision had been taken. I took the book down with great care and leafed through the pages, letting them flutter.

What to do when books that are virtually unputdownable finally end on a false note? It happened with Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger and now it has happened with Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind, a novel  which according to the blurb is second only to Don Quixote in terms of sale in Spanish publishing history. For long the novel had been on my wish-list. This month, I read it as part of the Spanish Literature Month.

Ten-year old Daniel Sempere is taken by his father, one early morning, to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books: a sanctuary for forgotten, abandoned, discarded books. Daniel is asked to choose a book and safe-guard it for life. His choice is a book called The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax. Right from the opening of the book where the protagonist is told by his dying mother the truth about his parentage, and who subsequently undertakes a journey to find his real father, young Sempere is hooked.

So much so in fact, that he starts starts finding his own father - the staid, ordinary, solidly middle-class bookseller - boring. How nice it would be to have another father. Perhaps someone like Julian Carax!. So Daniel too embarks on a quest to find out about the unknown mysterious author. As he dwells further into Carax's past - a journey that brings him  in contact  with (among others) a woman working at the publishing house which had published Carax's books, a priest who turns out to be a classmate of Carax, and a policeman who had been befriended by Carax. Slowly the search starts turning sinister and much like the book written by Carax, the narrative splits into a thousand stories...

The problem that I had with The Shadow of the Wind was not its plot which was gripping but rather with its characterisation. Three people, we are told, invoke complete devotion from others: Penelope, Beatrice, and Julian Carax. Unfortunately, the writer fails to show as to why this is to be so. They are hardly exceptional characters. Penelope is the poor little rich girl, a princess who could not get her prince. As for Beatrice, after years of disliking each other, we are told that Daniel's and Beatrice's antipathy was due to mutual attraction and sexual tension. So suddenly the spunky Beatrice becomes the second Penelope who has to be sheltered and protected. As for Julian, I saw him only as using people whether it is Don Ricardo or Nuria Monfort. Indeed, the only selfless thing he does in his life is to befriend Francisco Javier Fumero (and how that turns out!).

Instead of these one-dimensional characters, I'd have liked to know more of Sempere senior. How did the quiet, selfless man cope with his son slipping away from him? What was the book that he chose from the Cemetry? Now that would be wonderful to read.

I'd have also liked to know more about Tomas Aguilar. How did a man who could not speak without stammering, express his love for his wife and daughter? What were his inventions like?

It is sad that the book ended on such a whimper for me because I really liked the description of civil-war ravaged Spain. Also there is genuine humour whenever the story becomes too heavy-duty. Here's an excerpt from a conversation between a taxi-driver, who is a devout Stalinist and the irrepressible Fermin, Daniel's comrade-in-arms:

"I've heard he's been suffering badly from prostate trouble ever since he swallowed the pip of a loquat, and now he can only pee if someone hums "The Internationale" for him...

'Fascist propaganda, ' the taxi-driver explained, more devout than ever. 'The comrade pisses like a bull. The Volga might envy such a flow.'


First Line: I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.

Title: The Shadow of the Wind

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Original Title: La Sombra del Viento

Translator: Lucia Graves

Publishing Details: London: Phoenix, 2009

First Published: 2002 (Spanish); 2004 (English)

Pages: 514 + 18

Other books read of the Same Author: None


Being a huge bestseller, the book is easily available in book shops. I borrowed it from the college library. [823 Z 23 S]

Read as part of the Spanish Literature Month

Submitted for the following challenges: AZRC, Books in Translation, Chunkster, European Reading, Mystery and Suspense, New Authors, Smooth Criminals, and Wishlist.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Austen in August

I saw this at Bev's blog and have decided to participate too. For details, go here.

I am not an Austen fan but perhaps this would help me finish the books related to her, gathering dust on my shelves.

Friday, July 27, 2012

J is for Jung, Muzaffar

Muzaffar Jung is the detective in Madhulika Liddle's mysteries set during the Mughal times.
Here is how the author describes him:

A tall young man stood at the prow of the boat watching the spectacle. He was about twenty-five years old, broad-shouldered and fine-featured. He wore no beard, and his moustache was short and well-trimmed. The rich green choga and the sturdy boots he had on marked him as an omrah, a nobleman; the unfashionable lack of jewellery and embroidery on his clothing marked him also something of a maverick.

Having lost his mother in early childhood and his father being a military commander, always on the move, Jung has been brought up by his elder sister and her husband, Khan Sahib, who is a kotwal. Moving both amongst the upper echelons and the lower dregs of society, Jung has a keen interest in solving mysteries.

In The English Man's Cameo, his first adventure, he is asked to investigate the murder of one Mirza Murad Begh. When the body of Begh is discovered by the police, Faisal, a jeweller's assistant and a friend of Jung, is loitering nearby. The police promptly arrest him and the case against him becomes even darker when it comes to light that he had had a quarrel with Begh. In desperation, Faisal's wife turns to Jung and asks him to use his resources to prove her husband's innocence,

Jung thus sets out on an adventure that brings him in contact with not one but two beautiful ladies, one of whom is murdered shortly too. Is there a connection between the two deaths? As the investigation turns sinister, Jung himself is shot at by a poisoned arrow.

More than the mystery, I loved the way the author evoked the Mughal era. A weak and doddering Shahjahan is on the throne while his beloved Mumtaz lies dead. The Taj is being built but the Mughal empire is facing an economic ruin. To compound to Shahjahan's woe, his favorite son and heir-apparent, the learned and secular Dara Shukoh, is not liked by many powerful people while the bigot Aurangzeb is on the verge of rebelling. But even as twilight descends, Dilli is alive with men from foreign parts and there are cafes selling the new brew, coffee - Allah, so bitter...


First Line: The musicians had stopped playing, and the room had gone quiet except for the sound of the young girl trying to catch her breath.

Title: The English Man's Cameo

Author: Madhulika Liddle

Publication Details: Gurgaon: Hachette India, 2009

First Published: 2009

Pages: 281

Other Books read of the same author: None


The book can easily be ordered online. I borrowed it from the College Library [823.09 L619E]


Submitted for the South Asian Challenge

Also submitted for the following challenges: Criminal Plots II, Mystery and Suspense, New Authors, Wishlist


Entry for letter J in the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Books: Sir John Macgill's Last Journey by Freeman Wills Crofts

A sense of impending disaster seemed to have fallen on all present. All remained silent. Watching impatiently while the excavation slowly deepened, French was irresistibly reminded of a similar scene in which he had taken part - on the lonely Yorkshire moors near the ruins of the sinister old house of Starvel. There he had been searching for treasure - and had found a body. Here ...?

I had wanted to read Freeman Wills Crofts since I read Peggy Ann's post on the author. To my delight, a  library I frequent, had a few books of his. I picked up Sir John Macgill's Last Journey because the publishing history showed it being republished a number of times in a pretty short span of time. Unfortunately the book didn't really live up to my expectations.

Major Malcolm Macgill receives a letter from his father, John Macgill,  stating that he'd be paying a visit to him at his home-town in Ireland. Malcolm waits for him expectantly but the old man doesn't turn up. Then the Major receives a call from his father from another town asking him to come and pick him up. Again the former draws a blank. Concerned about his father's disappearance, Malcolm consults the police. As the police search for Sir John, they discover his hat stained with blood. Fearing the worst, the Scotland Yard is called in to help the Irish Police. Crofts' hero Inspector French is naturally chosen for the task. French travels  frequently between Northern Ireland and England to solve this baffling mystery. As Crofts was a railway engineer, his understanding of the railways is on full display in this novel which depends a lot on train schedules, time-tables, compartments. However, I found it difficult to bear in mind all the different places, the different modes of transport, the measuring of distances, the calculation of speed etc.

Where Crofts excels, is in the detailing of the police work. " Use your grey cells, as that Belgian would say," French exclaims at one point. But as the novel demonstrates, though the grey cells do come in handy, investigation also requires a lot of leg-work, running around in circles, following leads which reach nowhere, overcoming despondency when there is no even a glimmer of a clue, paper-work, extracting information from unwilling witnesses... all in all a lot of sweat and hard work.

What I found interesting was the historical references peppered through-out the book.

The book, first published in 1930, is dedicated to 'To my many good friends in Northern Ireland'. French's senior, Superintendent Mitchell, reminiscences: "I know Dublin well... Used to be there often before the troubles." One of the leads the police follow is that Sir John might have been attacked by somebody opposed to him politically since he was a Unionist. And when one of the police-officers from Belfast is dismissive of the policy of changing the names of towns by the leadership of the Free State, French enjoys the note of superiority of the northern speaking of Free State activities.

Despite not enjoying this particular book, I'll like to read more of Crofts.


First Line: It was on Monday Morning, the 7th of October, that Inspector French first heard the name of Sir John Macgill.

Title: Sir John Macgill's Last Journey.

Author: Freeman Wills Crofts

Publication Details: London: Collins, 1935 (Classic Crime Club)

First Published: 1930

Pages: 288


The book might be available in libraries since I borrowed from one myself.


Submitted for the Vintage Mystery Challenge

Also submitted for the following challenges: British Books, Find the Cover, Mystery and suspense, New Authors, Support Your Local Library


Submitted for Pattinase's Friday Forgotten Books.

Memes: Wednesday & Thursday

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB @ Should Be Reading. To play along, one has to answer the following questions

What are you currently reading?

Well, I am reading The Room by Emma Donoghue

What did you recently finish reading?

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

What do you think you will read next?

I guess I am going to pick up Anthony Gilbert's The Clock in the Hat-Box.


Theme Thursdays is a fun weekly meme hosted @ Reading between Pages. The idea is to share a couple of sentences from your current read on a particular theme. The theme this week is time:

"It's eight forty-nine , Jack, would you just go to bed?" She ties the trash bag and puts it beside Door.

I lie down in Wardrobe but I am wide awake. (Pg. 60)


The Time Will Come is a weekly meme @ Books For Company, where you share the book(s) that have been on your shelves and you mean to pick them one of these days....

Here's one that has been on my shelf for so long.

Follow the links to see what others are sharing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Memes

It's Tuesday Where Are You is a weekly meme hosted by an adventure in reading, where participants tell their location as regards their reading.

Well, I am in Barcelona right now in pursuit of a mysterious author, involved in a search that is becoming increasingly sinister.

Tuesday Intros is a meme that I've recently discovered. Hosted by bibliophile by the sea, participants are required to share the opening of their current read. Here's mine:

I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time. It was the early summer of 1945, and we walked through the streets of a Barcelona trapped beneath Ashen skies as dawn poured over Rambla de Santa Monica in a wreath of liquid copper.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB @ Should Be Reading. Participants share a couple of sentences from their current read.

Well, here's mine:

"Let me introduce you to Julian Carax."

"The Shadow of the Wind, " Bea read, stroking the faded letters on the cover. (Pg. 185)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Murder during a Mock Attack: John Rhode's Night Exercise

Listening there, in tense expectation of the first sudden shot which would tell that the opposing forces had made contact, Ledbury felt a quickening of the pulses. Ridiculous, perhaps, for this was merely an exercise, a mock-battle, in which imagination ruled and much had to be taken for granted. But, after all, it was a rehearsal for the real thing, and how men acquitted themselves when the real thing came would depend largely upon the experience they had gained in exercises such as these.

John Rhode's Night Exercise begins with a bang. The year is 1942. For years now, Britain, has been on the edge, waiting for the day when Nazi paratroopers would drop from the skies to invade the fields of England. On a day in September, Major Ledbury, the commanding officer of the Wealdhurst Home Guard, organises an exercise, to test their mettle. Along with the Civil Defence Services, the guards have to defend their town against regular troops masquerading as German soldiers under the command of Major Everton. Two other officers along with Ledbury himself are to act as umpires, impartially observing the entire exercise.

One of the umpires happens to be Colonel Hector Chalgrove, a man who delights in being rude and offensive. Right from his entry, he succeeds in raising everybody's heckles. And by the end of the exercise he disappears. Did he disappear voluntarily or is there a more sinister reason for his non-appearance? There were many out there in the night who would have loved to see him dead. His nephew, Ronald Chalgrove, who stands to inherit a considerable fortune. Major Everton, who felt that Chalgrove was carrying on with his wife. Stephen Dalton, a man who had been dismissed from service by Chalgrove. Captain Gayner, to whom Chalgrove was a little too condescending. Colonel Brigstock whose alibi is perfect...too perfect, in fact. Or Major Ledbury who commented that, "If someone digs a bayonet into that chap's ribs in the heat of battle, I shan't break my heart over it."

The novel not only brings out the tensions between men already on the razor's edge but also discusses the questions as to what may happen when the commanding officer himself comes under suspicion. Major Ledbury, being the prime suspect finds himself being cut-out by the people of the small town and wonders whether they would ever be able to obey his commands.

The novel is interesting in the beginning but slowly loses steam. If Chalgrove is detestable, I wasn't enamoured by Ledbury either who dismisses all those who cannot contribute constructively to the war-efforts as 'useless mouths':

"Useless mouths!" Fordaway exclaimed. "What do you mean by that, exactly?"

"It's not an expression that needs much definition, I should have thought. by useless mouths I mean people who consume and drink without performing any service to the community in return. Invalids, old people past work, children under fourteen, and so forth."

I have since discovered that John Rhode was the pseudonym of military officer Cecil John Street who wrote a number of books. This book was not very interesting but I'd like to read more of his works.


First Line: THE HEADQUARTERS of the Wealdhurst Company of the Home Guard was established in a small unoccupied house in the centre of the main street of the little town.

Title: Night Exercise

Author: John Rhode

Publication Details: London: Collins, 1942 (A Crime Club Selection)

First Published: 1942

Pages: 190


The book might be available in libraries. I borrowed it from a library myself.


Submitted for the British Books Challenge

Also submitted for the following challenges: A-Z (Titles), Mystery and Suspense, New Authors, Support Your Local Library, Vintage Mystery.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I is for Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin is a Scottish crime writer, most famous for his creation: Inspector John Rebus. I have read two of his books: A Question of Blood, and Black and Blue. The latter is a significant book as it is often seen as the novel in which Rebus comes of age. First published in 1997, it went on to win the Gold Dagger award for the best crime novel of that year and is considered a masterpiece in the Tartan Noir genre.

In Black and Blue, Rankin, examines the pressures of being in the police force and the very thin line that divides law and crime. It is easy, as Rebus discovers, to cross the line. Protectors of law themselves misuse power and authority vested in them and become law breakers; in the process debasing the very laws they are their to uphold.

Intertwining the issues of guilt, crime, and punishment, the novel shows Inspector Rebus juggling four cases. A serial killer is on the round, one of his victims being a woman, Rebus was familiar with. The serial-killer has been given the moniker, 'Johny Bible' by the media as his methods are similar to 'Bible John', an infamous killer who had spread his terror-network some two decades back and who might still be alive. Coupled with this is an old case that has come back to haunt Rebus. As a young officer, he had helped a senior officer, apprehend a criminal. However, there have always been whispers and rumours that the person caught and convicted was innocent. Now with both the senior officer and the convict having committed suicide, Rebus is left to face a barrage of question. To top it all, there is an internal inquiry going on led by a man whom Rebus has accused of taking bribes from criminals.

I am not really fond of new police-procedurals. My favourite crime-reads are those of murders in sleepy villages or on trains, ships etc. But nevertheless this was an interesting look at the grit and dirt of crime in cities.

First Line: 'Tell me again, why you killed them.'

Title: Black and Blue

Author: Ian Rankin

Publication Details: London: Orion, 2005.

First Published: 1997

Pages: 498


The book is easily available. I borrowed it from the Morning College Library [ 823 R167B C.1]


Submitted for the Merely Mystery Challenge [Police Procedural]

Also submitted for the following challenges: A-Z (Titles), AZRC, British Books, Chunkster, Color-Coded, Find the Cover, Mystery and Suspense


Entry for letter I in the Crime Fiction Alphabet Meme.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Memes

Book Beginnings on Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader where one shares the beginning of the book one is currently reading.

Here's mine from John Rhode's 1942 book Night Exercise as Britain's Home Guard carries out a mock exercise which ends in murder.

THE HEADQUARTERS of the Wealdhurst Company of the Home Guard was established in a small unoccupied house in the centre of the main street of the little town.

 the Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where one shares a couple of lines from page 56 of any book.

So from page 56 of Night Exercise:

Mrs. Sheffield went out, and a minute later they heard her firm step ascending the stairs. There was a pause, and then came a determined rapping of knuckles upon a wooden panel. This was repeated three times at intervals, then again Mrs. Sheffield's footsteps were heard.

Friday Finds is a weekly meme hosted by MizB@ Should Be Reading. Here one shares the books discovered in the week that one is keen to read.

Here's my list:


Have you read these books? Do share your views.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Death of a Detective: Pablo De Santis' The Paris Enigma

Books always contain secrets. We leave things between their pages and forget about them: lottery tickets, newspaper clippings, a postcard we've just received. But there are also flowers, leaves that attracted us with their shapes, or insects trapped in a paragraph's snare.

Renato Craig, the famous detective of Buenos Aires, and one amongst the elite group of twelve world-famous detectives decides to open an academy to teach a chosen few the art of investigation. Amongst those who are granted admission is young Sigmundo Salvatrio who has been fascinated by jigsaw puzzles right from the beginning: I really wasn't interested in gory crimes but in the other kind: the perfect enigmas, the ones that at first glance, were inexplicable. I liked to see how in a disorganized but predictable world - an organized but totally unpredictable way of reasoning emerged. .

However when the final test goes horribly wrong - resulting in the death of one of the students - Craig falls from grace. Though the beleaguered detective solves the case, his health deteriorates so that it is Salvatrio who goes to Paris as Craig's representative at the time of the 1889 World's Fair in Paris where all the 12 detectives were to be together for the first time. Salvatrio meets the detectives and their acolytes, each with his own methods and idiosyncrasies.

There is the English detective Caleb Lawson (a caricature of Sherlock Holmes with his trademark pipe). His Indian assistant Dandavi - all yellow turban and gold chain - who specialises in quasi-philosophical remarks like: 'When the time comes, we all learn to speak, and to be quiet.'  Tamayak, a Sioux Indian, who Salvatrio is shocked to see is not wearing a feathered head-dress, or carrying a tomahawk or a peace pipe or any of the other accoutrements Indians usually have in magazine illustrations. Manul Araujo, the assistant to Spanish detective, Fermin Rojo, who embellishes the narration of his master's cases by making the detective go inside a volcano or fight a giant octopus!

Again things go horribly wrong as the body of one of the detectives, the French man, Louis Darbon, is found at the base of the still-under-construction Eiffel Tower. Did he slip or was he murdered? The other detectives instead of working together start accusing each other. As their egos come in the way and the in-fighting escalates, a series of deaths occur next. Are these deaths inter-related? Is somebody challenging the detectives? What role will Salvatrio play in the investigations?

Though written in his reflective years:-

It is true that the innovations of 1889 that so dazzled us and promised to turn our cities into dizzingly vertical landscapes are now old hat. Most of the inventions gathered in the Galarie des Machines (Vaupatrin's submarine; Grolid's excavator; the artificial heart invented by Dr. Sprague, who turned out to be a fraud; Mendes's robot for organizing archives) must be stored in a warehouse somewhere, if they haven't already been dismantled. Meanwhile, the war has shown itself to be the true world's fair of all human technology' and Somme and Verdun's trenches the true venues for technology to demonstrate its material and philosophical reach.

- the narrative conveys the breathless excitement of a starry-eyed youngster who finds himself suddenly propelled in an august gathering.

There is little of plot but I liked the different characters as well as the different view-points put forward regarding the art of investigation. For some it is a blank-page, for some a jigsaw puzzle, for some the riddle of the sphinx. There is also an interesting discussion regarding what are known as 'locked-room' mysteries:

"Calling a murder a "locked-room crime" is the wrong approach to the investigation because it assumes that locks are infallible. There are no truly locked rooms. Calling it that presupposes an impossibility. In order to solve a problem, it has to be correctly posited. We mustn't let semantics cloud our logic."

'Every murder is a "locked-room" case. The locked room is the criminal's mind.'

'The locked room is the essence of our work. It doesn't matter if the room doesn't actually exist. We must accept its metaphorical power.'

The book is not a gripping murder mystery but an interesting read nevertheless regarding our fascination with riddles and enigmas. And so, I will end this rather long post with one such posed by the Grimm brothers:

Three women had been turned into flowers by a witch. One of them however, was able to recover her human form at night in order to sleep at home with her husband. Once, as dawn approached, she told him, "if you go to the field to see the three flowers and you can tell which one is me, pull me up and I will be freed from the spell." And the next day her husband went to the field, recognized his wife and saved her. How did he do it, when the three flowers were identical?

If you haven't read the book but have guessed the answer, leave it in the comments below. Best :)


Read as part of the Paris in July event.

I stayed in the Necart hotel at the time of the World Exhibition in 1889, climbed the Eiffel tower, and visited many localities of Paris.

Also read as part of the Spanish Literature Month. I loved certain tongue-in-cheek remarks about the Argentinians:

How could I tell them that I was from Argentina and geographically doomed to talk more than I should? The Japanese assistant, who up until that moment had been watching everything as if he couldn't understand a word, left looking so distresses that I thought he had gone to find his sword so he could stab me, or stab himself - I wasn't sure.

I know how you Argentines are, so I feel obliged to offer you some advice: practise keeping silent.

Your accent and your arrogance are familiar to me....Are you Aregentine? Me too.


First Line: My name is Sigmundo Salvatrio.

Title: The Paris Enigma

Author: Pablo De Santis

Original Title: El Enigma de Paris

Original Language: Spanish

Translator: Mara Letham

Publication Details: London: Harper Collins, 2009

First Published: Spanish, 2007; English 2009

Pages: 324

Other Book Read: None


The book can be purchased online and  from bookshops. I purchased it from a shop at South Ex.


Submitted for the Death by Gaslight Challenge

Also submitted for the following challenges: A-Z Titles, Books in Translation, European Reading, Find the Cover, Mount TBR, Mystery and Suspense, New Authors, TBR Pile, Unread Book

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Time Will Come

The Time Will Come is a weekly meme hosted @ books for company. The idea is to name atleast one book that is on your shelf and which you are keen to read.

Well my pick is Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres which is the 1991 Pulitzer winner. I bought it since it is a retelling of King Lear but somehow haven't really got round to reading it.

To see what others have on their shelves, go here:


W W W: Wednesdays

WWW: Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB @ Should Be Reading. To play it, one has to answer the following questions:

What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Here are my answers:

I am currently reading Pablo De Santis' The Paris Enigma

I have just finished Jon Fasman's The Geographer's Library

I think I'll pick up John Rhode's The Night Exercise.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Event: Orange July 2012

How one thing leads to another. Through Bev's My Readers Block, I reached an adventure in reading. Over there I got to know about this interesting event: Orange July 2012 @ The Magic Lasso, where you commit yourself to reading fiction that has either won the Orange or has been nominated for it. There are also mini contests and prizes.

I am signing-up for it. If you are interested too, click here for details:


Where are You?

It's Tuesday Where Are You? is an interesting Meme that I discovered through Bev's My Readers Block. Hosted @ an adventure in reading, it asks at which place you are in your reading.

Well, I am in Paris at the time of the World Fair in 1889, learning the tricks of detection while investigating the murder of renowned detective, Louis Darbon.

Too read the responses of others, go here:


Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB @ Should Be Reading. The idea is to share a couple of sentences from your current read.

Here's mine:

Giant Arzaky looked at him with what seemed to be fear. I must say, I've often noted that very tall people are completely disconcerted by very short ones, as if they belong to a quicker, more intimate, more complex world. (Pg. 216)

The Paris Enigma by Pablo De Santis

To see the contributions of others, go here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

H is for Hamlet, Revenge! by Michael Innes

Michael Innes (J.I.M Stewart) is one of my favourite Golden-Age writers and there was a time when I read his books one after the other till I ran through all the titles the various libraries (I frequent) had on their shelves. After all these years, the titles and the plots are a little hazy but one I remember enjoying immensely is Hamlet, Revenge!*

First published in 1937 - with war-clouds gathering once again - the book combines elements of a who-dun-it with the spy-novel. The setting is one I particularly love: an old country-house. Scotland Sleuth (and Innes' Detective-Hero) John Appleby, is present in Scamnum Court, the seat of the Duke of Horton, during the presentation of an amateur production of Shakespeare's Hamlet when the staged death of Polonius turns real. The Lord Chancellor who is playing the role is shot dead right at the moment when Hamlet is about to run his sword through him. Since the Lord Chancellor was involved in some hush-hush affair regarding England's defence, the safety of the country is suddenly in jeopardy. A number of deaths occur next (including that of an Indian Bengali Academic) as Appleby matches wits with a murderer who challenges him by sending cheeky notes. 

Though I missed some of the allusions, it was fun to go through the witty repartee. The title itself is taken from an earlier version of the play in which the ghost of the king prompts his dilly-dallying son to take his revenge.

Entry for letter H in the Crime Fiction Alphabet Meme.

* The book I have now discovered is on the Bloomsbury 100 Must-Read Crime Novels.