Saturday, February 22, 2014

Short Reviews: Kartography, Murder Among Friends, Too Many Cooks

With time being at a premium nowadays and the review pile towering up, I have decided to write short reviews for the books read.


KARTOGRAPHY (OR HOW TO BE FRIENDS WITH YOUR EX AND HIS/ HER SPOUSE) by KAMILA SHAMSIE



I first discovered Kamila Shamsie in the late Nineties when I read her book Salt and Saffron. It was an amazing book and I was happy to have discovered a new fresh voice. Unfortunately this book which tries to combine the ethnic and sectarian strife in present-day Karachi with the civil-war of 1971 - which lead to a division of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh - simply fails to live up to its potential. Through four young people, Ali, Maheen, Yasmeen, and Zafar whose affections and allegiance are tested as the east and the west wings of Pakistan clash , Shamsie tries and partly succeeds in showing us a country divided against itself. However, the relationship between Karim and Raheen, in contemporary Pakistan, is most tiresome.

First Line: The globe spins.

Title: Kartography

Author: Kamila Shamsie

Publication Details: London: Bloomsbury, 2003.

First Published: 2002.

Pages: 342

Other books read of the same author: Salt and Saffron

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MURDER AMONG FRIENDS by ELIZABETH FERRARS



One of the founding members of the Crime Writers Association Elizabeth Ferrars was a prolific (Scottish) British writer.  Born Morna Doris MacTaggart in Burma in 1907, Ferrars wrote more than 70 books in a career spanning over seven decades. Despite such a prolific output, Ferrars remains largely unknown.





Murder Among Friends, first published in 1946, begins on a day in war-time London. Alice Church is invited to a party by Cecily Lightwood and introduced to a motley crew of writers and publishers. It soon becomes apparent that the party has been thrown for the dramatist, Aubrey Ritter, who needs cheering up as his wife had committed suicide a month earlier. However, the minutes drag by but Ritter, who is presently staying in a flat above that of Cecily's, doesn't make an appearance. Than a couple of things happen simultaneously: a voice cries out Murder even as somebody rings the bell of the house asking them to put out the light:

Thus, in Cecily's room, she knew that all of a sudden there was a commotion. She knew that she herself jumped to her feet and then that everyone crushing together, crowded out into the passage. She knew that the bell started ringing and was reinforced by the impatient clattering of the knocker, and that that voice upstairs, followed by a rush of feet on the staircase, sent a wave of panic through everyone in the room. (27)

A murder has occurred and the police arrest Janet Markland, one of the guests at the party. However, Alice is not convinced of Janet's guilt and she meets the other guests, all friends and acquaintances of Janet, and tries to get a picture of the woman charged with murder. The book is interesting in as much as it tries to show how little we actually we know about our friends: their secret desires, their hidden motives. However, despite the book being a study of characters none of the characters really appealed to me and thus this turned out to be just an okay read.  However, I look forward to reading more of Ferrars.

First Line: ALICE often tried to remember her first impression of Janet Markland.

Title: Murder Among Friends

Alternate Title: Cheat the Hangman

Author: Elizabeth (X) Ferrars

Publication Details: London: Collins, 1946. (The Crime Club)

Pages: 191

Other books read of the same author: None


*
TOO MANY COOKS by REX STOUT




Too Many Cooks is the fifth Nero Wolfe detective novel by American mystery writer Rex Stout. Serialized in The American Magazine (March–August 1938), it was published as a book in 1938.



Nero Wolfe hates leaving his native New York and travelling by trains. Yet, he accepts an invitation to address Les Quinze Maitres, an international group of 15 master chefs, meeting at the Kanawha Resort, which sees him making a journey of 14 hours. A journey,  and which I may add, sorely tries Archie's patience. However, rather than delivering a lecture on the subject of American contributions to fine cuisine, Wolfe finds himself investigating murder among men beset with rivalries both personal and professional.

This is the third Wolfe novel I read and the best so far as the mystery is concerned. There is a grand scene in which Archie goes all protective when Woolf is shot. The book also depicts the strained relationship between the Blacks and the Whites during the Nineteen Thirties in the US and to its credit doesn't shy away from the ugliness that, at times, characterized the relationship. A few dialogues uttered by a character are so obnoxious that one feels like kicking him - hard. There is also a bunch of recipes at the end and a particular recipe does tell us something about the after-lives of a couple of characters. All in all, an interesting read.

First Line: WALKING up and down the platform alongside the train in the Pennsylvania Station, having wiped the sweat from my brow, I lit a cigarette with the feeling that after it had calmed my nerves a little I would be prepared to submit bids for a contract to move the Pyramids of Cheops from Egypt to the top of the Empire State Building with my bare hands in a swimming-suit; after what I had just gone through.

Title: Too Many Cooks

Author: Rex Stout

Series: Nero Wolfe #5

Publication Details: London: Collins, 1938 (The Crime Club).

First Published: 1938.

Pages: 302.

Other books read of the same author: Some Buried Caesar, The Mother Hunt.

*

Submitted for various challenges.


10 comments:

  1. Neeru - Thanks for sharing these reviews. I'm glad you liked Ferrars' writing, even if the characters themselves didn't exactly appeal to you. And I liked Too Many Cooks myself. I thought it was quite interesting to see Wolfe out of his 'home element,' and the mystery itself was clever.

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    1. Thanks Margot for having a look. Ferrars was good in so far as I discovered a new author. Oh yes,it was quite interesting to see Wolfe out of his 'home element' and Archie's thoughts about having to help Wolfe change into his pyjamas (during the journey) were hilarious.

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  2. Glad you have enjoyed the Rex Stout books you have read so far! Wolfe and Archie are favorites of mine, largely (as you say) because of Archie's voice as the narrator. May I recommend The League of Frightened Men (Stout's second Wolfe book), which has one of the most fascinating characters you'll find in any of the books. Also a much later book, "The Doorbell Rang," in which Wolfe takes on the FBI. Great stuff!

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    1. Welcome to the blog Les Blatt.

      Archie is definitely one of the best narrative voices.

      Thanks for the recommendations. Will surely be reading these books.

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  3. I've got Too Many Cooks lined up for this year too. I'm looking forward to it--and have skimmed your review so I don't get too many hints.

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    1. Looking forward to your views on it Bev.

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  4. Fair point about Stout's plotting as it was not necessarily his best suit, I agree, but I remember liking this one a lot - haven;t read the other two though yet - thanks Neeru.

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    1. I liked this one both in terms of plot and character, Sergio. Thanks for having a look.

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  5. Your review of Too Many Cooks reminded me I have been planning to reread it soon. I also want to try some books by Elizabeth Ferrars. I have one of her later books and I want to try some of the earlier ones also.

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    1. I look forward to your posts, Tracy.

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