Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Three Twenty-First Century Novels

Though I love books of the vintage kind, occasionally I do read books published recently. Here are brief descriptions of three books that were published in the second decade of the current century.

THE CASE OF THE MAN WHO DIED LAUGHING (2010)




Vish Puri, India's most 'private' detective is the creation of author Tarquin Hall. In this, his second case, he solves the murder of a scientific rationalist. Dr. Suresh Jha, is a sceptic who tries to unmask god-men and other charlatans who so deceive and cheat Indians. One day, he makes a virulent attack on one such god-man who in turn prophesies that God's vengeance would soon fall on Jha. And lo-and-behold, the next day as Jha is taking a walk in the park, Ma Kali appears before him



....and strikes him dead.

Angry divinity or a human hand?





THE SONG OF ACHILLES (2011)




The Iliad is the first extant text of European literature and a great favourite of mine so when I heard that a book been written depicting the world of the ancient classic and narrating the love-story of Greek hero Achilles and his bosom-companion, Patroclus, I was very keen to read it. Unfortunately, the book failed to live up to my expectations. The author, Madeline Miller, brings alive the classical world but fails miserably in the depiction of Achilles. There was no need to present Achilles as a babe in the wood. A hero is interesting with warts, to put all of Achilles' wrong decisions and cruelty on the shoulders of his mother, Thetis, was making a mockery of the hero. And I had no idea that spirits could unite in the after-world, only if their names were mentioned together on a tomb. Is the after-life dependent on such trivial points?


THE SHINING GIRLS (2013)




Usually, I avoid books about serial killers but Lauren Beukes' novel appeared to be different. It was about a serial killer who can go back and forth in time. Beukes' novel has a grand agenda: a protest against the killing of the potential of women thru socio-economic forces, historical injustices, mental and physical brutality, lack of education and medical facilities...so on and so forth. It is an interesting premise but the violence of the killer (and the brutal description of his methods) left me numb. Definitely not for me despite the glowing reviews.

*


First Line: Ensconced on the back seat of his Ambassador with the windows rolled up and the air conditioning working full blast, Vish Puri kept a wary eye on the crack in the car's windshield.

Title: The Case of the Man who Died Laughing.
Author: Tarquin Hall
Publication Details: London: Hutchinson. 2010
First published: 2010
Pages: 334
Source: DPL [N HAL]
Other books read of the same author: The Case of the Missing Servant

*

First Line: MY FATHER was a king and the son of kings.

Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Publication Details: ND: Bloomsbury, 2013
First Published: 2011
Pages: 352
Source: C.L [823 M613S]
Trivia: Winner of the Orange Prize, 2012
Other books read of the same author: None

*

First Line: He clenches the orange plastic pony in the pocket of his sports coat.

Title: The Shining Girls
Author: Lauren Beukes
Publication Details: London: Harper Collins, 2013
First Published: 2013
Pages: 407
Source: Bought from a book dealer
Other books read of the same author: None

10 comments:

  1. Neer, it'd be interesting to read Tarquin Hall's Vish Puri series, particularly the one you featured because of its age-old and contemporary theme—godmen as charlatans.

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    1. Prashant, I quite like the Vish Puri series because it captures the ethos of Delhi so well but I must admit that I liked the first one in the series better.

      And I don't know what it is about us Indians and God-Men! Have you seen the trailer of Messenger of God?

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  2. I like the sound of the Tarquin Hall series - thanks Neeru! Hope you get to have a good break this season.

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    1. It is an interesting series, Sergio. Detective fiction in Indian English literature is slowly picking up.

      I wish you a Merry X'Mas and a Happy New Year too.

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  3. Neeru - So glad you enjoyed The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing. I like this series very much, and that one gives an interesting look at people's need to believe in something.

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    1. Truth to tell, Margot, I liked the first one in the series much more but I am glad that you like this series. We Indians have a special fascination for god-men who more often then not turn out to be con-men.

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  4. Neer, I have not read Tarquin Hall yet. Do you recommend I try his books?

    Thanks for the warning on Shining Girls. My husband read this and I plan to give it a try, but I did not realize the subject matter was so violent.

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    1. Tracy, I'd definitely recommend the first in the series: THE CASE OF THE MISSING SERVANT. If you like it, perhaps you can read the next in the series too.

      SHINING GIRLS has an ambitious agenda and it was horrifying to read about the death of the girls who were contributing in their own ways to a positive change in US society. But serial-killers books are seriously not for me, so perhaps it is more a lack on my part rather than the book's.

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    2. Thanks, Neer. I will try that first book in the Vish Puri series.

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    3. Do let me know how you find it, Tracy.

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