Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last (and Best) Read of 2016: Complete Tribunal Proceedings (With Sukhdev's Remarks)

On 7th September, 1930, the tribunal in the Lahore Conspiracy Case (King-Emperor vs Sukhdev and Others) pronounced varying sentences to the young men who were accused of 'waging war against the King-Emperor'. Of the fifteen men at the end of the trial, the majority got transportation for life, three were acquitted while two got RI for five to seven years. Three: Rajguru, Sukhdev, and Bhagat Singh, however, got the death penalty. The copy of the proceedings was provided to the Revolutionaries. Sitting in his Cell No. 13, waiting for the day of martyrdom, Sukhdev made a close study of the proceedings. A man with a remarkable memory and dubbed 'the brain of the conspiracy', he wrote down the correct version of the events in the margin. These marginal notes, made in green ink, expose the hollowness of the exalted British sense of justice. There are tutored witnesses, coercion, false statements by the approvers, all that the British Raj flaunted in the way of 'fair-dealing'.

That copy, in possession of Sukhdev's younger brother, Mathra Das Thapar, was handed-over to the National Archives of India and had been on my TBR for a very-very long time. Unistar Publishers, who are doing a yeoman service to the study of the Revolutionary movement in India, have brought out this in the form of a book, and on the last day of this year I have finally completed the mammoth book, though I wouldn't have minded it going on and on. Sukhdev's comments: satiric, tragic, wondering, add another dimension to the court-proceedings. At one point of time, as he reads, a compatriot spilling out the party's secrets, he writes: "I believed him too much. Many a times, I revealed to him what I should have not. It was unnecessary on my part to take him to Jora Mori house. I committed the same mistake when I took him to Kashmir House Building."

At another place, this astute observation:" So many come everyday in every hotel. How is it that every witness identifies only approvers."

Best Read of 2016. And the one book I can't wait to get back to.

Finishing this book is bitter-sweet. I am very happy that I completed it in these last 10 days of December but there is a sense of loss too. As long as I anticipated reading this book or flicked through it, I had something to look forward to. While reading it, it felt as though I was in that intensely exciting period of the late twenties and that I was listening to Sukhdev but now that it is over, it feels as though he really has departed. Do you feel that way too after reading a book that you had waited for long?


With these rather melancholic thoughts, I wish you all a very happy 2017.

"Aane wala 'kal', 'aaj' hua''
Jo 'aaj' hua,'kal' kehlaya....
Weh saal gaya, yeh saal chala..."



FIR filed by Hamilton Harding, Senior Superintendent of Police, in the Court of R.S. Pandit Sri krishan, Special Magistrate, against the following accused:

1. Sukhdev alias Dayal alias Swami alias Villager, son of Ram Lal, caste Thapar Khatri of Mohalla Arya Samaj, Lyallpur.

Ed. Malwinderjit Singh Waraich, Mrs. Rajwanti Mann, Harish Jain
Pub. Details: Chandigarh: Unistar, 2010.
Pages: 688.

Reading Assignment Challenge 2017

Having successfully completed the reading Assignment Challenge for this year, I am signing-up for it in the coming year too. Hosted by Berls and Michelle, this involves making a list of books that we intend reading for the coming year.

I am signing up for Level 1 which means I will be reading 1 book per month,i.e., 12 books in all.

These are the books that I am committing myself to:

1. The Assassin by Liam O' Flaherty
2. The Prisoner by Fakhar Zaman
3. Literary Research and Postcolonial Literatures in English
4. Literary Fiction: The Ways We Read narrative Literature by Geir Farner
5. Journey Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino
6. The Pot of Gold by E.T. Hoffman
7. Shares in Murder
8. The Informer by Liam O' Flaherty
9. Black Curtain by Woolrich
10. Cry For Justice by Upton Sinclair
11. The Harbor by Ernest Poole
12. Eternal City by Hall Caine


Interested? Make a list and sign-up over here.

Challenge Wrap-Up: Women's Fiction 2016

I have successfully completed the Women's Fiction 2016 Challenge hosted @ The Book Date. I had signed-up for the Motivated level which means I had to read 1-5 books either written by or related to women. I read seven written by women writers.

Here are the books read for the challenge:

1. Haunted Lady by Mary Roberts Rinehart
2. The Haunting of Hill-house by Shirley Jackson
3. The Brimstone Wedding by Barbara Vine
4. 1222 by Anne Holt
5. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
6. Death in the Wrong Room by Anthony Gilbert
7. Ponies and Mysteries by Mary Gervaise

Challenge Wrap-Up: Back to Classics 2016

I have completed 10 categories out of a total of 12 (which means I get two entries), in the Back to Classics 2016 challenge hosted by Karen K @ Books and Chocolate.

Here are the classics read:

1.  A 19th Century Classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.


2.  A 20th Century Classic - any book published between 1900 and 1966. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later.


3.  A classic by a woman author.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959)

4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language.

Ninety-Three by Victor Hugo (original in French)

5.  An adventure classic - can be fiction or non-fiction. Children's classics like Treasure Island are acceptable in this category.

Ponies and Mysteries by Mary Gervaise (1953)

6.  A fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian classic. Dystopian could include classics like 1984, and children's classics like The Hobbit are acceptable in this category also.

The Beetle by Richard Marsh (1897)

7.  A classic detective novel. It must include a detective, amateur or professional. This list of books from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction is a great starting point if you're looking for ideas.

Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley (1913) Detective: Philip Trent

8.  A classic which includes the name of a place in the title.  It can be the name of a house, a town, a street, etc. Examples include Bleak House, Main Street, The Belly of Paris, or The Vicar of Wakefield.

The Rome Express by Arthur Griffiths (1896)

9. A classic which has been banned or censored. If possible, please mention why this book was banned or censored in your review.

Abhyudaya aur Bhavishya: Krantiveer Bhagat Singh (1930s)

10. A volume of classic short stories. This must be one complete volume, at least 8 short stories. It can be an anthology of stories by different authors, or all the stories can be by a single author. Children's stories are acceptable in this category also.

Other Reads

With the new year approaching, here are short notes on some books read this year.


A haunting book which begins as a memoir of the author's father but becomes more than simply a remembrance of a man who 'had left no traces'. Written after the death of his father and separation from his son, Auster's book (and his use of words) leaves one spell-bound. Sample this: There is nothing more terrible, I learned, than having to face the objects of a dead man. Things are inert: they have meaning only in function of the life that makes use of them. When that life ends, the times change, even though they remain the same. They are there and yet not there: tangible ghosts, condemned to survive in a world they no longer belong to. What is one to think, for example, of a closetful of clothes waiting silently to be worn again by a man who will not be coming back to open the door?



Very different in tone from the first one, is this collection of 16 stories that I read out to my little one. They are amusing stories but more gratifying to me was the laughter of the little one as the horse whacked the lion and the six foolish fishermen made mistake in counting.


HOW TO READ TEXTS by NEIL McCAW (2008) and TOOLS FOR CULTURAL STUDIES by TONY THWAITES, LLOYD DAVIS, and WARWICK MULES (1994) are two informative books on how we study texts and narratives. I especially enjoyed the first one.


I also read two fictional works in Hindi. GULMOHAR KI HANSI (1980) is an absorbing collection of short stories that deal with the complexities of human relationships, esp. the relation between married couples. Manu Sharma's KARN KI ATMAKATHA is a fictional account of the life of one of our mythological heroes. Sharma presents him warts and all which makes for an interesting read but I wish the friendship b/w him and Duryodhan had been depicted with more sensitivity.

Five Books on Indian History and Critical Thought

The Revolutionary aspect of India's freedom struggle hasn't really received its due. Historians have generally been dismissive of it with the result that in the official historiography of the country, the movement is mentioned only in passing. The Subaltern study group too has not paid any attention to it. It is a sad state of affairs. Reading First Spark of Revolution (1979) by Arun Guha and Kama Maclean's A Revolutionary History of Interwar India (2015) is thus extremely satisfying, esp the latter which details how the Congress policies were formulated to accommodate the immense popularity of Bhagat Singh and fellow-members of the HSRA: Sukhdev, Jatin Das, Rajguru, Azad (among others). While the book by Guha talks about the first phase pf revolutionary movement in India, with its epicentre in Bengal, the second book's focus is  on the later phase when Bhagat Singh's popularity rivalled that of Mr. Gandhi. It is also about history as (re)presented in official documents and popular memory. Both the books transfer you to the time when young men and women were committed idealists, ready to sacrifice everything in their quest for freedom. Must reads for anybody interested in the history of India or the courage of the human spirit.


Sudhir Vidyarthi who has written a lot many books on known and unknown freedom fighters of India, discusses the relevance of Bhagat Singh in the India of today in his book Aaj Ka Bharat aur Bhagat Singh (2012). Yes, we acknowledge him as a great son of India, yes there is the customary paying of homage to him on his birth and death anniversaries but have we learnt anything from him? Haven't we betrayed the cause for which Bhagat Singh laid down his life at the young age of 23. Powerful read.


With attitudes hardening all over the world and a refusal to understand the point-of-view of the Other, reading Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen's The Argumentative Indian (2005) was like a breath of fresh air. The trajectory of debate and dissent as charted by Sen shows how important it is that we save our right to these things. Again a must-read.


On 13 April, 1919, on the holy day of Baisakhi as people welcomed the new year, General Reginald Dyer opened fire on an unarmed crowd protesting peacefully against the arrest of two Congress men. The Jallianwallah Bagh massacre became a watershed in Indo-British relation as Indians realized that despite all that they had done to save and serve the British during the First World War, the attitude of their imperial masters was not going to change. And that the promises that the British had made prior to the war would remain simply words. Alfred Draper's Amritsar: The Massacre that Ended the Raj (1985), is written from a British perspective and is sympathetic towards the 'butcher of Amritsar' Gen Dyer. After reading the book, I found the then Governor of Punjab, O'Dwyer, to be even more hateful than Dyer. But what I couldn't understand was that right at the beginning of the book, Gandhi had been spelt as Ghandi. The same mistake is repeated a couple of times later too. How can any self-respecting publishing house make such a mistake is beyond my comprehension. Imagine a book, which is not a satire, in which Churchill is written as Churlish or President Lincoln as Lincon. I am sure the editorial team would throw away the manuscript.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Forgotten Books: Five Mysteries by Rhode, Rinehart, Jackson, and Vine

Very brief descriptions of five mysteries read at the fag-end of this year.

The Murders in Praed Street by John Rhode (1928)

A book which begins extremely well as a man receives a call from a hospital to come and identify a body. He reaches there only to be told that no such call had been made to him. While returning home, he is stabbed by (as a witness describes it) a fierce-Bolshevik sailor with a beard and a scar that runs down one-side of his face, and who then disappears in the crowd. Naturally, the police are not much impressed by this description. But soon it was me who was banging my head against the wall by the sheer ineptitude of the police. Even Dr. Priestley is in poor-form in this book.

 Mystery at Greycombe Farm by John Rhode (1938)

The fire at Farmer Jim's cider store at Greycombe farm takes everybody by surprise. When the blaze dies out, a skeleton is discovered from the site. Could it be of the feckless man who had disappeared a few months back? Dr. Priestley is asked to investigate.

Haunted Lady by Mary Roberts Rinehart (1942)

I was in mood for reading about a family-at-odds-with-each-other living in a spooky house and where the tension between the members results in murder. This was the book that I picked up and am glad coz it really did deliver. I am keen to read more of Rinehart now.

First Line: HILDA ADAMS was going through her usual routine after coming off a case.


The Haunting (of Hill-House) by Shirley Jackson (1959)

This book in which a group of people spend time in a haunted house as part of a (scientific) experiment had long been on my wish-list. More of a psychological study (as James' Turn of the Screw) than a simple ghost-story, this book unsettles you in more ways than one. I am very-very keen to read more of Jackson.

First Line: NO LIVE ORGANISM can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.


The Brimstone Wedding by Barbara Vine (1995)

The first book read by me by Ruth Rendall under her Barbara Vine pseudonym, this is an absorbing story of a woman Jenny who takes care of an elderly woman called Stella, at an old people's home. Both the women have their secrets and the novel twists and turns till the final page.

First Line: The clothes of the dead won't wear long.


Submitted for FFB @ Pattinase.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tuesday Night Bloggers: 1222 by Anne Holt

Though Scandinavian mysteries were the rage a few years ago (Perhaps still are for all I know), I didn't really find the couple of books that I read very appealing.Then I heard about 1222 by Norwegian author Anne Holt and how it was a homage to Agatha Christie and so was excited enough to borrow it from a library.

The protagonist of the book is Hanne Wilhelmsen, a middle-aged former police-officer whose career officially ended when a bullet lodged in her spine leaving her paraplegic and wheel-chair bound. When the book opens, she is on her way to Bergen to meet an American doctor who specialises in back injuries and paralysis. However, the train that she is travelling on derails en route and the passengers find themselves 1222 metres above sea-level in a place called Finse with a snow-blizzard blowing that is said to be the most devastating in recent history. Amazingly, only the driver of the train dies in the crash and the rest of the passengers make their way (with some local help) to a nearby hotel which is virtually empty at this time of the year but is thankfully well-stocked and has a competent staff.

Initially, for some of the passengers (esp a beer-drinking German party) this is a great adventure but as the days stretch with no help forthcoming and the storm increasing in its intensity, the tensions between the passengers - a dwarfish doctor; a run-away teenager; his goth girlfriend; a bumbling priest; a roughneck with a few of his cronies; a television vixen; a Hijab-wearing one-half of a Muslim couple - surface. On top of it there is a mysterious passenger enclosed somewhere on the top-floor with Z-Security. And before long there is murder, then another and mayhem descends and it is up to Hanne (who is as anti-social as anti-social can be) to find a solution before the chaos turns the passengers into a mob which turns on itself. She is helped in this endeavour by the hotel manageress; the helpful local with the snow-mobile; the doctor who seems to be everywhere but how far can she  trust them?

I have mixed feelings about the book. The mystery is good, the atmosphere is well brought-about, but there is a whole lot of personal baggage that Wilhelmsen carries and it got to a point where I was only reading the book to know about the mysterious occupant. So, if I get a book of this author, I might  read it but I am not actively looking for more books by her.

First Line: As it was only the train driver who died, you couldn't call it a disaster.

Original Title: 1222
Original Language: Norwegian
Translator: Marlaine Delargy
Series: Hanne Wilhelmsen #8
Publication Details: London: Corvus, 2010
First Published: 2007
Pages: 352
Source: CL[52696]

Submitted for Tuesday Night Bloggers who are looking at Non-US/ Non-UK mysteries this month.

My earlier submissions:

Malice by Keigo Higashino
The Sixth Simenon Omnibus by Georges Simenon

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Two Recommendations: The Power of the Dog, and Death of My Aunt

One of the best parts of blogging is visiting the blogs of others and thus discovering new authors and books. This year was no different and there are many books that I have added to my wishlist. There were two books, however, that I simply could not resist and wanted to read them at once. Thankfully both were available @ Open Library (Incidentally, if you are feeling generous or are in a philanthropic mood, or have some cash to splurge, plz donate to Open Library. We all need to help maintain The Internet Archive. Thank you :).

But going back to the two books that I could not resist, one was Thomas Savage's The Power of the Dog, a study of cruelty and sadism that I first read about @ Tipping My Fedora (Thank You, Sergio).

This is a story of two brothers, one who is brilliant but brutish and the other who is a plodder but kind; and the woman who comes between them. But it is also a story of repressed emotions and of love that dare not take its name and of lives wasted. I did not enjoy it as much as Sergio did but did find it moving in parts.


First Line: PHIL always did the castrating....
Publication Details: NY: Back Bay Books, 2001.
First Published: 1967
Pages: 308
Source: Open Library


The other book Death of My Aunt is the sort of mystery that I enjoy very much: murder occurring within a family where all the members of the family are suspect and where skeletons tumble out of the family's cupboards. Here it is Aunt Catherine (who holds the purse strings) who passes away and her nephew Malcolm Warren who turns detective in order to solve the murder. I first came to know of the author C.H.B.Kitchin and this book from this delightful review @ Peggy Ann's Post (Thank You, Peggy Ann).

First Line: UNTIL, half-past six, the fifteenth of June was much the same as many other Fridays.
Publication Details: NY: Penguin, 1944
First Published: 1929
Pages: 164
Source: Open Library


So, what are you waiting for? Go read the reviews and borrow the books from Open Library and enjoy yourselves.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Forgotten Books: Victorian Villainies (Ed) Graham and Hugh Greene

The Penguin Book of Victorian Villainies contains four novels selected by writer Graham Greene and his brother, Hugh Greene. Of the four, I had already read The Rome Express and In the Fog but the other two, The Great Tontine and The Beetle were new to me.

How did they miss the last E in Greene?????????

The Great Tontine has an interesting premise because it involves a lottery of a very unique kind. Each ticket-holder nominates a certain person over the age of sixty. The money thus raised is used for the building and up-keep of an opera house while dividends are paid to the ticket-holders. As the nominees pass away, the remaining share-holders see an increase in their dividends. Finally only three are left: the self-indulgent Viscount Lakington; honest Miss Caterham; and smart lawyer Paul Pegram. As Miss Caterham's nominee is missing, Pegram sends a proposal to the viscount to claim and divide the prize between them...but with a rider.

I enjoyed this mixture of mystery and romance and am keen to read more of the writer Hawley Smart.

A review of the book can be found @Vintage Pop Fictions.


First Line: Eighteen hundred and sixty

First Published in 3 vols by Chapman & Hall, 1881

Other books read of the same author: None


Richard Marsh's 1897 novel The Beetle combines elements of horror with mystery. Told from the point-of-view of four people who become involved in a tale of revenge, the novel (as Wikipedia informs me)  was a roaring success and out-sold Bram Stroker's Dracula which was published in the same year.

Upcoming politician Paul Lessingham, in his earlier years, became involved with an Egyptian cult. Now a devotee of that cult wants to destroy Lessingham. With a power that is supernatural, s/he creeps closer to Lessingham...

A detailed review of the book can be found here.


First Line: 'No room! - Full up!'

First Published by Skeffington in 1897

Other books read of the same author: None


The Penguin Book of Victorian Villainies

Original Title: Victorian Villainies

Selected by Graham Greene & Hugh Greene
Intro by Hugh Greene

Publication Details: London: Claremont Books,1985
First Published. 1984
Pages: 715
Source: DSPL [823 G822V]


Submitted for FFB @ Pattinase

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday Night Bloggers: The Sixth Simenon Omnibus

Georges Simenon, was a prolific Belgian author, most famous for his fictional commissaire of Paris' Brigade Criminelle, Jules Maigret. However, he also wrote many books which did not feature Maigret.

The Sixth Simenon Omnibus contains three novels which discuss the role that sex has in people's lives - whether as a way of exhibiting their power over others or as a substitute for love and companionship - and the crimes that are committed there of.

In the first novel, Maigret and the Wine-Merchant, a prominent wine-merchant is shot dead shortly after exiting a house where he had been with his secretary. As Maigret investigates, he finds out that the dead man, Oscar Chabut, came from a provincial background and that he had risen to the top after putting in a lot of hard work but he also finds out that there was a most unsavoury side to his character in the sense that he couldn't leave any woman alone. Let alone his female employees, he didn't even spare the wives of his male employees and friends. And the worst thing was that the women came to him willingly whether to get a job, a career advancement, or for the thrill that being with such a rich man entailed. Meanwhile, Maigret gets an anonymous phone call from a man who tells Maigret that such a man like Chabut deserved to die. Maigret suspects that it might be the murderer himself who is calling him thus. But who amongst the many enemies that Chabut had had finally pulled the trigger?


First Line: "You killed her in order to steal from her, didn't you?"

Original Title: Maigret et le marchand de vin

Trans. Eileen Ellenbogen
First Published: 1970


The Second novel, and the one that I found the best among the three, is The Prison. Alain Poitaud, in his early thirties and already a very successful owner and publisher of a magazine called Toi, returns home one day only to find a detective waiting for him. It seems that Alain's wife (whom he affectionately calls Kitten) had shot her own sister Adrienne in cold blood. If this was not enough, Alain is told that she had done so in the presence of Adrienne's two small children and had waited coolly as Adrienne died in front of her (God save us from such sisters!). The police suspect that it is a crime of passion as Adrienne had an affair with Alain (God save us from such sisters too!). But Alain informs them that his affair with Adrienne had ended a year ago (God save us from such husbands and brothers-in-law also!). However, the fact that he might not be the most desirable man in the lives of the sisters and perhaps the numerous women he has bedded puts Alain on a path of self-discovery which makes him realize that his successful, filling life is nothing but an onion, there is nothing inside when you peel off the layers.

This is a powerful novel but as I was reading it I kept on imagining such a scenario in India and visualising how different would have been the reaction over here. Alain's parents would have cursed the fact that they got their darling son married into such a family; either the mother or father of Adrienne and Kitten would have suffered a heart attack; Adrienne's husband would have made a murderous attack on Alain and Alaine himself would have gone and killed the man who was the lover of his wife (though this is a possibility that is discussed in the novel too). Friends, neighbours, and relatives would have descended en masse on the hapless family, some genuinely sympathetic, some only ostensibly so, but all with an opinion of their own. Finally after all the tragedy, everybody would blame Kismet or Karm and go their separate ways to talk about this incident (with embellishments) at all family gatherings.

Here there are no relatives, no nosey neighbours, and even the parents keep to the background.


First Line: How many months, how many years, does it take to turn a child into an adolescent, an adolescent into a man?

Original Title: La Prison

Trans. Lyn Moir
First Published: 1969


In the third novel, The Rich Man, the eponymous hero, Victor Lecoin, is the village's big man. He has a comfortable relationship with his educated school-mistress wife but there has never been any passion in their relationship. Then one day, a new maid, Alice enters their house-hold. Alice is an orphan who has been abused by her previous employer. Lecoin finds himself getting attracted to the young waif, an attraction that ends in tragedy.

First Line. : He drew up the truck, loaded with hampers of mussels, outside the bistrot, over which the words Chez Mimile were inscribed in yellow letters.

Original Title: Le Riche Homme

Trans. Jean Stewart
First Published: 1971


The Sixth Simenon Omnibus
Original Language: French
Publishing Details: London: Penguin, 1973
Source: HML [FSA 53C]
Pages: 426
Other books read of the same author: Maigret Loses His Temper, The Girl in His Past


Submitted for the Tuesday Night Bloggers @My Reader's Block where the theme is Non-US/ Non-UK mysteries.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Short Notes: The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett & Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Charlie Lovett's The Bookman's Tale is concerned with an old puzzle related to English literary studies: Was William Shakespeare really the author of the plays that we have in his name or were they written by someone else: Francis Bacon, The Earl of Oxford, Queen Elizabeth, or Christopher Marlowe?

American antiquarian bookseller and grieving widower, Peter Byerly, settles in England after the death of his wife, Amanda. One day while flicking the pages of an old book in a shop, he is shocked to find his wife's face staring at him from an old Victorian water-colour. The quest to find the truth about this woman as also about a text (Robert Greene's Pandosto) which ostensibly has Shakespeare's hand-written notes in the margin leads to murder and mayhem before the unravelling of several mysteries though I couldn't understand as to why a will was buried deep.

The book has an interesting premise but the way it is over-plotted with the author trying to do too much at the same time led to sheer boredom and so half-way through it I just wanted the book to end.


First Line: Wales could be cold in February.

Pub. Details: 2013. Richmond: Alma Books, 2013.
Pages: 379
Source: CL[823.09 L941B]
Other books read of the same author: None


I think everybody by now knows more or less about Gone Girl. About a wife who goes missing and the husband who is suspected of having killed her. I will simply say that I was very wary of reading this book after burning my fingers with The Girl on the Train, another book that had earned rave reviews but which turned out to be a b-i-g disappointment. Thankfully Gone Girl turned out to be better than Train Girl. For an interesting discussion of the novel and the movie, read this post @Tipping my Fedora.


First Line: When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.

Publication Details: London: Phoenix, 2014
First Published: 2012
Pages: 466
Source: CL[823.9309 F679G]
Other books read of the same author: None

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books: Best Crime Stories Vol.3 (Ed.) John Welcome

Best Crime Stories Vol. 3, edited by John Welcome, is an anthology of 11 stories which I enjoyed a lot.

The volume begins with a masterly study of terror: Max Hensing by Algernon Blackwood.  Williams, a reporter interviewing Dr. Hensing, standing trial for having poisoned his wife, is so much repulsed by the man that the tone of his articles loses journalistic objectivity. When Hensing is acquitted by the jury, Williams becomes convinced that Hensing is stalking him. This is an on-the-edge thriller and has made me want to read more of Blackwood. The second story interested me because of its title: A Bit of a Smash in Madras. Written by J.Maclaren-Ross, this is a wry, humorous comment on the judicial system especially in the colonies. The Diptych by A.J. Alan and The Burglary by Arnold Bennett are two delightful stories in which men try to outsmart each others. Incidentally, I also increased my vocabulary by coming to know that diptych is a painting, especially an altarpiece, on two hinged wooden panels which may be closed like a book. Decadence by Romain Gary has a macabre humour about it as an underworld don develops a taste for art. William P. McGivern's M. Duval constructs the perfect alibi only to realise that the best-laid plans of men and mice.... Both Rudyard Kipling and Daphne du Maurier add a touch of the supernatural in their stories. While the former is hugely successful in The Return of Imray the latter's Kiss Me Again, Stranger is the weakest story in the collection. Operation Pasqualino by Alberto Moravia is a coming-of-age story in which a heist goes wrong, with the master-of -operations getting some well-deserved slaps from his family and the man he wanted to steal from. Hilarious. Late-299 by John Galsworthy is a study of pride in which a man resists all attempts by the world to break his spirit. Another terrific story is The Blue Hotel by Stephen Crane with its masterly exploration of the collaborative nature of sin. It has made me eager to read more of Crane.

More than anything, this volume taught me that there needn't be a twist-in-the-tail for the enjoyment of stories related to crime.  Recommended strongly.


First Line: Crime takes many shapes and the compiler of an anthology of crime stories does well to remember this.

Introduction: John Welcome
Pub. Details: London: Faber and Faber, 1968
First Published: 1968
Pages: 223
Source: CL [823.08 W449B]

Submitted for Friday's Forgotten Books @ Pattinase.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Initial Impressions: Malice by Keigo Higashino

I feel that Japanese writer Keigo Higashino is one of the finest writers of mysteries. First I read
The Devotion of Suspect X and marvelled at his ingenuity. Then came Salvation of a Saint which I found to be even better than Devotion and now I have read Malice which is a fantastic mystery, a police procedural, as also a comment on the way we write and read a narrative with all our prejudices and fallings.

Best-Selling author Kunihiko Hidaka is leaving Japan for Canada with his second wife, Rie ( whom he married after his first wife died in an accident). On his last night in Japan, he is visited by his friend Osamu Nonoguchi, also a writer, albeit not as famous or successful as Hidaka himself. Before Nonuguch enters Hidaka's house, however, he has a strange encounter with a woman who accuses Hidaka of having poisoned her cat. The two friends talk about various things before another woman, Miyako Fujio walks in. Miyako feels that Hidaka has created a character based on her brother (a former classmate of both Hidaka and Nonoguchi) and presented him in a bad light and wants to discuss the issue with Hidaka. Nonoguchi takes his leave as he has an appointment with his publisher . As his publisher goes through his manuscript, Nonoguchi receives a telephone call from Hidaka who sounds tense and wants him to come over once again to his house. Nonoguchi does so but when he reaches over there, he finds Hidaka dead. Enter Detective Kaga, who was earlier Nonoguchi's colleague at a school where the latter still teaches. Now Detective Kaga has to find out how Hidaka was killed in a locked room but soon he finds out that why Hidaka was killed is far more important.

I found this book absolutely brilliant. Strongly recommended.


First Line: The incident took place on April 16, 1996, a Tuesday.

Original Title: Akui
Original Language: Japanese
Translator: Alexander O. Smith

Pub. Details: London: Little, Brown, 2014
First Published: 1996 (Japanese edition)
Pages: 281
Source: CL [813.32309 H534M]

Other books read of the same author: The Devotion of Suspect X, Salvation of a Saint


Have come to know that the Tuesday Night Bloggers are looking at Foreign Mysteries this month, so am submitting this post for the meme.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Forgotten Book: Satyanveshi Vyomkesh by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay

Despite my love for mysteries, I haven't read much of our Indian detectives. But this month, I was determined to read the exploits of Byomkesh Bakshi, a detective created by Bengali writer Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, in 1932 and to whom I was first introduced to by an eponymous TV serial that was telecast in 1993.

Though, I call him a detective, Byomkesh himself prefers the term Satyanveshi (Seeker of Truth) and in fact, Satyanveshi, is the title of his first adventure when not only did he get introduced to the reading public but also to Ajit Bandyopadhyay, who became his friend and chronicler of adventures.

The volume that I read contains the first fourteen stories of Byomkesh's career, from Satyanveshi to Aadim Dushman. The last story though published in 1955, is set in 1947, with India not only gaining independence but also being partitioned. Set in Calcutta, the last story describes  the horror of those days with riots breaking out, killings becoming common, and the communalisation of the law-enforcing agencies.

The other stories describing a haunted fort, a ghostly seance, a disappearing diamond, a poisonous spider, a deadly gramophone pin are all pretty gripping and I am keen to read the second volume of his adventures.


Those who cannot read Bangla or Hindi, needn't worry, Byomkesh Bakshi has been translated into English too.

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


First Line: Satyanveshi Vyomkesh Bakshi se mera pehla parichay samvat 1331 mein hua tha.

Original Language: Bengali
Trans. Sushil Gupta
Pub. Details: Delhi: Vani Prakashan, 2012.
Pages: 599
Source: CL

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


DEAD OF NIGHT is a British horror film that was released in 1945. It is what is called an anthology film with different sections of the film being directed by different directors.

The film begins with the arrival of architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns)  at the house of Elliot Foley (Ronald Culver) for some renovations needed in the house.

 From the beginning, Craig looks a little bewildered

 and his bewilderment seems to increase as he is introduced to the other people assembled in the house: Mrs Foley, the mother of Elliot; Racing car driver Hugh Grainger (Anthony Baird); pretty young-miss Sally O' Hara (Sally Ann Howes); self-possessed Joan Cortland (Googie Withers); and famous psycho-analyst Dr. van Straaten (Frederick Valk).

It is a strange gathering and we are never quite told their relation to one another except that they are acquaintances and puff out smoke like engines (the amount of smoking that goes on caused a fug in Delhi.I kid you not. :)

Stranger still is Craig's behaviour for he suddenly bursts out saying:"Still there. So it isn't a dream this time." It seems he has met all these people before in his dreams. The guests try to analyze how this could be as he is a stranger to them all. Meanwhile Craig wants to leave the house as he is sure that something awful will occur if he stays in it. To put him at ease, the others start recounting their own paranormal experiences. Thus, Grainger tells them of his dream of a hearse driver who later materialized as a bus-conductor; Sally tells of her encounter with a ghostly child; Joan reveals the possession of her husband by a haunted mirror.

 As the guests demand a rational explanation from Dr. van Straaten and Criag tries once again to leave the house, Elliot defuses the tension by constructing a story of two men obsessed by golf but tension soars up once again as Dr. van Stratten narrates the case of a Ventriloquist and his dummy.

Based on stories by E.F. Benson, John Baines, H.G. Wells, and Angus MacPhail, this movie has all the necessary chills needed to keep you on the edge. From the surreal images as the credits roll in to Dr. van Straaten's habit of continuously removing and putting on his glasses to the smell of fear that seems to emanate from Craig to the different reflection seen or not seen in the mirror to the  loopy grin of the ventriloquist's dummy, everything foreshadows an ominous end.

Also adding to the uneasiness is a feeling that whether it is all only a big gag. The doctor remarks that it seems to him as though all of them had concocted all this to destroy his most cherished beliefs. Another person wonders that as they are just characters in Mr. Craig's dream, they will as a consequence all vanish once he wakes up (which incidentally echoes the Indian philosophy of everything being 'maya' or illusion. This entire world, all the people and their actions are just being dreamt by Brahma and once he wakes up the world will disappear)

I enjoyed the movie tremendously. The stories of the haunted mirror and the Ventriloquist dummy

(always something creepy for me) make you want to scream while the Twiddledee-Twiddledum action of Potter and Pitter as the two golfers was real fun.


Recommended strongly.


Submitted for Tuesday's Overlooked A/V @ Todd Mason's Blog Sweet Freedom. Plz head over there for the other entries.