Category Archives: Crime Fiction

Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino. Translated from the Japanese by Alexander O. Smith with Joseph Reeder.

Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo HigashinoTitle: Under the Midnight Sun
Author: Keigo Higashino
Translated from the Japanese by Alexander O. Smith with Joseph Reeder
Publisher: Minotaur Books
ISBN: 978-1250105790
Genre: Literary Thriller
Pages: 560
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Literary thrillers are hard to come by. Let me rephrase this: Good literary thrillers are hard to come by and thank God for Keigo Higashino. I was a fan the minute I finished reading “The Devotion of Suspect X” and then when I read “Salvation of a Saint” I knew I would continue reading whatever he would dish, no matter how good or bad. I think it has got to do with the atmosphere that is built in his novels, and that is so important for a good thriller. The right kind of setting – the fog if necessary, the ambience of the hotel maybe or just describing a regular street. He is a master at that, bordering noir, if there could be Japanese noir (given most of their literature is dark anyway) and almost surpasses himself in it.

“Under the Midnight Sun” is a big book at 560 pages. But at no point do you feel overwhelmed or intimidated reading it, because of its size. The story is so gripping that you want to turn the pages no matter how late it is at night or for that matter early morning. In Osaka, in 1973, the body of a murdered man is found in an abandoned building. Detective Sasagaki is unable to find the murderer. In all of this, the lives of two teenagers – Ryo and Yukiho get embroiled which will leave the reader shocking and gasping for breath as the end of the book nears.

Higashino in this one is mainly concentrating on the aftermath of a crime. Twenty years have passed and it is 1993 and how the teenagers then are impacted by the crime that took place. Why must they get impacted you ask? Well because one of them is the child of the one who got killed and the other the child of the killer. The psychological impact then – as they strive to find the truth behind the killing and how Sasagaki gets involved again is spine-chilling.

Higashino doesn’t mince words while writing. Everything is crystal clear and the way it is supposed to be. The plot while threadbare, as you go along keeps getting layers added to it, which doesn’t really let it remain threadbare for long. The characters are etched to accuracy and no one has received more or less print time. “Under the Midnight Sun” is a feast for any lover of pulp fiction.

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Murder in Mahim by Jerry Pinto

murder-in-mahim-by-jerry-pinto Title: Murder in Mahim
Author: Jerry Pinto
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
ISBN: 978-9385755293
Genre: Literary Fiction, Indian fiction, Crime fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

Before I begin this review let me tell you that this book is very different from ‘Em and the Big Hoom’ by the same author. If you are going to pick up ‘Murder in Mahim’ thinking it will be like his earlier novel, then don’t. It is different and refreshingly so. I would also like to add that it moves beyond just being a murder mystery (in the loose sense of the word) and goes to explore other themes, which I thought was very-well managed and achieved.

Being a Bombay (Yes, to me it will always be that) boy, I could identify to most of what is there in the book, in fact, even all of it – from the glitzy and glamorous to the dark underbelly, nothing was new and everything was a reminiscence of a time gone-by. This is precisely what I love about Jerry Pinto’s books – the description, the eye for detail, the nuances of not only the characters, but also the city (which also happened in Em and the Big Hoom in large doses) and that to me is some superlative craft.

I didn’t think much of the story in this one, but the only reason I kept turning the pages is because I cared for some characters and the language which is par excellence. Jerry Pinto’s writing embroils you in it, it makes you think, and before you know it you are also a part of its world.

So what is the plot of this book? A young man is found dead in the toilet of Matunga road station, with his stomach ripped open. Peter D’Souza, a retired journalist becomes a part of this investigation with his friend Inspector Jende and that’s when the story begins. It is also a book about unspoken love, about Peter’s fear that his son might be involved in the killings (yes, there are more than one) and it is about the city that never sleeps – the one that comforts and the one that can also be mercilessly cruel.

This is all I have to say about the plot. Now to the writing – I was taken in like I have mentioned earlier, by the raw energy of the city pulsating throughout the book. The nuances are meticulously and most certainly effortlessly thrown in – from the Barista at Shivaji Park, to the beaches, to the stench of urine and sweat at railway station platforms, and Marine Drive included. Mumbai (I have to call it that now) has come alive in this book.

Jerry’s writing is peppered with humour, sorrow and lots of ironic moments in the book which make you guffaw a lot. There is this straight-forwardness to his prose and yet the characters are more complex than ever. From Peter’s wife Millie who plays a minor role and yet shines with her complexities to Leslie (my personal favourite character) and the various shades there are to him, each character is crafted with a lot of deftness and logic. At one point, I felt as though I was in Bombay of my college years – there is no timeline as such in the book which works very well to its advantage. ‘Murder in Mahim’ is relevant, topical, fast-paced, and a book that will grab you by your throat.

City of Death by Abheek Barua

City of Death by Abheek Barua Title: City of Death
Author: Abheek Barua
Publisher: Juggernaut Books
ISBN: 9788193237212
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Pages: 263
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

So this was the first book by Juggernaut Books that I read and I must say that I was hooked to it from Page 1. Of course mainly because it is a thriller but what a thriller at that! Set in Kolkata, certainly helps its case a lot more.

The book I am talking about (you know it by now anyway) is “City of Death” by Abheek Barua. Why did I think it was that great? Well, for starters I loved the female protagonist Sohini Sen – a middle-aged, most cynical detective and might I rightly add – unforgettable as you finish the book. She is the kind of character you must have actually come across and yet so unassuming that you might not even remember till it strikes you later.

The plot: A young woman from an affluent background has been brutally murdered. Sohini gets to know of this from the chief minister’s office. She has to drop everything and get on the case. In the midst of all this, there are political parties and powers at the top who want to either not let this get solved or are just too busy with their own agendas.

I won’t go further into the plot but as I said before, I loved the character of Sohini. There is something very real about her and not to forget the star of the book: Kolkata. Barua with his writing takes you in the by-lanes of Kolkata like a magician – always showing, never telling – sometimes telling, never showing. As a reader, I was gripped from the start and honestly I was kinda disappointed when the book ended.

“City of Death” is a perfect book for that lazy rainy afternoon when you have all the time in the world to devour a book – back to back.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith Title: The Cuckoo’s Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith
Series: Cormoran Strike – Book 1
Publisher: Mullholland Books
ISBN: 978-0316206853
Genre: Suspense, Detective, Crime
Pages: 464
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

With great trepidation, I picked up “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Gailbraith. There was already so much written and said about it almost two years ago, that I did not even know if I wanted to read it or not. I am glad that I picked it up. Please do not even compare it to the Harry Potter series. You just cannot. May be that is why J.K. Rowling had to change her identity and write this series and once the identity was out, well then the critics had their field day- both good and bad.

“The Cuckoo’s Calling” is the first in the Cormoran Strike (the name of the detective) series and while the third one is just out, there are more lined up. I don’t know how many though. All I can tell you is that the book is something else for sure and I cannot wait to read the second and the third installments.

What is the first book about?

Of course, at the heart of the book is the Private Detective Cormoran Strike – the ex-army guy with his own complicated personal life and skeletons in the closet, his business which is drying up, and of course he had to have a messy break-up with his fiancée.
So everything is downhill till Robin a temp arrives from the Temp Agency and ends up becoming a permanent secretary/assistant of sorts and then a case lands up on his doorstep which he just cannot refuse. It is a high-profile case – that of a supermodel – falling to death from her third-floor Mayfair apartment and her brother suspects foul play and hires Cormoran to investigate further. This in short is the gist. It is like any other hard-boiled detective novel you might say. So what makes it any different?

I guess it is the writing for sure but it is also the noir element that runs through the book, given it is set in London and also given how the characters are all people with shades of grey as it should be in a book like this. I instantly took a shine to Cormoran and the wry humour that prevailed throughout. The working class of London is also very well depicted, without leaning to any social or political context. The lives of people – both the detectives and the suspects are so detailed that it is a joy to read the book and know more about them.

“The Cuckoo’s Calling” is the kind of book that cannot be read in one sitting. It needs to be cherished and savoured and not read in one go. At least I wasn’t able to. Cormoran Strike is a detective that will grow on you as he did on me and I cannot wait to read The Silkworm.

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The Cuckoo’s Calling (English)

Book Review: Ten by Andrej Longo

Ten by Andrej Longo Title: Ten
Author: Andrej Longo
Translator: Howard Curtis
Publisher: Harvill Secker, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-1846556173
Genre: Crime, Short Stories
Pages: 160
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Now to talk about a very unusual book which I finished reading a couple of days ago. It was full of impact, full of horror, and anticipation and at the same time, struck the right chords. It is also quite hard hitting in most bits and pieces. After all, “Ten” by Andrej Longo is a mix of the Ten Commandments and the Mafia. The action takes place in Naples, where the ten stories are centered.

Each story is based on one commandment and of course the Mafia is a part of each of them, which is the basis of this book. The stories are interlinked which again is what happens in most books of this nature. Naples is central to every story, which only helps the reader in understanding the landscape of the place and its nuances and culture. The stories are about regular people who are just caught in their lives and want better – for which they will go to any lengths.

The stories are different and yet at the core of it – the savagery of humans and the humanity as well shines through. So on one hand, there is a son who has to make a tough choice when he comes to terms with his mother’s illness to a teenager who wants to grow to become an adult a little too soon and gets caught on the wrong side to an abused girl who finds comfort in a stuffed toy. Each story is different and linked and at the same time makes you wonder about the fragility of human life.

What I loved about the stories is that the stories do not lose their essence from translation. Howard Curtis has done it again with this one. I remember reading “Lovers” by Daniel Arsand and “The Threads of the Heart” by Carole Martinez with same enthusiasm as I lapped this one, and of course those two were also translated by him. Andrej Longo as it is clear from the translation writes brutally and almost makes you jump from your seat in anticipation of what is going to happen next. The element of thrill and literary fiction is difficult to find at times, but he does it effortlessly. At times all I wanted was the stories to be a little longer; however each story hit the right spot. I would definitely recommend this to readers who want to read a short and yet full-of-life collection of stories.

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