Category Archives: Literary Thriller

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.

Night Prayers by Santiago Gamboa

Layout 1 Title: Night Prayers
Author: Santiago Gamboa
Translator: Howard Curtis
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609453114
Genre: Literary Crime, Literary, Crime
Pages: 302
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Reading “Night Prayers” by Santiago Gambao is like watching a movie on adrenalin. It is not only a crime novel but also a literary crime novel that takes you through the heartland of Latin America. It is also a story of sibling love and so much happening in the background, that you don’t realize when you have come to the end of the book.

“Night Prayers” may seem like it isn’t an easy read when you begin it, however, once you start, you realize it is most simple and a fabulous read at that. The book is about Manuel, a Colombian philosophy student who gets arrested in Bangkok, accused of drug trafficking. He has a sister named Juana, who he hasn’t seen for years. He longs to see her. He doesn’t even care if he is executed. All he wants is to see her.

Juana’s life has been all about protecting her brother from the mean streets of Bogotá. She decides to take him away from Bogotá – as far as she can and she is unable to. All of this happened when Manuel was a student, a dreamer and great lover of literature. Things take an ugly turn and she has to leave her brother behind. In present day, she is married to a rich Japanese businessman and lives in Tokyo.

In all of this, the Colombian counsel in Delhi wants to help and reunite the siblings and all of this with the intrigue of Manuel’s case and what actually happened there. This is in short, the story of “Night Prayers”. Now, why must you read this book? Let me tell you the reasons.

Santiago is a writer who is so skillful that he cannot write anything mediocre or bad at all. I’ve read one of his other books, “Necropolis” and it shines – I kid you not when I say that. It is intricate (just like this one), layered and characters who stay with you long after. Manuel and Juana stop becoming mere characters and become people for the reader. As a reader, I was involved in everything they did or didn’t do – the choices made and the repercussions.

For me, what also worked very well in the novel were the secondary characters – from the counsel in Delhi to the underbelly goons of Bogotá, each of them had oodles of character and charm to sustain me throughout. Santiago’s writing is essentially as though you are watching a well-scripted movie. The plot points are tight and don’t waiver. The translation by Howard Curtis is precise and does not meander into rambling at any point. The prose is chic and stylish – the dialogues even more. “Night Prayers” is the kind of book that you will race through in the span of a weekend and I’m sure you would want more by Gamboa – in that case, please keep “Necropolis” handy as well. You have to read them consequently. All in all, please visit the nearest bookshop or order these two online, right now!

Runner by Patrick Lee

Runner by Patrick Lee Title: Runner
Author: Patrick Lee
Publisher: Penguin UK
ISBN: 9781405914994
Genre: Suspense and Thriller, Action and Adventure
Pages: 464
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5

Thrillers are not easy to write. There is always the case of what to give away and what to hide and also the fact that the reader, who reads the genre, has had some experience in figuring it all out. Then how does a writer get the reader to turn the pages, without guessing? Is that really possible after a point? Patrick Lee does it with his book “Runner”. I for one could not stop turning the pages. Yes, I know that is what they all say about thrillers, but this one, well for a lack of a better word, is really interesting.

“Runner” is a thriller on-the-road, quite literally so. There is an ex-soldier, Sam Dryden. Then there is a terrified young girl running away from her well-armed pursers. So but of course Sam saves her and keeps her hidden. Why is the girl running? Who is she running from? What is the idea behind it all? How is Sam involved in all of this? This makes for the rest of the plot.

Lee makes for a good story and yet sometimes you feel that the ends could have been tied better. The characters are strong and have a lot to do to take the story forward.

Now at some point, I thought I would not be able to finish the book, but after a point, the story did come interesting and I managed to finish it. “Runner” is not for the serious reader. Nor is it for the reader who expects some more out of a book. It is perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon, because you know that the pages will turn and the book will be finished in no time.

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The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker

The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker Title: The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair
Author: Joel Dicker
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0143126683
Genre: Suspense and Thriller, Literary Fiction
Pages: 656
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I thought to myself, “What could be there in this book that most people outside of the country are going absolutely crazy about it”? I mean there has to be something to it, isn’t it? I kept evading the read for the longest time, maybe because of the tome of a read that it is, but I also guarantee you that once you start reading, “The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair” by Joel Dicker, there is no way you can stop reading it.

The book is not just a literary thriller spanning from 1975 to 2008. It is more than that. I could not stop reading the book because of the writing of course, but also because how Dicker gets you so involved, that you become a part of the characters’ lives. According to me, very few books manage to do that and when a book does that to you, then you are hooked to it forever.

“The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair” is not a book which can be reread, but there are parts which the reader can go back to and find solace in them. It is about a fifteen-year old Nola, who went missing from a small town in New England in 1975. It is about Harry Quebert – a renowned writer, who had an affair with her. It is about a murder. It is about a book called, “The Origin of Evil” written by Quebert and what was the genesis of the book. It is about the people in the town and how it all was destroyed by this one incident.

The book is also about Marcus Goldman, the protégé of Quebert who comes to the town, Somerset after years again in 2008 to find out what happened to Nola and how after thirty-three years her body was found on Quebert’s land and how Goldman wants to save his mentor and clear his name.

That in short is the plot of this wondrous book. There are times in the book, when you just wonder about the profound lines, about the complexities of love and how fragile relationships are and then you are taken in by the thriller element. The writing overwhelms you in most places and you cannot believe that this is a debut. The book has garnered a lot of attention, when it was first released in French.

The translation by Sam Taylor is splendid and without a blemish. The writing takes you back and forth with ease – between 1975 and 2008 and the in-between parts when Quebert beautifully teaches Goldman how to write. Those were my favourite parts.

After I was done reading this book, the plot played on and on in my mind. I could not stop thinking about the plot and how intricately it was written by Dicker. This is one book which you must read this year. Without fail please. If it is the only book you will read this year, then let it be this one.

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