Tag Archives: crime fiction

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.

Book Review: I Will Have Vengeance: The Winter of Commissario Riccciardi by Maurizio de Giovanni

I Will Have Vengeance Title: I Will Have Vengeance: The Winter of Commissario Ricciardi
Author: Maurizio de Giovanni
Translator: Anne Milano Appel
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609450946
Genre: Noir, Crime
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Crime fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea – to read or to write. It is more so difficult when you are writing crime fiction novels based in a time different than yours, you have to but after all keep in mind how the readers are going to react to those times and situations. At the same time, a writer needs to be more so intelligent when it comes to the plot and the overall series (because when anyone writes a crime novel, according to me it more or less turns to be a series). These and a lot of other elements make for a great crime novel, when synchronized and almost singing to each other.

“I Will Have Vengeance: The Winter of Commissario Ricciardi” is one such book, written with keen observation and some humour (in some places if not all) by Maurizio de Giovanni. At the core of the novel, as the title suggests is its protagonist, Commissario Ricciardi. The action takes place in Naples. It is 1931 and winter. The cold winds are biting and Ricciardi knows that something is going to happen. Sure enough, a murder takes place; that of one of the greatest tenors the world has ever known – Maestro Vezzi and that too in his dressing room at Naples famous San Carlo Theatre. The enigmatic and quite cold Ricciardi is called in for an investigation, with his loyal colleague Maione. The two make for a fantastic detective duo I have read about in a long time. The murder and its solving make for excellent reading, and that too because of a secret held by Ricciardi.

Maurizio de Giovanni wrote a short story at first and introduced Ricciardi in it. From there on it won a writing competition, and then paved way for other three books in the series. What struck me the most and stayed with me about the book was the setting. Naples in 1930s was something I had never thought I would read of and that too in crime fiction, however I did and I loved it. Ricciardi is a man with a lot of baggage attached and at the same time, the characterization is humane and subtle. There are hilarious moments throughout the book and the writing is sharp and unsettling as well.

At one point the story did lose some pace, but I ignored that aspect, as it lunged right ahead and got me back into the story. This has been the first crime fiction for me of the year and I could not have been happier about the choice. Europa Editions has introduced the “World Noir” series and this is the first installment. I am sure the other titles will be as riveting as this one. At the same time, I cannot wait to read the other three titles published in the Ricciardi series (hoping they will be translated in English). This translation of the first novel by Anne Milano Appel is almost bang-on with description and the sense of place of a crime novel. The great thing that worked for me as well was that I read it during winter (the apt season), so the “relate” factor was high. A brilliant read nonetheless.

Book Review: The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul

The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul Title: The Murder of Halland
Author: Pia Juul
Translator: Martin Aitken
Publisher: Peirene Press
ISBN: 978-0-9562840-7-5
Genre: Small Epic Series, Crime Fiction, Novella
Pages: 167
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I have suddenly taken a liking to murder mysteries. More so to the ones that are written tautly and impeccably. Off late, the publishing history has witnessed a lot of thriller writers from the Scandinavian region. I have enjoyed most of these novelists’ works. The one that I recently read was of a Danish writer, Pia Juul, who I hadn’t heard of earlier. The book that I read was, “The Murder of Halland” and here is my review.

Bess and Halland are a couple. They live in a town where everyone knows them. The town is Danish and is not mentioned in the book. One fine day, Halland is found dead during dawn and close to him. No one knows how he died. A neighbour tells the police that Halland informed him that Bess killed him. Bess denies it. The story continues about Bess’s grief. The way her past tumbles through the pages and more so Halland’s past as well. That is the crux of the story.

What makes this book so different is that this is not your traditional crime novel. There are the police and detectives investigating for sure, however they are not at the core of the book. The story is a love story and at the same time there are so many layers to it. At times, I found myself confused considering the pace at which things were happening – the appearance of Bess’s ex-husband, Halland’s pregnant so-called niece, the neighbours – it almost become difficult to string everything together and that is when I began enjoying the book a lot more.

The translation by Martin Aitken is flawless only because I could imagine the places and the scenery just the way I am sure Ms. Juul intends her readers to. The words are direct, the sentences sometimes feel sparse and the narrative might also seem slow to some, however what makes the book so wonderful is precisely all of those qualities. Ms. Juul does not spoon-feed her readers. There is always more to what meets the eye and that is the beauty of this book and the writing. I finished the book in one sitting and that is how I am sure most of the people who want to read this one will read it. For me, it was a great way to start December.

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Book Review: The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

Title: The Gods of Gotham
Author: Lyndsay Faye
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
ISBN: 978-0399158377
Genre: Thriller, Crime Fiction
Pages: 432
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It is not easy to write a good thriller and a crime novel. All the elements need to be in place – the setting, the place, the characters and the crime but of course. Everything to the finest detail – after all nothing can go amiss in such type of a genre. This is what Lyndsay Faye has effortlessly achieved in her book, “The Gods of Gotham”.

The book is set in mid-nineteenth-century New York. The city is in shambles. We are talking about 1845 New York. The Great Potato Famine had struck Ireland and thousands of Irish Catholics were surfacing in New York, adding religious turmoil to the already volatile city. There is political upheaval and radicalism. Everything seems to be changing in the city and the story is wrapped around the founding of New York City’s first police department (The Copper Stars) and the recruit and protagonist in question – Timothy Wilde.

Wilde is a luckless man. At 27, he is unlucky in love, works at a small Manhattan oyster bar, till the Great Fire (another important angle to the story) destroys his workplace, leaving him penniless and without a job. His politically connected brother gets him a job in the newly constituted police force and that’s where Timothy’s story starts off. He hopes for a career, till he stumbles on a blood-drenched child and only discovers that there is more to what meets the eye and sets out to solve the crime. With this he faces a lot of problems – both political and personal and of course solves the crimes of children being exploited by the end of the book.

The Gods of Gotham is a taut and nicely written book. To set a novel in the past is quite challenging, what is more so is to synchronize the story with the characters’ mindset and how they would behave in that culture.

The book is layered with several sub-plots: Timothy’s relationship with his brother Valentine, his devotion to his sweetheart Mercy Underhill, and more so his relationship with New York City, which Faye has done a fantastic job of describing. There were times while reading this book that I had to look up Google Images to see what New York would have looked like in those times and the descriptions could not be truer.

The mystery in the book keeps the reader going and thinking. Wilde is a likeable narrator and a competent detective for sure. Faye has managed to make him come into his own without overshadowing the other characters in the book – from the whorehouse madam to Mercy’s father to other policemen and the engaging child Bird. New York as a major part (or character) of the book, is always standing tall in the background adding the much-needed life and period-specific texture to the book.

The Gods of Gotham will keep you to the edge of your seat. It is feisty and also thrilling, describing life in 1845 at its grittiest best and paced excellently. There is a sequel in the offing and I cannot wait for it.

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Book Review: The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler

Title: The Hypnotist
Author: Lars Kepler
Publisher: Harper Collins, Blue Door
ISBN: 978-0007444342
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 512
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

Written in the tradition of Stieg Larsson’s books, “The Hypnotist” by the husband-wife co-authors (pen name being Lars Kepler) is a decent read. It manages to bring out the elements of crime fiction and yet the plot is threadbare which was a problem at times while I was reading the book.

The Hypnotist is about a family living in Tumba, Sweden (no second guesses Sherlock), who are a victim of a homicide. The only witness to the crime is the sole surviving member – the son. The boy is in a state of shock with more than hundred knife wounds inflicted on his body. He cannot seem to recall or speak a word of anything that happened that fateful night. Enter, Inspector Detective Joona Linna, who in a heroic manner wants to get to the bottom of this crime. This can only be done by putting the kid through a hypnosis session in the presence of Dr. Erik Maria Bark and get to his subconscious level.

For me the plot was for sure different. The elements of suspense and thrill were there throughout the book and might I add that it was cleverly done as well. I like Swedish thrillers, but there is only this much one can take of them, considering the onslaught of them in the world of crime fiction. The book is written well in most parts and some parts just remind you of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo’s styles of writing. The past and present portions of the book are well translated and add to the atmosphere of the book, which anyway they are supposed to. The clues like in any other crime book are laid out well and yet hidden from the reader. The mysteries are interwoven brilliantly and the book is fast-paced for sure. I would recommend it for a one-time read (Not that you can read a mystery again).

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