Tag Archives: detective

Lock 14 by Georges Simenon

Lock 14 by Georges Simenon Title: Lock 14
Author: Georges Simenon
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0143037279
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 160
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I always wanted to read a Simenon. I had but heard so much about him and his famous detective Maigret, but then there was also the need to start from the very beginning – the first novel in which Maigret makes an appearance and I finally got a chance to.

Unlike Christie’s Poirot, Maigret maybe does not have a sense of humour, but he is a very intelligent man and goes by logic (as all detectives do). He of course ranks high with Holmes and Poirot, but also in a very dark manner.

Simenon’s books are pure crime and that is why they are short, to the point and gripping, right till the last page.
“Lock 14” is the start to a swift series – the series being around 100 books (I cannot wait to read every single of them). At the heart of the book is of course a murder, of Mary Lampson, whose body is found in a stable in the vicinity of Lock 14. No one knows what she was doing there. What would such a woman of sophistication be doing in a place like this? And this is where Maigret comes to the rescue.

The language is highly descriptive and Maigret’s character shapes up really well. He is brooding and might seem cold, but the way the character develops is rather charming, in a very odd manner. The setting of the book is of prime importance and Simenon does not miss out on a single detail. In fact, at times it does become a tad bit boring, given the conditions of the lock and the ships, which the reader is unaware of.

The writing is crisp and sharp. The pages are just right for a mystery of this nature. And what is most interesting is that after all these years, this book is just as readable. It can be finished in one sitting and I bet you will want more of Maigret mysteries.

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Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie Title: The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Author: Agatha Christie
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780007282265
Genre: Mystery, Detective
Pages: 297
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

The perfect kind of reading when there is nothing to read is a good Agatha Christie. It just shakes you up and your day is then made. It does not even take too much time to get through one. And of course when it is a mystery that involves the adorable Belgian, Poirot, then you know you cannot go wrong. You will love the book. I decided to go through the entire Poirot collection and hopefully finish it by the end of this year. So, I started where it all began – “The Mysterious Affair at Styles”.

Poirot’s first case and the grand dame of crime does it like no other. The setting is World War I and in England (but obviously, to begin with at least). The Styles mansion residents wake up to find Emily Inglethorpe poisoned and long gone. Captain Hastings is at the scene and this is where his dear friend Poirot enters the scene and everyone is under suspicion. The family, The servants, The neighbors and the well-wishers. Almost everyone.

The writing but of course builds up only towards the middle of the book. The rest of the time it is all about creating the much needed atmosphere of the book. The characters are almost synchronized by Christie brilliantly and Poirot – the one who holds all the threads and cards. It is funny how out of all the Poirots, I had not read this one.

At some point, I thought it was too long for a mystery, but then again, I just had to get that thought of my mind and dive into the book once again. “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” is vintage Christie – it has all the elements of crime – a good setting, characters, and a great detective that is just been introduced. For those who have not read it, I strongly recommend this one . Enjoy.

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Book Review: The Reluctant Detective by Kiran Manral

Title: The Reluctant Detective
Author: Kiran Manral
Publisher: Westland
ISBN: 978-9381626115
Genre: Mystery, Humour
Pages: 184
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It isn’t easy to write by mixing almost two genres together. It takes not only gumption but also some good writing skill. When I first started reading, “The Reluctant Detective” I did not think much of it. I mean come to think of it, here is an almost bored housewife (well not really bored) and she has the habit of poking her nose in other people’s affairs (but obviously – as the cliché would seem), till dead bodies turn up in quick succession around her and how she teams up with a detective friend to solve them.

So that is the plot in a nutshell. As I however read further (give it beyond the first three chapters), I was taken in into the book. Kay’s (Her name is Kanan Mehra) exaggerations and little vanities add the much needed humour in this one. Runa is the main detective, while it is Kay who happens to stumble on most clues as they go along solving the crime/s.

What I found most fascinating in the entire book, was how Ms. Manral has managed to create a character (interesting one at that you might note) out of the ordinary, whose major problem is controlling her cellulite and being first in queue at the next sale. Kay’s character is well-etched and for one most housewives would be able to relate to her, or at least some parts of who she is. The humour in the book doesn’t let the mystery element get ignored and vice-versa.

The book strings all elements in place – humour, mystery and the events of ordinary day-to-day living. I liked the writing. It is to the point and does not delve too much into descriptions, which makes for a light Sunday read. The Reluctant Detective is a read that I would recommend to almost everyone. It is fast, well paced and will keep you glued till you finish it.

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Book Review: Miss Timmins’ School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy

Title: Miss Timmins’ School for Girls
Author: Nayana Currimbhoy
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
ISBN: 978-0061997747
Genre: Murder, Detective Story
PP: 512 pages
Price: $14.99
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Boarding schools have always had a close spot in my heart. Though as a child, I would have hated the thought of being sent to one, however as I read more of them in my adulthood, I wish my parents would have sent me to one. I miss being a part of a larger culture, which is a world in its own. All boarding schools are.

The story takes place in a boarding school in Panchgani, India, where upper class girls mix with British missionaries and rock and roll, drugs, and other influences of the time-it is the mid 1970’s and the times, well, they truly are a-changing.

Our heroine is Charu, a new teacher at Miss Timmins. It’s her first job and she is barely older-or more experienced than the girls she is teaching. She forms a friendship with another teacher with a very different personality and lifestyle. Moira prince has joined the 70s with a vengeance and it is through her that Charu meets the world of hot music and illicit drugs.

And where, Charu is left to wonder, does the Shakespeare she’s been hired to teach, fit into this new world?

This book is a beautiful well-written novel. So good a novel, in fact, that I forgot it is a murder mystery. So I was appropriately surprised when in the middle of monsoon season, at night (of course) a teacher is murdered. The school’s careful surface is shattered and the local town is delighted to jump upon it with gossip and speculation. I loved how the writer made use of what was happening in the world and connected it with the school. The fact that a school so well-sheltered is now thrown into chaos and uncertainty after a murder takes place.

I enjoyed this book as a murder mystery but also as so much more. It was fascinating to read about the India of the 70s with the sudden clash of Indian culture, British imperialism, and the new wave of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. So as a lover of murder mysteries and as a lover of political-sociological studies (especially when presented in compelling fictional form) this book had me hooked.

The characters are well-drawn. Not only are the major characters fascinating but all of the minor ones as well had distinct voices and stories and caught my interest. Currimbhoy is a wonderful writer who takes the murder mystery beyond its genre (as good mysteries do) to examine issues of class and social mores. It is the venue that got me going: Boarding schools seems to create a world onto their own, full of the intensity of adolescent friendships and angsts and teacher eccentricities. I loved books set in boarding schools when I was a child and adolescent and now, on the other side of life, I love reading them even more. This is a wonderful book that I recommend not only to lovers of mysteries but to all lovers of fiction and those interested in how world upheavals play out on the smallest scales.

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Book Review: The Terracotta Dog (Montalbano 2) by Andrea Camilleri

Title: The TerraCotta Dog (Inspector Montalbano 2)
Author: Andrea Camilleri
Genre: Detective Fiction
ISBN: 978-0330492911
Publisher: Picador
PP: 352 pages
Price: Rs. 330
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

The Terra-Cotta Dog is an extremely rewarding police procedural with deep cultural and historical roots that provide a delightful complexity for the reader. I would award this book six stars if I could. If you have not yet read any of the Inspector Montalbano books, I suggest that you take the time to read The Shape of Water first. That book helps set up the context of the characters and makes The Terra-Cotta Dog far more interesting.

This book has Inspector Montalbano solving several mysteries before he is done. In a fascinating way, each mystery leads unexpectedly into the next one. And so on. It’s like opening the Russian nesting dolls to find another treasure inside. I can rarely recall such fine plotting and seamless connections between disparate story elements in one police procedural.

As the book opens, Montalbano has been invited to meet secretly with a dangerous killer. Is it a trap? Why would the killer want to meet with a police inspector? The answer leads to a merry-go-round of public relations activities to cover up the real motive. Then, the charade collapses and Montalbano finds out about an unknown crime. More public relations follow . . . and from them Montalbano gets a clue to other hidden crimes. The rest of the novel reminded me of an archeologist’s work in uncovering earlier civilizations that built on the same site.

The main contexts for these mysteries are the Sicilian Mafia, the Fascist era, the American invasion of Sicily during World War II, and the Christian and Moslem religions. How’s that for an unusual combination? Montalbano emerges as an even more interesting character in this book than in The Shape of Water, especially as his relationship with his girl friend Livia develops. As before, the food references are a delight and add a warm human touch to offset the evil that coils throughout the story.

As I finished the story, I was reminded how important it is to be dogged in chasing down details that don’t seem to make sense. There’s always an explanation for mysteries, but the explanation will never be revealed unless you follow the path to the answer wherever it takes you.