Tag Archives: mystery

Missing, Presumed Dead by Kiran Manral

Missing, Presumed Dead

Title: Missing, Presumed Dead
Author: Kiran Manral
Publisher: Amaryllis
ISBN: 978-9387383685
Genre: Crime, Thriller, Mystery/Family
Pages: 268
Source: Author
Rating: 4 Stars

I do not read thrillers. I normally stay away from them. From most of them at least. But, “Missing, Presumed Dead” is not just another thriller or not just a thriller at all for that matter. It is so much more and thank god for that! I read one of Kiran’s books before picking up this one and thoroughly enjoyed it. That one was eerie, with some suspense and kept me on the edge. This one on the other hand is more contemplative, it has its elements of thrill but what pulled me toward it was the language (simple and effective), characterisation and pacing. At no point did I feel the book go flat or not living up to my expectations.

As the synopsis will tell you, “Missing, Presumed Dead” is a story of a dysfunctional marriage, about half-sisters Aisha and Heer, and Aisha’s husband Prithvi with his own agenda (or so it seems). What the synopsis doesn’t tell you is how the story is beautifully woven and that too set on the outskirts of a town in the hills of North India. Manral creates magic where scene is concerned. And it is as though her characters and the story just blends right in, effortlessly – it inches from page to page and as a reader, you are sucked into her world.

Every scene, every dialogue between characters or for that matter even what they are thinking is clear, inviting and makes you want to know more. What happened to Aisha? What happened to Heer right after? Why is Prithvi the way he is? And the children at the centre of all this drama. What I admired the most about the book is that Kiran does not dumb it down for the readers, nor does she play safe. She enters a territory that is dangerous, dark and in my opinion not many Indian writers have managed to explore mental health the way she has in this book.

At the same time, the story is completely readable and racy (for lack of a better word, my apologies). Manral explores a different genre, gets out of her comfort zone and manages to do all of this with a lot of substance in plot and the narrative. “Missing, Presumed Dead” is the kind of book that you’d want to finish in a day (that’s exactly what I did). So keep a day ready for it.

 

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Bombay Fever by Sidin Vadukut

51FWR4u6XwL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_-2 Title: Bombay Fever
Author: Sidin Vadukut
Publisher: Simon and Schuster India
ISBN: 978-8193355282
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

What are the elements of a good thriller? Pace, pace and more pace is what I would answer if someone asked me such a question. Also, the plot matters and that goes without saying. I like thrillers to be simple and not so complicated. Off-late, every thriller I picked up has had the element of too much happening in it, which kind of ruins the book for me. I like a story to be direct, perhaps even one-dimensional when it comes to this genre and not too complex that I don’t understand what’s going on after a point. It shouldn’t become the Interstellar of novels.

So when a copy of “Bombay Fever” by Sidin Vadukut found its way to be for review, I was a little skeptical to read it. I do not enjoy medical thrillers. I have read a couple of Robin Cooks as we all do when in college but that’s about it. Till I started reading this one and was completely taken in by it. The book starts in Switzerland and in the courtyard of a Hindu temple – a woman collapses in the arms of a visiting Indian journalist, and her body is nothing but blood. The same then continues to happen all over Mumbai – men, women, children, the young and the old die in the same way and no one knows why. It is a deadly disease but that’s all is known about it. What will happen next? Will the city be saved? Will the world be saved? Sidin makes you dig further and also smartly leaves clues all over the place as you turn the pages.

Vadukut’s writing till now has only been in the genre of humor and sarcasm, so maybe that is why I was skeptical to even read this one. Having said that, this book isn’t like any other thriller. I loved the research done by Sidin for this one – there is a lot of medical and historical trivia of the last century which was so essential to the plot. The writing is crisp and doesn’t amble now. The chapters are short (Thank God for small mercies) which is what is most needed when a thriller is being written or according to me one gets bored, if the chapters are too long. Also, what I loved about the book is that the writing is simple. Even the technical terms usage doesn’t impact the writing. Might I add, there is also some humor in the book which is much needed given the seriousness and tension that the book is layered with.

“Bombay Fever” hits the right spots at the right time. It makes you want to turn the pages and the plot twists and characters are all very plausible. At the same time, it is very scary to note that something like that could actually happen. An epidemic is only a reality that Sidin writes of, instilling that strange fear in you at 2 am in the morning as you turn the page.

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.

Opus by Satoshi Kon

opus-by-satoshi-kon Title: Opus
Author: Satoshi Kon
Translator: Zack Davisson
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
ISBN: 978-1616556068
Genre: Manga, Graphic Novels
Pages: 384
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Rating: 5 Stars

Satoshi Kon died very young. When he was only forty-nine years old. In the course of reading his manga, “Opus” I researched and got to know more about it. I didn’t even know till then that he was a renowned filmmaker. I’m only too glad that I read “Opus” – a little too late, but better late than never.

“Opus” is about worlds that writers create; characters they rule over, plots they devise and how all of them affect each other. The manga is about a manga creator Chikara Nagai and how he is at a deadline to finish his graphic novel Resonance. Lin, his main hero does not want to die. He protests as he tears the last sheet of the manga and runs into the world created by Nagai. Lin wants to protect Satoko who is battling the evil Masque. Masque will stop at nothing. These are characters created by Nagai and he doesn’t want them to have a happy ending, though his editor and everyone else around him wants them to.

Chikara by chance or magic if you please enters his world of Resonance. The characters want to write their own story. Satoko comes to the real world with Chikara and things change drastically – with a lot of thrill page by page for the reader. Let me not say any further now or I will be giving away most of the plot.

Kon’s imagination is magnificent – as is visible through this manga. I haven’t watched his movies, so I really can’t comment on them. Having said that, this manga is brilliant beyond words. The anime has so much character, grace, personality and plot twists and turns that you cannot help but love this one. I wish someone would make a series of it soon. It would be epic.

Sergio Y. by Alexandre Vidal Porto

Sergio Y. by Alexandre Vidal Porto Title: Sergio Y.
Author: Alexandre Vidal Porto
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609453275
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 160
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

It is rare you come across a book that stuns you and leaves you gasping for breath, in the happiest way possible. It is also rare that you wish the book didn’t have to end so soon and you wanted to read more and know more about the characters. However, it is true that a book ends when it does and when the writer feels that there is nothing left to say anymore. “Sergio Y” is the kind of book that says what it has to, leaves a void in your heart when you’re done with it and leaves you with a bittersweet feeling which anyway translates to life.

“Sergio Y.” by Alexandre Vidal Porto is a layered book – it is complex, surreal and revolves around the pursuit of happiness so strong that as a reader you just want them all to find that elusive idea of happiness. You want the central character and the others to be happy. You want life to give them that shot at it and let them be to their device. Alexandre writes with such conviction and skill that you want to step out, meet the first person on the street and hug him or her, because people need more understanding and some senseless mad loving in this world, now more than ever.

Armando is a seventy-year-old highly esteemed and extremely qualified psychiatrist in São Paulo and the narrator of Sergio Y. He is writing this journal or a report because years ago he had a patient named Sergio, a seventeen-year-old boy who came to see him for several months before abruptly ending their sessions. This happened without any explanation after Sergio returned from a short vacation in New York City. He just knew what he wanted and he had found it, so he deemed it only fair to end the sessions. A couple of years later Armando learns from Sergio’s mother that Sergio is happy in NYC and is a chef and soon plans to open his own restaurant.

Cut ahead to a few weeks and Armando learns of Sergio’s murder in the papers. His murder haunts Armando. He doesn’t know why he feels so strongly for this patient, whose only motive was to be happy and find happiness wherever he could. On further discovery, Armando realizes that there is no record of the death of Sergio Yacoubian, but only that of a Sandra Yacoubian. Armando is further perplexed. How could Sergio hide something so important? Where did it all begin? Armando seeks answers and all of this leads him to NYC, where it all began. He also learns of how Sandra died.

The book is all about the pursuit of happiness – of memories, migration and the need to belong. Why did I love this book? Because it shows you that you can be happy, only that you have to work toward it which Sergio did. Sergio finds happiness in Sandra. He cannot live as a man so he decides to change and be happy. The book also is of perspectives – of Sandra’s parents, of the murderer, of Armando as a husband and a father and of how cities make change possible within you as a person. Porto looks at cultures within human beings and the need for those to mingle with the outside world, which is so essential.

“Sergio Y” leaves with you with optimism, a sweet longing that things are fine no matter how long or short your life might be, and with the knowing that all you have to do is find your happiness and chase it. Alexandre Vidal Porto, thank you for this beautiful, gregarious book. I loved every word of it. Thank you again.