Tag Archives: mystery

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: Drop Dead: A Niki Marwah Mystery by Swati Kaushal

Title: Drop Dead: A Niki Marwah Mystery
Author: Swati Kaushal
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN: 9789350094495
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

I do not read books from the mystery or the thriller genre all that much. It just somehow doesn’t fascinate me – the genre as a whole – so when I do pick up something from it, I expect to be knocked out by the writing or at least be engaged for the time I am reading the book. I picked up, “Drop Dead: A Niki Marwah Mystery” by Swati Kaushal without knowing who Niki Marwah was. This is the first Niki Marwah mystery, who is the Superintendent of Police, Shimla and is out to solve a crime with her team of investigators.

As it happens in all mysteries, there is an apparent murder and there is the uncovering of the crime which is the case in this book as well. The dead body in question: Rak Mehta, the hotshot President and CEO of a super-successful publishing company. The place where the body is found: The foothills of Sonargam (a fictitious place) hills of Himachal Pradesh, midway between Shimla and Kullu. So the scene is set. The clues are found – some relevant, some not so relevant and then begins the search for the criminal. A conference at a luxurious resort, a family, the rivalries, and the beauty of the hills, is what the reader is in for while reading this book. Not to forget Marwah’s intelligence, sense of adventure and eye for details.

I finished the book quickly. It was a mystery after all and demanded that one quick read, which it is. The writing though structured, seemed to be a bit jagged towards the end. It was almost like the author seemed rushed while writing it. Sonargam is described beautifully and in part that is what kept me going in the book. Kaushal’s sense of mystery comes from a traditional place, which I had no problem with. In fact I loved the idyllic setting and the sense of macabre that came with it. The characters were etched well and served their purpose.

Overall, Drop Dead is a breeze of a read and one doesn’t have to ponder so much about it and can finish it in a day. For me it was an average read. I did enjoy it in parts and I like how the Indian Writing in English genre has come of age, extending itself to other plots and places, than just sticking to the idea of how the West views India. A relaxed read for the times when you do not want to read something heavy or taxing. For readers who will enjoy it a lot, there is I am sure a couple of more Marwah mysteries in the line.

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Book Review: The Golden Scales: A Makana Mystery by Parker Bilal

Title: The Golden Scales : A Makana Mystery
Author: Parker Bilal
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
ISBN: 978-1608197941
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I love reading thrillers. They have this promise about them which most thriller and action writers live up to. Parker Bilal was a new name to me when it came to the thriller genre. Parker Bilal is the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub who has written six literary novels prior to the “Makana” mysteries. “The Golden Scales” is the first Makana mystery, which takes place in Cairo.

The ancient city of Cairo is the perfect backdrop for this story. Cairo is stepping into the new, with the old left behind. The rich and the poor co-exist. The corrupt and the honest are seen in its alleys and by-lanes. Cairo is a place, where secrets fester and are hidden and people disappear in the blink of an eye.

A lot is happening in this book. Makana, a former Sudanese policeman, forced to flee to Cairo is at the heart of this novel. He is now struggling to make his ends meet as a private detective. He is desperate enough to take on a case from Saad Hanafi, the mogul and filthy rich mobster and the owner of the Cairo Soccer Team. The case is that of finding one of the players of his Soccer Team that has been kidnapped. As Makana delves further into the case, things start spiraling out of control for him. He enters the treacherous underbelly of the city – encountering actresses, Muslim extremists, Russian gangsters, vengeful women, and a woman searching for a daughter after years – and the last incident is somehow linked to him and his past. This aspect was just to show that we can never leave the past behind. No matter how hard we try.

Bilal’s writing is sharp and funny in most places. It is structured the way a thriller should be – revealing the layers one at a time and not giving away the entire plot. The juxtaposition of a thriller with the Islamic world and the political volatility of a country and a city are done with great finesse and intelligence.

Makana’s character has various shades to it – he is not like the regular detective that we have been used to. That is what drew me to the book and made me kept turning the pages. The characterization is done with a lot of thought and effort by Bilal.

Cairo as a city is one of the central characters of the city. A reader can almost taste and smell the food and the aromas. The dark alleys can be conjured in a minute as you read the parts. This is the first Makana mystery that Bilal has written and I am sure after the second one (which will be out soon), there will be more to come. I am hoping that they are, because it will be a great series.

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Book Review: The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

Title: The Uninvited
Author: Liz Jensen
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
ISBN: 978-1608199921
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

“The Uninvited” by Liz Jensen was a strange read to begin with. However, as I finished the prologue and the first chapter, I was hooked to it and that is the idea of the book anyway.

At the start of the book, a seven-year old puts a nail gun to her grandmother’s neck and fires. Similar incidents start happening across the world. Children are killing their families. The question that people are asking is: Is this contagious? No one is aware why this is happening and as usual things are in disarray, almost to the point of being ruled by children or so it seems.

As the murders continue, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to take care of, a scandal in the Taiwan timber industry, which ultimately leads to a murder and Lock gets involved in the “murderous children” incidents. He notices a behavioural change in his stepson Freddy and that is where his mind starts taking notice of things, which others wouldn’t notice. Lock suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and this makes it even more difficult for him. This is the plot in a nutshell.

I liked how Liz Jensen makes the book seem so effortless despite the harrowing scenes of murder and unexplained violence. It is scary to see children act this way, but at some point the dystopian nightmare is global and her writing gives you the understated trauma that family members are going through in the book.

The book is definitely not an upbeat one and is perfect for one of those cold nights when you actually want to get scared. Hesketh’s character is etched to perfection. From the standpoint of a father who doesn’t want to give up on his child and also from that of a citizen who wants the so-called common good. The conflicting emotions were brought out to forth without the book getting too soppy or sentimental.

All in all Liz Jensen paints a picture of the world that could be true and that frightens me. Of children doing what they want and what they choose to can’t be controlled by anyone. Liz Jensen gives it all to you in one book – mystery, thriller, an apocalyptic nightmare and above all an intriguing story to chew on.

Book Review: The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

Title: The Devotion of Suspect X
Author: Keigo Higashino
Publisher: Abacus Books, Hachette Book Group
ISBN: 978-0349138732
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 384
Source: Blog Adda
Rating: 5/5

I love Japanese writers. Be it Murakami or the atmosphere created by Kobo Abe, or the prose of Junichiro Tanizaki, Japanese writers know their craft. Japanese novels of mystery and horror provide space to ponder the darker recesses of humanity.

Japanese mystery novels are not restricted to mystery alone. They explore the nature of humanity very subtly and make readers think about them as well. Mystery writer Keigo Higashino is currently one of the best-selling authors in Japan. Reading “The Devotion of Suspect X” provides understanding of his popularity and the reader knows exactly why the acclaim is only rightfully due. Higashino’s prose is both quietly poetic and noir-like adding to the fact that there is so much happening in the book. It almost reminded me of Dashiell Hammett and James M.Cain’s works.

The plot: Tetsuya Ishigami is a mathematics teacher with a boring routine. His unsuccessful attempts to motivate visibly bored and apathetic students discourage Ishigami, and his one true passion of solving a complex mathematical formula, lies outside of the classroom within the confines of his small apartment.

His life dramatically changes when Yasuko and her daughter Misato introduce themselves as his new neighbors. He imagines a fantasy life with them, listening to mother and daughter through the thin apartment walls and that is where the sinister perspective sets into the book. Within this context, Ishigami surprisingly exhibits a fierce desire to protect both mother and daughter, and so begins a bizarre tale that originates with the unexpected arrival of Yasuko’s nefarious ex-husband Togashi, which leads to murder and its revelation. The Devotion of Suspect X refers to Tetsuya’s life and how his devotion towards the mother and daughter is so great, almost bordering obsession.

In this book, several protagonists go through significant psychological deterioration as well, and I would have to say that Higashino is a match for Dostoevsky in how he works these transformations. There is this strange sembelance to The Brothers Karamazov in the sense of the way it is structured and how some linear narratives also get added in-between.

Higashino has a superb sense of place for Tokyo. Of course that is also because he is a resident. However, having said that, there are a number of repetitive paths taken by numerous characters, and by the end of the book, you will feel as if you have walked them as well. He also knows how to describe the sciences and what he does with the plot. I loved the structure of the novel – it was crisp and to the point. Higashino never once beats around the bush, which can happen when writing a mystery novel. More so the translation worked just fine for me as well.

I liked the way the Japanese line of thought was kept intact and the reader can almost sense the points of pure Japanese mystery, all thanks to the translator Alexander O. Smith. This is surprisingly the third mystery in the series written by the author, and this is probably the first translation amongst them. I am sure that more will be translated considering this one’s success. I enjoyed this read a lot, having completed it in one night. The Devotion of Suspect X is a kick-ass thriller/mystery and more books like these should be published, read and enjoyed by all.
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