Book Review: Nameless Malayalam Cinematic Thriller by a Debutant Author

 


(I am masking the name of the book and the author as I don’t want to hurt the sentiments of any)

The other day, I had the misfortune of reading this so-called thriller by a debutant author. The plot is somewhat like this- random men across the state are being targeted by a mysterious lady who seems to be someone settled abroad. The lady has got a strange modus operandi – she fakes love and, in the pretext of having a rendezvous, gets these men to board a car and reach her place of stay. The bodies start piling up pretty soon, and the investigation team is on the run to find the Killer.

With a pretty generic plot setting up the tone for this supposedly cinematic mystery thriller, the least you expect are a couple of exciting twists and turns which can hook you onto the proceedings. But writing with absolutely zero conviction and subpar narrative coherence, this one turns out to be one epic mess and ends up a complete waste of your time and money.

Now, picture this. This one is a mystery thriller, and the principal investigating officer mouths this gem of dialogue towards the last page of this novel (when he is asked by another character how he managed to catch the Killer)-

ഇതൊക്കെ എങ്ങനെ കണ്ടെത്തി ______? (how did you manage to capture the Killer?)

അതൊന്നും എനിക്കും അറിയില്ല സർ . എങ്ങനെയോ കണ്ടെത്തി എന്ന് വേണം പറയാൻ !” (I don’t know sir, I found out somehow!)

The characters in this wannabe thriller are equally dumb and outright stupid. The supposedly evil men are so dumb that they are even willing to get into the car and proceed to some unknown destination on the persuasion of some random males with the sole hope of hooking up with their secret lover! The lesser said about the basic plot, the better it is. The entire revelation and the backstory preceding it would have made for a blockbuster had it come out a good 50 years back!

At 112 pages, this one is an epic misfire! Replete with grammatical, typesetting, formatting, and punctuation errors and giving scant regard to the time and money  spent by the average reader, books like this serve no one. And, I honestly don’t believe we are doing a favor to the language or the habit of reading in general by encouraging efforts like this!

Pathetic, to say the least!

-nikhimenon

Ultra Short Review: Harlan Coben's 'Missing You'


 ‘Missing You’ is a stand alone Novel by Harlan Coben which first came out almost eight years back. The protagonist, Kat Donovan is a forty something NYPD detective who has a past. She had to call off her engagement with Jeff, the love of her life almost eighteen years back. Now, she stumbles across his profile in an online dating site only to find out that he is no longer interested in her.

In a parallel track, in the quest to find out the truth behind her father’s homicide, she gets to know that someone very close to her might have had a role to play in his death. As she is battling her own demons, she gets a call from a troubled teenager asking for help. His mother has suddenly disappeared with a man whom he thinks is a scamster. How Kat finds out the mystery behind all these seemingly disconnected events and how it impscts her otherwise troubled life is all this book is about.

Like Coben’s other stand alone works, Missing You is also an absolute page turner. There are twists happening at regular intervals and the moment you think that you have figured it out all, the master story teller pulls the rug from under your feet. The characters are real and relatable and I liked the gentle references to Windsor Lockwood somewhere in the narrative. Kat Donovan is a likeable character and her ambitions and apprehensions feels genuine. The track involving the scamsters was also decently done.

On the whole, Missing You is an intriguing thriller.  

-nikhimenon

Mini Book Review: the Woods by Harlan Coben

 

Harlan Coben is one writer who comes to my rescue whenever I face some reader’s block. So far, his books have been safe bets for me; fast-paced and entertaining! So, when I picked up his 2007 stand-alone thriller (which has also been made as a Netflix series), ‘The Woods,’ I was expecting nothing short of a paisa vasool racy thriller. Did it succeed in entertaining me? Well, read on.

Paul Copeland is a Public Attorney. Almost two decades back, four teenagers and his sister went missing in the woods of a Summer Camp. Paul is raising his daughter alone after the death of his wife. But then a body is found, and the well-buried secrets of the past come back haunting. Is the victim that of the man as claimed by the Police, or has it got something to do with Paul’s history?

At 450+ pages, this one is quite a lengthy read. Though there are many characters, none except the protagonist Paul and his old flame, Lucy, register. A couple of sub-plots involving Paul’s family(his dead wife, sister-in-law, and parents) and KGB (it might have been relevant when this book was first released almost two decades back, though!) are there, which are speed breakers at best!

I was disappointed with this novel by Harlan Coben. Agreed, this is one of his earlier stand-alone works(and a best-seller at the time of its release), and he has since churned out reasonably pacy and twisty thrillers. But to be very frank, this one falls way off the mark, be it in the thrill quotient or the pacing. The book has pacing issues. After a reasonably good start, the plot drags on and on with avoidable scenes and boring dialogues. The subplot around the court trial was interesting initially, but it turned pointless and bland after a point. The innumerable characters in the form of Lorraine and Raya Singh didn’t serve much of a purpose rather than adding pages and pages of dull prose to the narrative.

The novel does pick up pace towards the end with a couple of decent twists and reveals, but by then, I almost got exhausted and stopped caring about what was going on!

On the whole, I am giving a 2.5 out of 5 for this one!

 -nikhimenon


Stephen King's ' The Colorado King'

 

Colorado Kid is a Stephen King Novel that first came out in 2004 and has been out of print for the last decade. Published under the Hard Case Crime imprint by Winterfall LLC (in association with Titan Books), this one is a fast-paced mystery read which can be devoured in one sitting.

On an island off the coast of Maine, a man is found dead. Though seemingly a case of choking, there is no body identification, and the local investigators never cared much about the case either. A pair of local newspaper journalists and a graduate of Forensic Science take up the investigation and try to find out the truth behind the death.

This Stephen King Novel works to a considerable extent as a neatly written mystery. Colorado Kid is not your conventional police procedural, as the focus here is mainly on the identity of the victim and the reason for his mysterious appearance on Maine Island. The interactions between the principal characters, I believe, are the highlight of this book. Though a mystery thriller, the writer gets due credit for not making this too dark. Written in a light-hearted tone, the novel also takes a satirical look at the tabloid culture and police apathy. The book also has underlying themes of discrimination, high-handedness of investigators, investigative journalism, tabloid culture, and life in the 80 s. I liked how the author managed to throw little clues at regular intervals  (the pack of cigarettes with the stamp, the Russian Coin ), slowly unraveling the mystery. The climax is also decently done.

On the downside, the book takes its own sweet little time to arrive at the main plot as the initial pages are mostly spent introducing to the readers the news staff of The Weekly Islander and their new intern Stephanie and her deduction skills. As mentioned earlier, the initial few pages feel a bit off as a lot of time is spent establishing the setting. Also, there might be mixed feelings for those looking for a straight forward climax.

This new edition published in 2019 is also an illustrated one, and I must say that it did help in making it an enjoyable reading experience.

The fans of the author would relish this one!

-nikhimenon

 


#BookReview : Judgement Day (Seekers book 2 ) by Josie Jaffrey #BBNYA2021 #BlogTour

 



Two years back, I got a chance to read & review May Day ( Seekers#1)  and even though I liked the book, I had so many expectations from the sequel. Happy to report that the sequel totally delivered, and how! Judgement Day came to me on a week when I was really going through a phase of burnout from reading some average & pretty similar stories. And this was the exact reset I needed.



Jack Valentine finally has her shit together. She has a great job, great friends (well, one at least), and a girlfriend whom she loves, even if she can’t work up the courage to tell her that yet. Unfortunately, she also has an archnemesis who’s about to punish her crimes in the worst possible way: by making her spend time with him. Which she could cope with, maybe, if she didn’t have problems at work as well. When the body of a human judge is found in a locked library, there’s no denying that she was murdered by one of the Silver – by a vampire – and the evidence points worryingly close to home. If that wasn’t bad enough, some of Jack’s least favorite people are opening a new blood bar in Oxford with questionable motives. For Jack and her team, it’s becoming increasingly hard to separate allies from enemies. With conspiracies on every side, the simmering tensions in Silver society are about to come to a head. As usual, Jack intends to be right in the middle of it. She does like it when things get messy.


I had very few recollections from book#1 but, thankfully book#2 sets up the scene and old events well enough to follow the story. The book is in the first person from Jack's POV. Jack is the youngest, hot-headed & ever grumpy vampire detective working for Seekers. She would love to hate The Baron, Killian Drake but events keep throwing them together, mostly by Killian's manipulations and his interest in Jack. 

Picking from where the previous book ends, Judgement Day has a new mystery while a bigger conspiracy always looms on the horizon. The murder mystery and the new connections building in the city around the Blood Bar are intriguing and messy enough to keep the team occupied. But, what really kept me hooked in this sequel is the ever-evolving relationship between Jack & Killian. Theirs is set up as a fated, enemies-to-lovers relationship, so it was both fun & frustrating to see them do the dance. Jack especially, with her mistrust for everyone and fueled by some lies, makes a real good mess of the things before the truth comes out. 

Judgement Day is a really good police procedural fantasy fiction with a unique setup of the Vampire society, that seems to be on a brink of revolution wether they want it or not. The book sets the stage for the next book and the ending of the book leaves a lot to be wanting for Jack & Killian. I wish the next part of the story was already out. 

Rating : 4 star

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I received this book to read and review as part of the BBNYA 2021 tours organized by the TWR Tour team. All opinions are my own, unbiased and honest. BBNYA is a yearly competition where Book Bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors. If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website http://www.bbnya.com or twitter @bbnya_official.

Book Review(Regional): Akhila Loka Aadu Company by Majeed Syed

 


Majeed Sayeed is one writer with that uncanny ability to derive humor from innocuous situations. Like his previous work, ‘Chembilammini Kolacase,’ Akhila Loka Adu Company is a humorous take on the state and the society we are living in. Part social satire, part allegory, and social commentary, ‘Akhila Loka..’ is a novel that sees the world we live in through the eyes of Pokkar, a twice ‘converted’  male goat.

The novel almost reads like the life story of the Rajasthan-born, Kerala-raised “Pokkar Aadu,” but I must say that this one is indeed a well-written social satire. The world that Majeed creates is so vivid and lively that once you start reading it, you can’t put this down until you finish reading it. The author has no qualms in making fun of most present-day quandaries.

The characters are a good mix of humans and animals, but often the line gets blurred, and one feels that the animals are far more civilized than their human counterparts. The novel has a wide array of characters: Baby, Balkis, Chekkutty, Lilly, and Pratap Singh. The writer has also poked fun at the Malayalee Psyche of ‘treating anything as holy’ at the slightest instigation of half-truths and part-boiled facts. The ‘Lilly-Holy Goat’ episodes are a hoot. At just about 70 pages, this one is a fast-paced read! For Majeed, the goat and the setting are just a prop to drive home some pertinent statements. There are no holy cows in the world that he creates. To the writer’s credit, he has successfully weaved in the themes of Casteism, regionalism, and communal undercurrents in the narrative in a very subtle but effective manner.

Through the mind of the Pokkar, the author also reminds us of some essential life lessons. So when he laments that “we are far better than humans who get rid of their parents when they fall ill” or when he quips that “it is better to end up at the dinner table rather than continuing living in the world dominated by humans,” one can’t agree more!

On the whole, this one is a thought-provoking read! If satire is your cup of tea, go grab a copy now!

-nikhimenon

 


Book Review (Regional): Kuttasammatham by Siby Thomas

 

Have you ever thought about what goes in the mind of a murder convict? What if he is the one who is the victim and not the perpetrator as it is portrayed to be? Kuttasammatham by Siby Thomas is a novel that delves into a crime and its aftermath and offers a deep character study of those involved.

The novelist being a police officer in real life has helped bring much-needed authenticity to the police proceedings narrated in the novel. Crime and Punishment form the central theme of this 200-page novel, and the author has succeeded in keeping the author engaged throughout the proceedings to a considerable extent. Though this one is unlike the many sensationalistic thriller novels hitting the Malayalam Pulp Fiction Market every week, it is an enjoyable read.

The story is told in the first person by Thomas, the Circle Investigator of Veleswaram. Babu, a quarry worker, is found dead in a lodge room, and the police quickly capture the murderer. But little did they know that he had a troubled past, and he might not be the person he thinks he is.

Kuttasammatham is not an edge-of-the-seat police procedural, nor does it intend to be one as the crime, victim, and the culprit are all revealed within the first fifty pages. The novel is mainly about the travails of the culprit, who seems to have done the crime as an act of self-defense. The author's practical experience appears to have come in handy as Court proceedings, and trial details are written authentically and realistically. The police officers in this novel are also quite relatable and not the filmy types with heavy-duty dialogues and Sethuramayyar style crime deduction skills. The author has also made them entirely down-to-earth and humane. With short chapters and pretty simple language, a non-discerning reader can quickly finish the book in one sitting.

On the downside, the book has some pacing issues. Some scenes (especially those in Gopi's ancestral home) feel dated and give the 90's Malayalam Cinema Vibe of the typical Palakkadan Nair tharavadu with the Valluvanadan slang! Similarly, though the intention behind the detailing regarding Thomas's personal life is laudable, most of the scenes don't add much to the narrative. It comes out quite odd that the Inspector's wife, Reshma, is so obsessed with the plight of Gopi. Also, some of the scenes (the investigators spending a night at the culprit's home and all) are unconvincing. If you pick up this book, thinking it to be a twisty thriller(taking into account its title and cover page)), I must say that you might be a bit disappointed. But that doesn't mean that this one is a tedious affair.

The novel's questions towards the end are pretty valid and relevant. After all, as they say, man is a victim of his circumstances.

On the whole, Kuttasammatham is an engaging read. It has its share of flaws, but it does raise a few pertinent statements about the idea of justice in our contemporary society.

Published by Mathrubhumi Books, this novel is priced at 260 Rupees.

-nikhimenon

Book Review(Regional): Mini P.C's Devil Tattoo

 

Malayalam Crime Fiction is going through a golden period now. Gone are the days when crime Fiction writing was looked down by mainstream critics and publishers. More young writers and publishers are not only coming up with their titles; the better works among them are also getting lapped up by the readers. Mini P.C's Devil Tattoo from Mathrubhumi Books is a crime thriller novel set in the backdrop of West Kochi and the thriving tattoo artists residing there.

Kasim is the personal Chef of Ronaldo Douglas, the dreaded Don of South Goa. The latter is hugely fond of Kasim's Naadan dishes, and as the adage goes, he has found his way into Don's inner circle through the excellent meals he cooks for him. But things go wrong when his sons go missing, and the Don has every reason to believe that Kasim is in some way connected to their disappearance. Left with no other choice, Kasim runs off to West Kochi and finds his hideout in West Kochi with the help of his old friend Vincent. In West Kochi, Kasim finds company in Pranchi, Veroni, Ann Lucy, and life slowly settling down for him, but soon a series of mysterious deaths get reported from the town. Grossly disfigured bodies get piling up, and the local Inspector Ravi starts investigating the case. With Kasim and the events surrounding him and the seeming act of a serial-killer happening in what appears as two parallel tracks in the beginning, as the story progresses, twists are thrown in at regular intervals making the reader question the real identity of each character. Who is Kasim? Who is the 'serial killer on the loose? Why are the victim's bodies mutilated with mysterious tattoos on their torso?

Unlike some of the recent Contemporary crime thrillers in Malayalam, which only focus on delivering instant shocks and surprises, Devil Tattoo has a solid story of revenge and redemption to narrate. The language though pretty simple, has a literary flavor and might appeal to those who are also looking for some degree of academic quality. The world and the characters that Mini P.C builds in are so lively and set on a vast canvas. The dark underbelly of the Tatoo Industry has been touched upon, though a bit topically, in this Novel. The characters, be it Paulettan, Veroni, or Hena, are tangible yet believable. The culture and life at West Kochi also become an integral part of the narrative. Though the book's cover page indicates that this one is a "crime thriller," which it certainly is, I must say that it is much more than that. Devil Tattoo is the story of a few hapless people, their troubles past, and their efforts to seek redemption.

On the downside, I felt that at 240+ pages, the book is a tad too long for a crime thriller. Towards the beginning, the writer seems to spend too much time narrating the backstories of every character who comes into the picture. Some of it could have been quickly done away with. Also, the investigation part is underwhelming, with the principal investigator, Ravi, not adding much to the story. The climax also felt a bit clunky, with too many things happening in a pretty short period.

On the whole, Devil Tatoo is an engaging read.You won’t regret buying this one!

-nikhi menon


Harlan Coben's Stay Close

 

Whenever I suffer from reader's block or (even writer's block, for that matter), I turn to Harlan Coben! All these years and with so many books under his credit, Coben has never failed to surprise me. Almost all his books have been genuine page-turners for me. (I haven't read his adolescent-friendly Mickey Bolitar series, though). Stay Close was first released almost a decade back, and Netflix has recently made it into a mini web series.

Stay Close has three parallel tracks. In one, there is Ray, a talented photographer with a troubled past. Parallelly, there is the story of Megan, a Suburban Mother who also has her secrets. In the third, young men are disappearing from the city in the most dubious circumstances leaving behind the traces of a serial killer behind the act.

The author succeeds in keeping the audience guessing to a large extent. The language is pretty simple, and Coben has tried to make the proceedings enjoyable by throwing in twists at regular intervals. There aren't many characters in the story, and the reader can easily keep track of each one of them without getting confused. The novel also has surprise appearances by some of the iconic characters from the Coben Universe towards the Climax.

Coming to the negatives, I felt that this one had severe pacing issues, unlike Coben's previous and follow-up works. Suspense and unexpected twists have always been his forte, and In that regard, Stay Close is undoubtedly underwhelming. The regular readers of the author might also find most of the twists underwhelming and even a bit ridiculous. At 350+ pages, the novel is a bit too long, and that subplot involving Megan's mother-in-law could have been quickly done away with.

On the whole, Stay Close is an okay read. If you are a diehard Harlan Coben fan, you can give this one a try!

-nikhimenon

 



Book Review: Neelima by Moncy Skaria (Regional)

 

Neelima by Moncy Skaria is the story of a female artist, Neelima, who is in the quest for completeness. Rajesh settled outside Kerala, is a self-made man and a pretty successful professional. He chances upon the title character, and a bond soon develops between them.

Coming to the positives, the novel is a light read and can definitely be read in one sitting. At just about 150 pages, it never feels overlong at any point in time. Those who have a taste for emotional relationship dramas might find this one as an okayish read, at best. The narration is also breezy and somewhat fast-paced.

This relationship drama didn't work for me because of regressive ideas, wannabe philosophical lines, and plastic, half-baked characters. I didn't get why the narrator, Rajesh felt a strong bond with Neelima in the first place! Many crucial scenes in the novel felt unconvincing. Towards the second half of the story, there is a sequence where Rajesh saves Neelima from a bunch of goons on a beach. Okay, what was the whole point? We were told that Neelima is a super-rich woman who is not short of resources, then why did she have to run around on the beach for something as inane as that in this era where everything can be accessed online in the click of a button?

There are too many coincidences, and almost every major twist in the narrative happens in an unconvincing manner.

Coming to the characters, though there aren't many, even those there are plastic and one-dimensional. The reader never knows the real 'Vikas' or 'Ajith.' Neelima is also a pretty confusing character. (I think even the writer also had confusion regarding how to portray her!). If the writer intended to portray her as a slightly mystic character with emotional swings, I am sorry that It has not turned out that well. The other principal character, Rajesh, also comes across as a shaky guy. In the late eighties and early nineties, Balachandra Menon wrote pretty well-off male leads with a heart of Gold, having an opinion on anything and everything under the sun and ready to sacrifice anything and everything for their best friends. I couldn't help drawing parallels between them and Moncy Skaria's Rajesh. I still can't fathom why Rajesh had to indulge too much stand about Neelima's equations with Ajith and Vikas? The hospital scenes are also written in a lousy manner, to say the least!

On the whole, Neelima by Moncy Skaria is a half-baked attempt, in my opinion. If you are looking for a light read on a lazy Sunday afternoon, you can try this one.

 -nikhimenon


#BookReview: Undercover Princess (The Rosewood Chronicles #1) by Connie Glynn #TheWriteReads #UltimateBlogTour




Undercover Princess by Connie Glynn
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

When fairy tale obsessed Lottie Pumpkin starts at the infamous Rosewood Hall, she is not expecting to share a room with the Crown Princess of Maradova, Ellie Wolf. Due to a series of lies and coincidences, 14-year-old Lottie finds herself pretending to be the princess so that Ellie can live a more normal teenage life.

Lottie is thrust into the real world of royalty – a world filled with secrets, intrigue and betrayal. She must do everything she can to help Ellie keep her secret, but with school, the looming Maradovian ball and the mysterious new boy Jamie, she’ll soon discover that reality doesn’t always have the happily ever after you’d expect…


There are some stories you just know you will love them. This one came with a similar feeling to me. Royalty, Secret identities, bodyguard drama, School life, and found friends/family; all in one single book. What more could I ask for. 

I liked Lottie from the very first page and could almost see why she was so eager to help Ellie and be part of the whole royal drama. Ellie , I admit took some time for me to understand and like her, but when it comes to Jamie, I loved him instantly.  He is the one I am most interested to see grow in the books because I know Lottie is going to be an interesting influence on him. Also, I pity him a tiny bit to be responsible for these two girls - who can never be far from trouble & mischief. The school has such a whimsical vibe and the setting is just ripe for both troubles and more wonders happening because these students have the potential to bring the best in each other. As the book opening paragraph says, sometimes such wondrous places are inside a person - and that person can also be you. That's the exact dreamlike adventure this book is - part inspiring, part heartwarming, and more parts entertaining.

When I first read about this book, I wasn't aware that this is part of a series. And after reading it, I immediately bought the next part(s) because I just want to see a peaceful happy ending for this trio. Luckily the series finished recently so you can pick it up without bothering about waiting for the next part.  

A huge thank you to TheWriteReads, the author, and Penguin for my spot on the tour, and my ecopy of the book! So glad I was introduced to this fun series. 

View all my reviews

Book Review: Nameless Malayalam Cinematic Thriller by a Debutant Author

  (I am masking the name of the book and the author as I don’t want to hurt the sentiments of any) The other day, I had the misfortune of ...