crime thriller

Book Review: Coffee House by Lajo Jose

10:00:00 PM


                   
                 
                   Lajo Jose’s Coffee House is a work which aspires to be a new-age crime novel but unfortunately is  heavily influenced by the S.N. Swamy –K Madhu movies of the 90s. (Infact the basic thread itself - of the convicted killer opening up about his innocence a few days before his execution, reminded me of the third film in the CBI series)

                  Benjamin is convicted for multiple homicides and is awaiting execution. A few days before his execution he expresses desire to meet the journalist (Esther) who has been instrumental in his conviction and wants to convince the world of his innocence. Esther who works with a leading Malayalam Magazine, 'Kuleena' (modelled on 'Vanitha' and the Malayala Manorama group) half- heartedly accepts the invite and decides to 're-investigate' the case. How she manages to solve the puzzle and clear Benjamin's name of the murder/murders is what 'CH' is all about.Also aiding her in her journey are Peter Achan ,Sub Inspector Chris and Aparna, the scribe's colleague and best-friend.

                First things first.This debut novel is undoubtedly a quick and easy read (no long, boring prose or pretentious metaphors thrown in just for the sake of it).Even an occassional/newbie reader can finish it off in a couple of hours. Quality work of crime fiction is a rare thing as far as new age Malayalam writing is concerned and hats off to Lijo for trying to revive a long lost genre! As mentioned before, the writing is straight forward, the language used being simple and easy to comprehend even for the lay reader. Lajo also makes some interesting remarks about Kottayam town and pretty much succeeds in making this central Kerala town also a part of the narrative. 

              However the book is not devoid of flaws either. For an ambitious new-age crime thriller, Coffee House is tad too slow and the identity of the true killer is predictable quite early on. A lot of time (and 'pages') are spent on the pointless (and often cringe worthy) banter between Esther and her close buddy Aparna. Believe me, Aparna's ('Amma package') is definitely one of the most annoying characters I have come across (read) in recent times.  

              The characters are too shallow and none of them have been well etched out. There is a passing mention about Benjamin’s family but the author hasn’t really bothered to elaborate on his back story. As a result, the reader never gets to empathise for him. The same lack of detail is evident in the case of Esther’s characterization. Okay, we get to know that she has a liking for a pretty upmarket café in kottayam town (Tonico Café), but apart from that, what does she like actually? And what about her family? The less said about the shaky characterization of Chris (the cop), the better-  the guy seems to be in a very bad mood when we are first introduced to him (and seems to be only interested in settling scores with his bête noire , Esther )  but pretty soon , he is seeing hobnobbing with her and helping with the investigation!- His transformation and change of heart (remember the scribe had caused great humiliation to him in the past with even a molestation case filed against him!) pretty unconvincing and whatever meek justification rendered to it too weak and hard to swallow!

             Also, the romantic track between Benjamin and Jinu has not been worked out well. As a result, like one of the characters himself states at one instance in the book, Benjamin only comes across as a typical stalker for the average reader.

            To give due credit to Lajo, I liked the character of ‘Solly Jacob’ and how her character and her magazine were modeled on 'Vanitha' , but again it’s a shame that she has very little (and quite insignificant) presence in the narrative and in this 220 + page long crime novel.

Towards the end, the author seems to be in a hurry to wrap up the proceedings and before we realize, the climax is up leaving behind room for a possible sequel (and even for a new series featuring Esther!)

So the logical issues which I had with this 'thriller' are listed below-
  • If the case was such an open and shut case right from the beginning, what was that made Esther & co wage a prolonged media battle to implicate and arrest Benjamin?
  • Esther could easily crack the mystery behind the multiple homicides within a span of two days, just based on her intuitions, the 'killer's statements  and a few incidental findings which cropped up during her '3-4 day long' investigation but then, why did the initial investigating officers so easily overlook these same facts during the course of their investigation?Noone seemed to have bothered to even cross check the veracity of the true ‘killer’s initial statements to the police!(they could have atleast verified 'the cell-phone range' thing!)

Looks like the author is keen on making this into the series and also having a film adaptation for this work (as  indicated in the closing chapter) but I genuinely wish he enhances the original source material at hand and make it more taut and racy by adding some more meat into the (future) feature film script.

Verdict: On the whole, Lajo jose’s Coffee House is a decent start for a first time author, but doesn’t qualify as a truly engaging mystery thriller. I sincerely hope that his follow up to this debut work will be much better. I’m giving it a 2.5 out of 5.

-nikhimenon

mystery

QBR: I Found You by Lisa Jewell

9:12:00 PM



        I Found You by Lisa Jewell

RT Rating: 3.8/5

Mystery/Crime Thriller

     450+ pages, Arrow (2016)
The Verdict:'I Found You' is a gripping thriller which is totally worth your time and money.
 
Synopsis:Twenty Year Old Lily is searching for her missing husband.Forty something Alice,mother of three has a starnger living in her house.Teenager Kirsty has a new boy friend.What is the 'link' between these seemingly unrelated women who don't even belong to the same generation? 'I found You' is built on this interesting premise.Set in the fictional town of Ridinghouse bay, this Part Romance and part thriller, manages to old your attention for most part.

The Good:The pacing (though the book is 450 odd pages long,you never 'feel' that it's overlong!) is apt, plotting is clever, the setting is brilliantly atmospheric.The 'mystery' mood has been successfully maintained for most part with the 'connection' between the three principal characters turning out really well.

The Bad:Towards the third act and the climax,the book loses steam; the big reveal (about Kirsty's disappearance) could have been better thought out .

RecommendationsBuy it!

-nikhimenon


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Claire Mackintosh

QBR: I See You By Claire Mackintosh

1:00:00 AM

I See You By Claire Mackintosh

RT Rating: 3.5/5

Psychological Suspense/Crime Thriller

380+ pages, Sphere (2016)
 The Verdict: Innovative re-working of the 'stalker' theme ,Claire Mackintosh delivers the goods in 'I see You'! If you have taken the 'London Tubes' or even the over-head commute, you will defintely find this to be a creepy read!

Synopsis: Forty year old Zoe Walker, mother of two ,finds herself listed in the tabloid ad of an online dating website (about which she has absolutely no clue of !) and soon  discovers that she is not the only one! Detective Kelly Swift is the only one who is convinced of Zoe's story and soon they discover that the other women who are listed in the ad are getting killed one by one!

The Good:The setting, pacing and the climax twist! Will there be a sequel?

The Bad: The 'stalker' theme is getting repetitive.

Recommendations:Buy it!

-nikhimenon


Kindly donate to Kerala's Flood relief fund by visiting Kerala CM's official donation linkhttps://donation.cmdrf.kerala.gov.in/

Anthology

Storywallah - Stories from everyday India ( Anthology)

9:14:00 PM

I have been a fan of Nilesh Mishra's storytelling and stories from the beginning. And as an extension , I have liked his "mandali" too from the stories I have heard in FM, which were written by his mandali members.

With that expectation and memory I picked this book Storywallah. And it was a little disappointing. The depth and the details that one associates with short stories is some what lacking in the stories of the book.

The book has a variety of emotions - friendship , love , loss , pride , sorrow and a little bit of society's thoughts and working shown using characters of the stories.  There are incidences that one will relate to , moments that you feel one with the person in the story but I can perhaps count those stories on my hand.

My favorite story is "the overcoat" where a girl discovers the meaning of true love through other's life. Another story I will remember for a long time is "The seal" but only for the father dialogues in that one. Another gem is "together" for me as that's about true friendship and having to love someone a second time over.

 This book failed to excite me most part or make me feel strongly for rest of character. I understood the emotion but there was nothing to bind me there. Perhaps the book would have been better in hindi language and it's the translation that has taken away the shine from these tales of every day India.

My rating - 3.5/5 

Chic-Lit

QBR: encounters of a fat bride by samah

12:00:00 AM





                             Encounters of a Fat Bride By Samah 

                                   RT Rating: 2.6/5

                              270 Pages, Penguin Metro Reads (2017)

                                     Chic-lit/Romance

     The Verdict: An okay, time-pass light read which offers nothing new!

Synopsis: Madhurima Pandey is a plus sized,twenty something girl.She is quite insecure about herself because of her being over sized.So when the good looking,well educated Harsh agrees to marry her(though his body language suggests otherwise),she has her own share of apprehensions.Does he genuinely like her? Is he marrying her for the sake of it? Is there  some 'hidden agenda' behind his willingness? She can't help ponder over....Will she be able to find the truth?

The Good: the light heartedness of the narrative, the length, some interesting characters like the 'uber cool', tech savvy Grandma (she reminded me of a character in Varun Aggarwal's 'How I braved Anu Aunty....,though!)  

The Bad: pretty generic plot(and characters) which doesn't break any new grounds (if you have read atleast one chick-lit work in life,you can predict the next chapter/scene in the novel), characterisation of Madhurima was too weak (you never 'feel' for her or her emotions), Anu is portrayed as her best friend,but beyond the regular shopping sessions and the occassional 'gyaan', you never get to know the 'real' Anu!

Best Quote-It's not perfect people,but perfect relationships that make fairy tales!

Recommendations: Borrow it! (if you are in the mood to read some 'light' stuff)!

-nikhimenon