Anthology

Tell Tale by Jeffrey Archer

8:52:00 AM


                     Jeffrey Archer's short stories are a pleasure to read. They are mostly easy reads, draw inspiration from real life incidents and almost always end with a small twist.'Tell Tale' is Archer's latest short story collection and like his previous works, the stories in this latest anthology are also quite interesting.
                    The collection begins with the story titled 'The Death of The Mayor'. As the title suggests, this story revolves around the mysterious death of the Mayor of a small town and the investigator who is brought to find out the truth behind the crime. The case is almost left unsolved until the officer stumbles upon a startling revelation.A surprising twist indeed!
                    The other stories are also equally good with quirky and relatable characters. Be it the smart couple who devise the 'crooked' plan to make money 'through' their 'summer holidays' or the car park attendant who makes a living out of an abandoned council property, Archers characters are tangible and believable.My favourite story in this collection was 'The Senior Vice President', which incidentally was also the longest one of the lot.

Verdict: On the whole, I'm giving 'tell Tale' a 3.5 out of 5.This one is an enjoyable book! 

-nikhimenon

crime fiction

Masako Togawo's 'The Lady Killer'

8:22:00 PM


           Pushkin Vertigo has brought out the English translation of yet another Japanese crime classic by the queen of Japanese crime fiction, Masako Togawo. 'The Lady Killer' was originally published in Japanese in the 1960's and the action is seti in Tokyo of the 60 s.

         Ichiro Honda is a hardworking professional and a dutiful husband by the day and a hardcore womaniser by the night. He never 'uses' his female companions for his pleasure more than once.The pervert that he is, also has the habit of maintaining a 'Hunter's Log' which depicts graphic details of his sexual conquests. However, his preys soon start getting killed one by one and soon, the hunter becomes the hunted.This is the basic premise of the book. Agreed, a couple of books have come out with similar themes later (Masako Togawo's work originally came out in the 1960 s) in various languages, however what makes 'The Lady Killer' a must read work is the smart writing and intelligent plot twists ( due credit goes to the translator as well who has made sure that the soul of the work is not lost in translation).

        The writing is taut and as I mentioned before ,though the book was originally written almost 50 years back, the plot still feels fresh and contemporary. Infact, I found it quite surprising that a woman writer had thought about Vaginismus (which is considered a taboo topic even in this era) and was bold enough to make it as one of the core plot points in her work .Obviously, Masako Togawo's thought process was very well ahead of her times!

        While the first half of the book is mostly about Honda's sexual pursuits, it's towards the latter half that the book that it turns to a criminal investigation/procedural. On the whole, 'The Lady Killer' is an engaging thriller with a brilliant twist towards the end.I'm giving it a 3.5 out of 5.

-nikhimenon

domestic thriller

Frederic Dard's 'The King of Fools'

9:09:00 PM

                 
                 Frederic Dard was a French Writer, who had written more than two hundred thrillers. Thanks to Pushkin Vertigo, one of his masterpieces (King Of Fools) has been translated to English, long after his death in 2000.Originally Published in French in the 1950 's, King Of Fools is one of those rare works which doesn't have a ' dated ' feel to it.Even in 2019, the work feels quite fresh and engaging!
                Jean-Marie has just befriended Marjory (a British woman who is on a French holiday) after a chance meeting in France. Pretty soon, they fall in love and Jean- Marie follows the beautiful Marjory to her native country, Scotland. But all is not well as Marjory's husband soon finds out about their 'affair' and the desperate lover that he is, Jean-Marie does what any other 'foolish lover' would have done in a scenario like this.Will he be able to wash off the blood on his hands?(go, grab a copy and figure out!)
              As I said in the beginning,'King Of Fools' is a racy thriller.There are twists and turns happening at regular intervals and the suspense is maintained well through out.The climax is also well thought out and at 156+ pages, the book is quite slim and engaging.The avid readers might feel the lack of detailing a bit disheartening though.Looking forward to reading more works by Frederic Dard, the master of French Crime Fiction.I'm giving this book a 3.5 out of 5.

-nikhimenon

Drama

QBR: The Windfall by Diksha Basu

7:56:00 PM

                                                     
                                                       Satire/Drama
                                                        376+ pages 
                                                   Bloomsbury (2017)
                                                       RT Rating: 3.5/5

The Verdict: 'The Windfall' is a humorous take on the life of a typical middle class family from East Delhi.Told in a honest and hilarious manner, 'The Windfall' is definitely a must read!
Synopsis: Mr Anil Jha and family have been leading a middle class life in East Delhi. Mr Jha recently sold his website for a whopping 20 Million US Dollars making the Jha family rich all on a sudden.Since they have succesfully climbed up the social ladder,the family decides to relocate to Gurgaon, the place for the super-rich.How the neo-rich slowly get acclimatized to the new neighbourhood and how they make new friends is all the story is about.Though on the face of it, it looks like Mr Jha and Mr Chopra are in a constant race to out do each other,pretty soon we realize that they do have a lot of things in common.
The Good:The setting is perfect, the jokes are fine and the characterizations (Mrs Ray, Johny, Rupak, Mr Jha) are brutally honest, Diksha's prose manages to be a social commentary and a satirical (Mrs Ray and her stolen Yoga Pants, a perfect case in point) take on middle class ambitions at the same time.
The Bad:The ending was a bit abrupt and ambiguous (may be it is intentional and the author is planning for a sequel?)

RecommendationsBuy it!

Manu Joseph

Miss Laila Armed and Dangerous by Manu Joseph

5:58:00 PM

                          

                         Manu Joseph's award winning 'Serious Men' and it's follow up ,'The Illicit Happiness Of Other People' were books which I enjoyed a lot. So, I was eagerly looking forward to reading his latest work,'Miss Laila....'. Infact I was very pleased when I could finally get hold of 'Miss Laila'  A good couple of hours and a 200 + pages later,I should confess that I have been left with missed feelings.
                          'Miss Laila,Armed and Dangerous' is the kind of book which is very difficult to review. First and foremost, it's almost impossible to consider this book as a pure work of fiction.May be because of his background as a journalist, Manu Joseph has an opinion about almost everything which has happened in our country in the last decade or so(which in my honest opinion ,is a perfectly fine thing!). But when he tries to pack in too much of his opinions into his latest work and try to pass it off as fiction ,without even bothering to change the 'real-life' names of the personalities involved in a jumbled and often confusing narrative, it results in something like 'Miss Laila'.
                        The Plot goes something like this- A building has collapsed somewhere in Mumbai and in the midst of the ruins, there is a man who is mumbling something about a potential terror plot. A social media prankster, Miss Aiyer is one of the first persons to reach the spot and with her help , the IB and the officials soon spring into action and commence their 'mission' to nail the potential terrorist. What happens to their 'secret mission' is what the story is all about. 
                       The story line is quite plain and the book is hardly 200 pages long. The language is  simple and Manu Joseph's trade mark humour and sarcasm are quite in place which tries to make up for the dullness in the plot , to an extend. Aiyer's 'Pranks' are often quite hilarious. Using Aiyer's character, Joseph  has tried to poke fun at almost everyone, be it the media , the so called 'fascists' , 'activists' or the 'neo-liberals'. (Mind you , even the economist Raghuram Ranjan is not spared! The scene involving activist Sathya and his bid for the Nobel Prize is particularly funny! BTW, what was Bill Gates doing in this work?). But the basic problem is , all those funny bits remain as isolated set pieces and they never particularly gel with the story line nor do they add anything to the core plot- they just stick out like isolated, random scenes!
                      As I mentioned in the beginning, it's very difficult to categorize this book as a pure work of fiction.It's mostly like a string of opinion pieces on some of the important incidents which has happened in our country in the last one and a half decades or so.The author has taken the convenient route of masquerading it as a work of fiction.However, some of his observations and one-lines are quite interesting. Sample this- When the elite of a system become the underclass in another system,they search for a moral cause to restore balance of power. This is popularly known as activism
            or thisAn erection is the same hydraulic event in political economists as it is in jackasses
           or  thisIt appears that if only passenger trains were equitable systems, many revolutions would not have occured.

Verdict- On the Whole, Miss Laila is an okay read. But a writer who has given us gems like 'Serious Men' and 'The Illicit Happiness....' is defintely capable of much more!

-nikhimenon