Friday, 30 August 2013

Wolf Wood by Mike Dixon

The story starts in 1436 in England. What happened in 1436? The Hundred years war has been raging between England and France, with each making some loses and gains. Young King Henry VI sits on the throne of England and England is gearing for both interesting and dangerous times.

In Sherborne, the people have more pressing concerns. The Abbey is tyrannical and had taken over the parish's Baptismal Font and loses no opportunity to get money from the poor peasants. Harlad Gascoigne is facing a strange case over the paternity of his son William. Harald's wife's relatives are asking her dowry back as they believe that the child is not Harald's . Now Harald has to prove the paternity of his son in a court.

Alice, the matron of the almshouses, has moved recently from Shaftesbury. Alice though had a sheltered life in a covent, is a free thinker who not only knows several languages but also uses the wisdom of several non-christian cultures to heal using herbs and potions. When the Church is a mighty force, it is dangerous to be a free thinker especially one who is very popular and undermines the power of church by baptising dying babies herself and one who dabbles in herbs and potions can easily be burned at the stake as a witch. Will that be the fate of our Alice? How will Harald prove his paternity? How will the dispute over the Baptismal Font end? How do these things affect greater events? What is the role of these players in the greater things?

I couldn't help wondering why the story is set at that particular time, when interesting times are not far off. The War of Roses or the War of the Cousins with its conspiracies and intrigues is definitely a more interesting time, isn't it? Well, this book serves as a prelude to those interesting times.

It takes some time to get absorbed into the story. The dispute over the font is not very clear in the beginning, the difference between the Abbey and All Hallows is not that clear. All Hallows is introduced as a Church-like building, it would have made more sense to me, especially one not very aquainted with various denominations, if it had been explained as the Parish Church, and the Abbey also has a Church, by taking away the Baptismal Font from the Parish Church to its own Church the Abbey is making people pay for Baptism that they normally would not pay. Also the historical setting had not been spelled out clearly in the beginning. We get to know the setting sometime into the story. I did a google search to find out about who was the King and what was happening in England and elsewhere in the beginning. The story would have made more sense to me if the story had a prelude with the historical setting. After the initial bumps the story moves more smoothly and very fast. Alice is an interesting character despite her convent background she is a free thinker and has no hassles about breaking some rules. Interesting Prelude to more interesting times!

Here is the Synopsis provided by the Author with Author Bio


(Some violence, family and political intrigue, quite a lot of romance, some sex but never explicit.)

In 1436 a dispute arose between the people of Sherborne and their abbot over the ownership of a baptismal font. Before it was settled, the abbey was burnt down and a bishop murdered. Some saw the hand of evil at work and blamed a newcomer to the town, accusing her of being a witch. Others saw her as a saint. Wolf Wood is set in the turbulent years of the late middle ages. The old feudal aristocracy is losing control, a new middle class is flexing its muscles, the authority of the church is being questioned, law and order have broken down and England is facing defeat in France. Wolf Wood is a work of fiction based on actual events.

Release date: June 14, 2013
Self published

Part One, IBSN 978-0-9875989-0-5.
Part Two, IBSN 978-0-9875989-1-2. - not part of the Tour

On the author's website:

Amazon pages.
Part One URL
Part Two URL:

Author's bio:

I was born in Sherborne (Dorset) and attended school there and (as an exchange student) in the Medoc region of France. I studied physics at Oxford and received a PhD degree in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge. Following teaching and research appointments in South Africa, Scotland and Australia, I joined the Australian Government Service and worked, for a while, as a ministerial assistant. I entered the tourist industry through public relations and scuba diving and established one of Australia's first backpacker resorts. I have a keen interest in medieval history and I am a frequent visitor to Britain and France.

As a boy, growing up in Sherborne, I heard about the famous fire of Sherborne Abbey and was told that a priest shot a flaming arrow into the tower and set the building on fire. The marks of the fire are visible today, over five hundred years later. And there is a lot more to tell us what happened.
There was an inquiry into the dispute that led to the fire and the surviving documents tell of a bitter feud between the abbot and the townspeople. It's highly dramatic stuff and it inspired me to write my Wolf Wood novels.

My books are fiction. Some of the characters are based on real people; others are entirely imaginary. I have done my best to be faithful to the main course of historical events and fill in the gaps with the sort of things that could have happened to my characters.

Here is the rest of the tour

Monday, Aug 26
Tuesday, Aug 27
Review + interview at
Wednesday, Aug 28
Review at I Am, Indeed
Thursday, Aug 29
Review by author Paulita Kincer
Disclaimer: I received an ebook copy from the author and France Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions are my own. 

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Bout of Books Day 6 Challenges


Bookish Wishes @ Kelsey's Cluttered Bookshelf

If you could be like any character from a fictional book, who would it be? What do you like about them?Tell me why!

I would like to be Captain Nemo travelling the seas in his own submarine making his own electricity from volcanoes and watch all the underwater sea creatures swim by all the time and live by his own rules. Captain Nemo of the Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.

Acrostic Book Poem @ I Read, Ergo I Write


In a Hospital, he wakes up
Not in Harvard as he thinks
Florence is where he is now
Everything seems so strange
Robert Langdon has a memory Loss
No idea what happened last few days
Out somewhere burns an Inferno that he has to contain

Friday, 23 August 2013

Bout of Books - Bookish Mad Libs

Bookish Mad Libs Challenge!

You can copy and paste this list into your entry, then replace each item with your book title and author:

A.Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason

B. Dark Lord Sauron in The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien

C. The Red Road by Denise Mina

D. Six (from Six Years by Harlan Coben)

E. Spiderman (from Ultimate Spider-Man and his amazing friends)

F. Hercule Poirot (from a book -Agatha Christie Books)

G. Plum Pudding (from Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke)

Copy this template into your entry and replace each letter with the corresponding word/phrase from your list:

Help! I'm being held captive at Strange Shores, by Dark Lord Sauron!
It is very Red here!
(He/She) is demanding Six spiderman(s) to set me free!
I have just discovered that Hercule Poirot was captured too!
On second thought, please send Plum Puddings, and don't worry if you don't hear from us for awhile!

Much Love,


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Bout of Books -I Spy Book Challenge


Hosted by Paperback Daydreamer

  • …snowflakes

  • …flames

  • …a city skyline

  • …the moon

  • …a sword 

  • …a wedding dress

  • …high heels

  • …fog

  • …a Christmas tree

  • …sunglasses

  • …lightening

  • …a tattoo

  • …combat boots

  • …hand-cuffs

  • …a road

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Bout of Books 8.0 Sign Up and Updates

Bout of Books

I am signing up for the Bout of Books 8.0 Read-a-thon. Here is the information

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 8.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
Here is a list of books I would like to read during the week:
The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler
A Deal with the Devil by Martin Suter
Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by M C Beaton
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Ultimate Spider-Man and his amazing friends
The Curse of the Bronze Lamp by John Dickson Carr

I would also participate in some of the challenges and visit other participants. 

Monday August 19
After a few false starts, I settled down with The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
No of pages Read: 80
Challenges: participated both in the Pairathon and Bookish Bucketlist Challenge

Tuesday August 20
No of Pages Read :192
Books Read: Rations: A Very Peculiar History: No Added Butter
Re-title Challenge
For this challenge I would retitle Agatha Raisin and The Terrible Tourist as Murder in Cyprus. 
Cover design copyright Srivalli

Wednesday August 21
Books Read: Ultimate Spiderman and his Amazing Friends (Graphic Novel)
                     A Deal With the Devil 
Total no of pages read: 

Participated in TBR Pile challenge.
1. Which 5 books are at the top of your TBR pile at this moment?
The top 5 books on my TBR pile are determined by Library Due Dates and Challenges I am doing this year. So here they are
Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by M C Beaton
A Deal with the Devil by Martin Suter
The Curse of the Bronze Lamp by John Dickson Carr
Killed at the whim of a Hat by Collin Cotterill
Double Blank by Yasmina Khadra

2. If I gave you a wad of cash and sent you into a bookshop right now, which 5 books would you buy to add to the stack?
Here are some books I would love to buy now
No man's Nightingale by Ruth Rendell
Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason
Dead Man's Time by Peter James
Dead Water by Anne Cleeves
How the light gets in by Louise Penny

Book Spine Poetry

Blind Fury Necessay as Blood
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Bury your Dead
Bleed for me
The song is you
The unbearable lightness of Being

Thursday August 22

Book Road Trip Challenge
This is easy one for me beacuse I am doing Around the World in 80 books Challenege. So here are the top 10 places to visit

Finland: Snow Angels by James Thomson (Northern Lights)
Australia: The Bat by Jo Nesbo
Spain: Death by the Galician Shore by Domingo Villar
Canada: Trick of the light by Louise Penny
Cyprus: Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by M C Beaton
Budapest: The Man who went up in Smoke by Maj Sjowall and Per Whaloo
Venice: The Golden Egg by Donna Leon
Turkey: Inferno by Dan Brown
Japan: Villain by Shuichi Yoshida

This has been a super busy week and I thought the readathon would motivate me to sqeeze in a few hours every day so I could read but I couldn't find time to read anything more than what I already started with. My total reading did not amount to much, I read and finshed two very short books Rations: A Very Peculiar History: No Added Butter and Ultimate Spiderman and his Amazing Friends (Graphic Novel) and a hundred pages of Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. I did participate and enjoy the challenges, they were fun and stress relieving and visited some blogs. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Six Years by Harlan Coben

It is six years since Jake Fischer's one and only true love Natalie, walked down the aisle with another man. It is six years since our college professor promised his sweetheart that he would leave them alone. Now six years later, when he finds an obituary of her husband in the University news bulletin, Jake Fischer feels he is no longer bound by the promise and decides to attend the funeral and maybe get a glimpse of his soulmate. But something is wrong in the funeral, the widow is not his sweetheart, but an older woman married to the man for years. So what is happening here? What happened to Natalie? Where is she? As Jake digs and looks for things he confronts more and more baffling hidden truths some even connected with his alma mater. How is his alma mater involved in this disappearance of his sweetheart? As Jake goes looking for the place where he met Natalie, he finds everything changed and even people he knew fail to recognise him or remember Natalie. Will Jake find the truth? How would you go about looking for somebody from your past when you can't find them in Facebook? Jake also finds something bizarre, he finds that Natalie's father disappeared a few years before too. What happened to Natalie's father? Are these disappearances related?

This is a recurring theme in Coben books, somebody starts looking for somebody/something from the past, or one who wouldn't let the past be, throwing their ordinary lives into mystery and danger. As they start looking for something they realise that things are not as they seem, and more and more they dig, they put their loved ones and their own life in jeopardy. But one has to know, even if one knows that life would never be same again.

Coben is a master of twists and turns. As usual he creates a multi- layered complicated plot with too many bizarre and seemingly unconnected events that make sense in the end with lots of surprises thrown in. But if you have read most of his books like me, when the revelation comes your likely to say didn't he use the same thing in that book. But there are enough surprises to let this pass.

My post for Crime Fiction Alphabet S.

Stay Close by Harlan Coben

Megan has everything, a loving husband, two kids and a wonderful house with picket fence and all. But Megan yearns for something she has left behind- the danger, the adventure, and living on the wild. She sometimes wonders what happened to her one time love photographer Ray. To once ambitious aspiring photographer Ray, time has stood still from the night Megan left him. He is no longer the aspiring and ambitious, his life has fallen into a rut and he is working as a fake paparazzi to provide the celebrity experience. What happened the night Megan abandoned her wild life? Ray still lives for Megan. Will he meet Megan? What will happen when he meets her again? With Megan opening the door to the past, what else is she inviting back into her life? Will she able to close the door as she imagines when she wants? Megan has kept her wild life secret from her husband. Will the secret life threaten and destroy her orderly life?

Detective Jack looking into the disappearance of a man for years, finds a pattern in other missing men cases over the years. So what is happening? How come so many men go missing and nobody looks for them? It is interesting that when women and children go missing there is widespread search and media is shouting headlines and men go missing over years and nobody looks for them. And when somebody cares and start looking, what else is he going to find? Where have these men gone? Are they leaving a new life somewhere or something else has happened to them? 

Megan is an interesting character who is unapologetic about her wild past even though she is secretive  about it. I like the way Coben describes why a girl would choose such a life. Who can blame a girl who wants to have fun? What choices do a girl have, either she can be a secretary typing away her life for pittance or party all night and earn some money too! But the wild is not just partying away nights, it is also about violence, abuse and exploitation. Sometimes it is better to run away.

There are those interesting characters, like the psychopathic god-fearing couple who work part-time as assassins, those complicated plot lines, those twists and turns, those surprises that keep coming, the suspense, the feeling of danger, the nostalgic yearning to go back to the best times of one's life (even though in reality it probably wasn't so) and the love story, the ideal vs the real. All that you would expect from a Harlan Coben book! An intriguing page-turner. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Book of Murder by Guillermo Martinez

In the physical world anything which strikes is subjected to the same force in reaction; but in the moral world the reaction is stronger than the action. The reaction from being imposed upon is scorn; the reaction from scorn is hatred; the reaction from hatred is murder. - Giacomo Casanova, The Story of my life.

As the quote suggests this story is about actions and reactions, revenge and retribution. What kind of revenge would satisfy one? If somebody is responsible for the loss of a loved one, would the loss of the loved one for that person would satisfy one's thirst for revenge, or would one want more. It also explores wishful thinking- can you wish destruction and ruin on somebody and just your broken heart would be enough to make this happen. If the wishful thinking were put into words written as the book of murder, could words kill?

Luciana, who had been the temporary secretary of the narrator ten years before when he broke his hand, approaches him with rather a strange tale. Before she worked for him, Luciana was working for the famous writer Kloster. Over the last ten years all her relatives and loved ones are dying one after another. Her boyfriend, her parents, her brother are all dead. Now all she has is her grandmother and younger sister. She fears for their lives. Luciana believes that her previous boss Kloster is responsible for these deaths. Narrator is not sure what to make of the weird tale Luciana is telling. Has she lost her mind? Is the loss of all her loved ones and her own guilty conscience have pushed her over the edge of sanity? Have her misfortunes made her insane? Is it possible that one would be plagued by so many misfortunes just by chance? or is somebody really responsible for these misfortunes? Can such a thing even been possible? Why would a world renowned writer wreck the life of his secretary by killing all those around her?

Reluctantly the narrator meets Kloster and to know his version of the events. We all know that we all look at the same thing from our own perceptive and interpret it in our own way. Kloster story shows how the same event is interpreted differently by both of them. To Luciana, Kloster is a father figure. Kloster looks at Luciana as a temptress. When Luciana cracks her neck she is sending signals to Kloster. Luciana cracks the neck to relax her stiff neck. After all all the typing gives her a stiff neck. Luciana reacts to his attempt to kiss with shock, and is upset. Kloster feels that after all those signals she was sending, Luciana's reaction is exaggerated. But this one event shakes the equilibrium of his life putting it into utter chaos and ruin thus ruining her life too. Kloster holds Luciana responsible for his daughter's death by breaking the equilibrium of his life. It also shows how delicate the equilibrium we achieve in life by compromises is and how easily it could be tilted, one simple act could put the whole thing out of balance. And what takes to recreate the equilibrium again? A gripping short and intense psychological suspense!

The story is based in Buenos Aires and translated from Spanish by Sonia Soto.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Nights of Awe by Harri Nykänen

" I'm first and foremost a police officer, second a Finn, and only third a Jew." - announces Inspector Ariel Kafka of Helsinki when confronted with the idea of conflict of interest. He also points out the reason Jews are rare in police force in Finland.

"People seemed to have a strong belief that Jews have some secret, Old Testament-based motive for not joining the police force. In reality, there was only one reason: the lousy pay."

Inspector Kafka is called to the scene of crime where bodies of two Arabs are found, one stabbed, shot and mutiliated, the other crushed by a train as he jumped off a bridge in front of a moving train. From the sparse clues they find on the bodies, they discover another location with uhm.. two more bodies of Arabs. Also from the initial clues they find uhm... two more bodies. So that's six so far. The story starts with finding another body that is not connected to this crime. That's not all there are three more bodies to be discovered before the story comes to a conclusion. That's ten bodies, nice round number.

After finding the first two bodies, Kafka's subordinates come up with a few theories. After discovery of two more, they come up with some more theories. There are abundant theories, do they accommodate all the dead bodies that would crop up?

The problem with finding these bodies, in usual crime fiction/ thriller, the suspicion moves from one to another, as the person comes into focus, he/she is killed and there is some build up of suspense before the person is killed. Nothing like that at all here. It is more like digging a graveyard. You just unearth more and more bodies. Mostly Arab, some Jews, and a few Finns too.

I liked the beginning and the humour when it surfaces now and then. And as the story progresses and more bodies crop up I got irritated. And by the time suspicion moves from one person to another there are just too many theories to even bother.

Ariel Kafka is a Jew for a purpose, isn't he? Bring in the anti-semitism angle, Mossad, Israeli-Palestinian problem, with it terrorism. Also involve important members from his Synagogue in the plot. They show keen interest in the case, including his own brother. So why are these people interested in the investigations? Do they have a personal stake?But we know in the fictional world, the reason for killings is always simple. Will the solution for these deaths be simple? It is. And that's part I liked most. The final twist with its simple solution. To reach the simple solution you have to go through a really complicated plot with lots of twists.

Translated from Finnish by Kristian London and published in English in 2012.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Zugzwang by Ronan Bennett

In 1914, St. Petersburg is getting ready for the World Chess Tournament. That is not the only thing St.Petersburg is getting ready for. Russia is getting ready for the Revolution. In these tumultuous times not just Russia, the whole of Europe is gearing up for the Great War, the War to end all Wars. Psychoanalysts and Amateur chess player Dr. Septhmann unwillingly gets involved in things that force him to move, but every move he makes puts him in a worse off situation than before-Zugzwang. Not only personally, but Russia with its various factions and the whole world are in a Zugzwang.

As explained at the start of the book, Zugzwang is derived from the German, zug (move) + Zwang (compulsion, obligation) and in chess it is used to describe a position in which a player is reduced to a state of utter helplessness. He is obliged to move, but every move only makes his position even worse.

The story starts with the death of a journalists named Gulko and another man called Alexander Yastrebov. When Russian police start enquiring Dr.Septhmann and his daughter about the murders, Septhmann confides his worries to a client named Anna who suffers from nightmares , she decides to help him by putting a word to her influential father. Her father promises to look into the matter. But despite his promise Septhmann and his daughter are arrested and briefly thrown into prison. Is his university going daughter somehow involved in these events?

There are various organisations and factions in Russia spying at each other and conspiring against one another, each with its own agenda. Okhrana, the secret police, the Socialist Party, setting the pieces for the Bolshevik Revolution and the Police with its own agenda are just a few. There is a spy in higher ranks in the Socialist party called King who is leaking out all the important moves made by them. Who is the spy? How is all this connected to a psychoanalyst and amateur chess enthusiasts Dr.Septhmann? Who is working for whom? Whom to trust? Who is conspiring with whom against whom for what purpose?

One of Dr.Septhmann's clients is Rozental, a jewish chess master, who is on the verge of a breakdown days before the Championship. Will Dr.Septhmann save the genius from breakdown and keep him sane for the game?

I don't know much about Chess, only the basic moves and about Russian history I know a bit more than I know about Chess. Considering these aspects the story did not baffle me or loose my interest. I was interested in not only what was happening to Dr. Septhmann and the game of Russian politics but also the game of chess Dr. Septhmann plays with his friend throughout the book with position of the pieces and their moves illustrated in notations and diagrams. I do think one of the notations does not match the diagram.

This is not just a book about conspiracies and spying, it also is an interesting story of romantic love and paternal love. There are numerous plot twists and the surprises keep coming. Intriguing thriller set in interesting times.

While I borrowed the book from a library, this book was published as a serial in Observer and is available online on the Newspapers website. 

The Red Road by Denise Mina

The Red Road starts with Rose Wilson, a young girl of fourteen living in a care home in Glasgow, killing two people the night that Diana died and she is apprehended by police. The lawyer who represents her gives her hope, while she will not escape a short stint in the prison, at least she has found somebody whom she can trust and love. As a girl who has seen a lots of abuse, Rose Wilson knows that there will definitely be a payment for the rescue. What the payment will be is something Rose Wilson learns over years. From a loner with nobody to care and love, the rescue gives her a loving family, with a father-figure, and his son who loves and trusts like a sister, she finds a loving sister in the son's wife, and works as a loved Nanny for their children. But she also has a secret life and her past comes back to haunt her.

DI Alex Morrow, is baffled by fingerprints of a prisoner found in a recent crime scene. The prisoner Roger Brown had definitely been in custody and how is it possible that his fingerprints are found in a crime scene. Did he have somebody plant it? If yes, why? Is it some elaborate ploy to discredit the evidence? This is something Alex has to find. The other track that runs is about illegal international money transfers that at one end help charities to rebuild disaster torn areas, and at the other end fuels arms acquisitions and drugs.

What makes this story interesting is the narration that moves between past and present and slowly the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fall into place. The story is not an easy read and is very disturbing as it deals with the abuse of the young girl. The story of the chick and broken egg is not something I would forget in years and so is the image of the 'nutter woman' cleaning her hands again and again with antiseptic gel. There are somethings no amount of antiseptic gel would cleanse, what kind of world do we live where eggs are broken before the chicks are ready to step into the world. 

While this is a gritty tale it also a tale of hope, love and justice. Hope that all is not lost and a man's unselfish love who would even sacrifice his own life so that his loved one would get justice. While this is about misplaced loyalties and trust, and it is also about what loyalty to a person who gave one new life would prompt one to do. While it is a tale of those who abuse power, it also a tale of those who would fight for justice at all costs. 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Red Mandarin Dress by Qiu Xiaolong

When a young woman dressed in red mandarin dress is found murdered in a busy traffic place in Shanghai, Inspector Chen should not only investigate the woman but also research about the red Mandarin dress as he believes that the dress is the clue to the murder. Red Mandarin Dress had been a symbol of elegance before the Cultural Revolution, during the cultural revolution it became the symbol of something to be despised, and disappeared from fashion, later it became fashionable again. But the Mandarin Dress of modern day is more sexy than the elegant one rich women wore before the revolution. The woman found murdered was not wearing a Mandarin Dress that could be bought off the shelf from a shop but one that was made to order in a rather older style. Inspector Chen needs to find the mystery of this Red Mandarin Dress soon because one more woman dressed in Red Mandarin Dress is murdered. The serial killer stalking Shanghai is killing women and dressing them in a modest Red Mandarin Dress but exposing them immodestly creating contradictions. Why is the killer doing that? Does Freud's theory apply to China?

Fortunately Inspector Chen is also working on his literature paper and decides to look into romantic stories in Chinese literature. And he comes up with his own theory backed by Chinese literature on the contradictions created by the killer.

In 'When Red is Black', the earlier novel I read in this series, Qui Xiaolong feature the Singing girls, one of the three accompanying girls. This novels takes us to gourmet restaurants with the 'eating girls'. Girls who escort rich men to restaurant help them choose exquisite menus and provide them with intelligent and enjoyable conversation and company and may be something more later. We get an inside view from a senior escort, on why she became an eating girl.
Like in the earlier novel the author takes us again into the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath and also the changing dynamics of China moving from Communism to Capitalism and issues of corruption.

It is also interesting how Inspector Chen, his partner Yu, and even Yu's wife contribute to the investigation. But spotting the killer as soon as he is introduced is rather frustrating. After all it is touted as a mystery and when the culprit is so obvious it takes the joy out of reading a mystery. Even though the mystery part was disappointing, I did enjoy the book, the author has created a complex story to incorporate the history of China and various aspects like culture, literature, fashion, the changing economics, poetry, gourmet food, so-called delicacies that could be down right cruel and philosophy as touted by Confucius. Bringing all this together in an engaging style is no easy deed, wish the mystery was breathtaking too.

Below is a quote to give you an idea of the imagery the writer creates.

One brought in a laptop and started playing a game, her fingers pecking and chirping like noisy sparrows on a spring morning.


The cover shows a girl wearing a red mandarin dress, but it is not clear, so doesn't serve the purpose.

This is my post for Crime Fiction Alphabet R.

Villain by Shuichi Yoshida

Yoshino, a young woman working for an insurance company, is found murdered in the Mitsuse Pass known to be haunted. On a Sunday night, Yoshino dined with her friends and walked to the Higashi Park to meet her online date Yuichi and did not return home. Yoshino had two friends who lived in the same block of apartments and work together in the insurance company, but she was secretive even to them. She lied to them she was meeting her date, a rich college student whom they had met a few weeks before. Yoshino story is revealed in bits by various people who know her, and the story and the image of Yoshino that emerges is very different. The author is probably trying to illustrate that we are many things to many people. To her parents she is a loving child, to her friend Mako she is somebody Mako could never be, to her other friend Sari she is somebody to be envious of, to the college student she is a cheap farm girl and so on. But what Yoshino is to others also reveal what kind of person the other is. Not only Yoshino but we also get to know Yuichi from others. What kind of person he is and his past is revealed in bits and pieces from the eyes of others. While we do get to know these two characters from others point of view I never got a real feel for what kind of person Yoshino is. The narration is mostly third person and only in the last few pages the narration shifts to first person with various people adding finishing pieces to the puzzle.

Every few pages a new character connected with Yoshino and Yuichi is introduced. With every new character a new aspect of Yoshino and Yuichi is revealed. While initially it looks like layer upon layer of their personality is peeled, and the real person is going to be revealed, we do learn that the real person is a composite and what others know about us is just a little bit.

The story starts with description of the Mitsuse Pass where Yoshino was found murdered. The description runs for two pages, I am not sure whether I was fascinated or irritated. While it did give a feel that the author is taking us on a drive on the road showing us things, I couldn't help feeling 'ok, nice road. Now please tell the story!' The kind of feeling when people describe what we feel unnecessary things in detail while narrating a story, and we prompt them, 'yes, yes, then what happened'. I mention this because there are many places in the story I felt annoyed by too much detail. The narrative is very matter of fact, and it feels up to a point that the judgements are all made by the individual characters not by the author.

It also reveals the strange place that Japan is between its tradition and modern values. While Yoshino has met people via online dating, she tells about it only to one of her friends and requests her to keep it a secret from the other friend. While online dating seems to be prevalent, the girls involved are looked down upon. It reveals a slice of life where love hotels, massage parlours, online dating are prevalent but something that shouldn't be talked about or only to be whispered. The killer is evident from the very beginning, there is no surprise. But the question the author asks is who is the villain? Is it the killer, the killed, the circumstances, the mother of the killer, the college student, or the society, the values, hypocrisy or something else?

The story reminded me of the Tamil and Hindi movies with the anti-hero as the main lead. The kind of guy who usually suffers a childhood trauma and forced by circumstances, that push him over the edge, he commits a crime, but is a man good at heart, who could always be redeemed by the right woman. But by the time he meets the right woman the deed is already done, and bad deeds never go unpunished. After all there is a need to maintain balance. It reminded me of the protagonist in Baazigar (Hindi movie) played by Shahrukh Khan, Sevvupurojakkal (Tamil) played by Kamal Hassan and Kadal Kondein (Tamil) played by Dhanush to name a few. This is a largely popular plot that had been played over and over again in Indian movies. Having said this movies are usually simplistic, and you don't get the composite of characters that you would get in a novel, more so in this book. More than the mystery of a crime novel I rate this book as an intriguing mystery of the complexity of human beings. Or am I reading too much into it?

Translated from the Japanese into English by Philip Gabriel.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Headhunters by Jo Nesbo

Roger Brown is one of the best headhunters in Norway, at least prides himself as one. One who is responsible for the appointing of CEOs of big organisations in Norway. Roger Brown leads a very expensive lifestyle, he owns a state-of the art gallery near the city centre, a posh modern dwelling. How does he manage all that? Not with his income as a headhunter. Roger Brown is also an art thief. To supplement his income, he steals paintings from his clients. Roger is arrogant and too full of himself. He uses the FBI interrogation method to interview and assess a person's suitability for a high profile job. He has a reputation that the candidates he has recommended has never been turned down for a job. Roger is also the kind of guy we all love to hate. The cocky guy we want to see fail and fall down, the kind of guy we wish his methods are used on himself and then we want to see if he would be so self-assured and confident or would he fall crumbling down.

And then Roger meets more than his match. There are some interesting situations like this proverb in Tamil, a language spoken in Southern India, that goes "Thirudanunku thel kottunamadhiri" which roughly translates as "like when a thief is stung by a scorpion'. Roger is in a situation where he discovers something painful but he cannot talk about it. There are some really disgusting and macabre situations too like all other Nesbo novels I have read. The other books I read are 'Leopard', 'Phantom' and 'The Bat'. The twist in the end is predictable and this is the first book I read by Nesbo that the twist is so obvious. And the 'Why' is not so easy to buy into.

Considering the other tomes by Nesbo I read, all around or above 500 pages, this book is less than 400 pages is a fast read with numerous plot twists. No Harry Hole here!

Translated from Norwegian into English by Don Bartlett.

XO by Jeffery Deaver

I am doing the A to Z Reading Challenge and Crime Fiction Alphabet this year, and there aren't really many choices for a book that starts with X, let alone a Crime book. Last year I read XPD, though I never got around reviewing it. So this year it is XO.

Kayleigh Towne, a country pop-star, is plagued by a stalker, Edwin Sharp, a guy who had taken the XO in her email seriously, and becomes her shadow like her song "Your Shadow". When people associated with her start dying, Special Agent Kathryn Dance, a friend of Kayleigh Townie, who is also an expert in kinesics, starts looking for the killer. Is the stalker the killer? The killer is using one of Kayleigh's songs as a reference for his killings.

The story started off as a decent thriller. Either the stalker is the killer or he is not. And at one point Kathryn Dance catches the killer and the case is closed. It happens all of a sudden without any build-up. That was the point when I went 'What?!'. This is not even halfway through the book, we know that there is more to come, but from that point I was glued to the book and more such jaw-dropping twists follow. I do love the twists and turns and surprises even if there are too many coincidences.

I wonder if the kinesics, analysis of body-language thing, is bit of an inside joke. Kathryn Dance for all her kinesics is not only able to judge if the stalker is telling the truth, but misses other signals too. She is not much of a judge in her own personal life too. The reason being that while in professional life she uses kinesics all the time, in her personal life she switches it off. Can you switch off something you are so attuned to?

Kayleigh Towne is a singer songwriter, so the author does not just give a glimpse into one or two of her songs, not just the song the killer is using to kill, but writes the lyrics for the whole lot of songs in context of her life. The songs give a glimpse to the kind of girl Kayleigh is, what is important to her and what is not and what she is. Music plays a major role in this book also because the protagonists is a singer-songwriter, Special Agent Kathryn Dance not just hunts killers but also constantly on the lookout for unknown folk singers and hosts a website where some of her new finds are featured. Lincoln Rhyme who I believe is one of Deaver's regulars makes a brief appearance giving some interesting insight into forensics.

This is the first book by Jeffery Deaver I read, and I do look forward to read his other books if the twists and turns keep coming. Musical thriller with plenty of twists and turns! Oh! Never sign your email with XO, you never know who is going to literally interpret it and start stalking you!

Q is for Queenpin by Megan Abbott

This is my post for Crime Fiction Alphabet Q.

We all know the story of the guy with easy morals who gets seduced into crime by the femme fatale finally leading to his ruin. This is the story of the girl who is already taking small steps in the world of organised crime who seduced by a charmer plans a heist that could only go wrong. Queenpin is a short engrossing novel that tells the story of a young woman who gets entwined in the world of smuggling, gambling, casinos in the 1960s and who emerges as the leader in the game as the Queenpin. Here is my review of the book.