Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Challenges Complete

2013 Translation Challenge

Evil Water
The Eye Collector
The Fire Engine that Disappeared
The Arctic Chill
The Man on the Balcony
Death on a Galician Shore
Dekok and the Dead Lovers
The Blue Room
Treachery in Bordeaux
The Book of murder
Love in the time of cholera
The Lie
The Sweetness of Life
Nights of Awe
God's Spy
Strange Shores
Double Blank
Death in Berslau
A deal with the Devil
Emil and the Detectives
Snow White Must Die

British Books Completed
White Face
The case of the Late pig
Tiger in the Smoke
Four Just Men
Below Suspicion
Standing in Another Man's Grave
Brave New World
Sense of an Ending
Lake of Darkness
The child's Child
Five Children and It
Why Shoot a Butler
Red Road
The Cuckoo's Calling
No Man's Nightingale
Through the Looking Glass
Dead man's Time
The Jungle Book
Cross and Burn
John Throndyke's Cases
An officer and a Spy
The Lodger
Gulliver's Travels

What an Animal Completed
The case of the Late Pig
The tiger in the Smoke
The Cuckoo's Calling
The Jungle Book
Five Children and It
No Man's Nightingale
I know Why the caged bird Sings! 

Book Blogger Recommendation
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer
84 Charring Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Vintage Mystery Challenge Complete

Vintage Categories:

1. Colorful Crime: White Face By Edgar Wallace

2. Murder by the Numbers: Four Just Men By Edgar Wallace

4. Yankee Doodle Dandy: I and my True Love

5. World Traveler: The Mountains have a secret

6. Dangerous Beasts: The case of the late Pig

7. Malicious Men: John Throndyke's cases

8. Staging the Crime: The Problem of the Green Capsule

10.Murder on the High Seas: Five Passengers from Lisbon
11. Dynamic Duos: The Caves of Steel

12. Size Matters: Double, Double

13. Psychic Phenomena: The Curse of the Bronze Lamp

14. Book to Movie: The Lodger

15. The Old Bailey: Below Suspicion

16. Get Out of Jail Free:Fire Side Mystery short story collection 

17. killed in Translation Fever 

18. The Butler Did It...Or Not: Why Shoot a Butler?

Back To the Classics and Classic Reading Challenge Complete

Back to the Classics
The Required Categories:
A 20th Century Classic   Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
A Pre-18th or 18th Century Classic:  Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
A Classic that relates to the African-American Experience -  I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou
A Classic that prominently features an Animal -  The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Optional Categories:

A Classic Children's/Young Adult title  Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit

Classics Reading Challenge 

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

If you were to meet an Alien who knows nothing about your species or society, how would you describe it to them. How would you answer the question why do we fight wars? 

“Difference in opinions has cost many millions of lives: for instance, whether flesh be bread, or bread be flesh; whether the juice of a certain berry be blood or wine; whether whistling be a vice or a virtue; whether it be better to kiss a post, or throw it into the fire; what is the best colour for a coat, whether black, white, red, or gray; and whether it should be long or short, narrow or wide, dirty or clean; with many more.  Neither are any wars so furious and bloody, or of so long a continuance, as those occasioned by difference in opinion, especially if it be in things indifferent.”

What is law and who are lawyers? Would you go something like this! 

“there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving, by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid.  To this society all the rest of the people are slaves.”

“after which they consult precedents, adjourn the cause from time to time, and in ten, twenty, or thirty years, come to an issue.”

Gulliver doesn't spare his own tribe too, doctors, 

“One great excellency in this tribe, is their skill at prognostics, wherein they seldom fail; their predictions in real diseases, when they rise to any degree of malignity, generally portending death, which is always in their power, when recovery is not: and therefore, upon any unexpected signs of amendment, after they have pronounced their sentence, rather than be accused as false prophets, they know how to approve their sagacity to the world, by a seasonable dose.”

Gulliver finds the Yahoos of the lands of Houyhnhnms obnoxious before long he identifies human beings with those beasts, only with more disadvantages and a little bit of reason that they use it for the worse and, is extremely ashamed of being one of them. While we have the advantage of speech, we use it for ignoble purpose

“that the use of speech was to make us understand one another, and to receive information of facts; now, if any one said the thing which was not, these ends were defeated, because I cannot properly be said to understand him; and I am so far from receiving information, that he leaves me worse than in ignorance; for I am led to believe a thing black, when it is white, and short, when it is long.”

I attempted reading Gulliver's Travels almost a decade ago, a few pages into the foreword, I decided to read it later when I have the time to read it slowly and enjoy it. This time I didn't read more than a few pages at time and every time I read I couldn't help smiling. Some of things that Swift talks about are still true. Why don't we reward somebody who follows rules rather than admonish somebody who breaks them? Gulliver visits a floating land controlled by magnetic suspension which looks very much similar to London of the future with floating buildings I read recently somewhere. 

I am happy that I didn't read Travels as a child and think of it as another adventure but waited until I really could enjoy the satire. 

Gulliver's Travels published in 1726 is available as a free download from many sites including the Project Gutenberg.

Criminal Plots III Challenge Complete

Here are the books I read for the Criminal Plots III challenge. 

1. Novel with an animal in the title : The Case of the Late Pig by Margery Allingham (21/1/13)

2. Two short stories written by two different authors who are new to you - Fireside Mystery Book

3. Book written by more than one person. - The Fire Engine that Disappeared by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (29/1/13)

4. A YA crime novel. Shelter by Harlan Coben (7/2/13)

5. A book from a series optioned for televsion. Treachery in Bordeaux by J P Alaux and N Balen

6. A novel that's been nominated for an Edgar® in the last five years. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (4/1/2013)

Fireside Mystery Book Edited by Frank Owen

 I borrowed this short story collection from Openlibrary. I am not really a fan of short stories mysteries or otherwise and the reason I picked up this book is that it works out for many Reading challenges I have yet to complete this year. There are twenty stories in this collection published in 1947. Most of the authors in this collection are new to me except for Cornell Woolrich, Sax Rohmer and Ellery Queen. This was quite a mixed bag to me, I loved some of them, some of them were okay and some didn't work at all. The one's didn't work at all, that hardly held me my interest were the straightforward crime stories. 

My favourite is Pale Pink Porcelain by the editor himself set in China about two suitors for the hand of a beauty who wants a pale pink paint for her porcelain. She promises to marry the man who can bring her the pale pink colour. This has a nice twist in the end. I also liked Figure a Dame by Richard Sale set in India, where a man acts as a guard to a famous emerald bought from a small town in India. This also has a surprise ending. 

Interesting collection of mystery stories something to read in the cold winter. 

Friday, 20 December 2013

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I Know why the caged Bird sings by Maya Angelou is a beautifully written autobiography that is also very disturbing from the very beginning. I am not going to give the gist of the story, but just discuss things that touched me. 

"I was really white and because a cruel fairy stepmother, who was understandably jealous of my beauty, had turned me into a too-big Negro girl, with nappy black hair, broad feet and a space between her teeth that would hold a number-two pencil."

How deeply ingrained upon the girl should be the idea of the ideal beauty to believe that she should be white and blonde to be beautiful and her present form is a curse. Little girls should dream of achieving something not dream of waking up one day as snow-white.

 “If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult.” 

It is disturbing that Two children of ages 3 and 4 are shipped off in a train with tags on their wrists from North to Southern States of America. If you thought, this was an isolated case, the author tells us this is quite normal. Thousands of young children travelled alone by train to either newly opulent parents in North or to South to grandparents. 

"It was extraordinary good fortune to be able to save up one's money and go see one's mother whenever one wanted to."

Its both heartbreaking and something that brings a smile at the child's innocence that with some money you could see you mother in pictures whenever you want. And the person in pictures is not even her mother. 

Her brother is her only companion and friend and she loses him too when they find their mother dearest. Her brother finds a mother, and she finds loneliness. 

What does a child need? She needs to be held, needs human touch, needs some love, which she doesn't get from her parents or grandparents and she feels guilty that her mother's boyfriend abused her, because she wanted him to hold her. It is also heartbreaking that her mother decides to send her back to her grandmother after the incident. She feels guilty too! 

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” 

It is so easy to stop speaking and you can hide behind books all your life. But words needs human voice, beautiful words for those who forget to speak. 

When she is crossing the border, for a moment she thinks, her father is going to sell her for some booze. It is shocking that she could even think about her dad like that. But also it shows that she hardly knows her father. She has not spent much time with him. 

The caged bird signs because it has found its voice. I will just say what Balram tells in The White Tiger, the doors are already open just walk out. 

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Original Death by Eliot Pattison

Set in North America in 1760, Duncan McCullam and his Nipmuc Indian friend Conawago go in search of the last members of Conawago's dying tribe, his nephew and nephew's grandson. Even before they reach their destination Duncan finds a dead highland soldier in the river, and when they reach their destination they find all the residents of the small village dead and five children kidnapped. Who killed the villagers and why? Who kidnapped the children?

Duncan is arrested for the murders, and Conawago goes missing. Duncan gets entangled in greater things, in political conspiracy, a coup of sorts to get control over the lands. Duncan wants to find the kidnapped children and reunite them with their family. But it also looks like Duncan is on a mission to get captured and arrested where he goes. He manages to get captured, he manages to escape and reaches another place and gets arrested again. After a point, I  am not sure who captured him and why. The story starts with the murders, you wonder what is the role of the murders in the greater scheme of things and it is tied up nicely in the end. 

I liked the beginning and the approach, the fact that it is not portrayed as a White man's burden, the need to civilise the tribes, instead Duncan not only learns the tribal ways but also believes in them. The combination of Duncan, a Scottish Doctor and Conawago, a tribal, last of his kind, seemed an interesting choice of detectives with great potential for a unique whodunit. But the whodunit is a very minuscule part of it. This is more an adventure than a mystery, and more historical intrigue about who is supporting whom and who is fighting against whom, and very very complicated. There are too many sides fighting with and against too many sides. Parts of the story is in vein of King Solomon's Mines, adventure, treasure hunt, mysticism, witches, prophesies, half-kings, Ghost Islands, mystery and intrigue combined with history of America, how the French, British, Scots, Jesuits, and even the Vatican fought with and against the tribes to get control over the lands, a part of American history I don't know anything about. 

I found it a slow read, not something I could read at a stretch. There are too many characters and too many sides and it takes time to ease into the book again. You know how I like my twists and turns and there are some nice twists and jolts, the kind that makes you go what. The whodunit kind of gave me a jolt, the end kind of makes up for the slow pace for me. 

Disclaimer: I received an ebook from the Julia Drake Public Relations in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Fever by Friedrich Glauser

It looks like a season of bizarre mysteries for me. From Private Investigators who go looking for the killer of Least Terns, to the Coroner with thirty three teeth who hosts a thousand old spirit. And one were more than half the characters are called Koller. A Koller, who is a philosophy student, who murdered his girl friend, another Koller, a priest who narrates a strange story to Sergeant Studer, a third Koller, a geologist prospecting in Algeria who died of Malaria, the fourth Koller, a stockbroker, who has probably defrauded and goes missing. And this is also a story of brothers and sisters and taking up new identity. A Koller who calls himself Cleman marries Sophie and before a year divorces her and marries her sister Josepha. While Sophie lives in luxury, Josepha is in poverty. Josepha has a daughter Marie who lives with another Koller. There are two murders with cards neatly laid out on the table.There is a temperature chart and a treasure hunt. Oh! I forgot the clairvoyant corporal who starts the whole thing and yes two blue raincoats. Now will there be some light at the end of this tunnel? 

If you caught the drift of what I am saying, while the story is bizarre, the narration is bizarre too. I really enjoyed the conversation Studer has with his wife, I mean, the monologue, and what happens when he delivers his monologue. I couldn't help wondering if half of this is Studer in delirium or me in delirium. Whatever it is, strange though it is, it sure is fun. 

Translated from German by Mike Mitchell published in German in 1937

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit

A family of five children move from London to countryside. Father is away on business and mother also is away looking after Granny. The children are on their own with the servants. They start digging the gravel pit near their home in the hope of reaching Australia only they end up finding Sammyadd. If you think "'that's Greek to me.' 'So it is to everyone" In plain English, it is a Sand-fairy. A sand-fairy that could grant one wish a day, a wish that would stop working at sunset. The kids are excited and ask for wishes, one every day. If you think that the children don't want the sun to set so that their wishes would not end. You are wrong. All the wishes somehow land them in trouble and they wait for the sunset when the wish would wear away and everything would be normal again.

They have all kinds of adventures with these wishes and are always happy when the sunsets and their adventures end. I liked the witty writing style of the author. It's a fun book to read. I haven't read anything else by Edith Nesbit hope to redeem it soon. 

Published in 1902, this ebook can be downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg. 

John Thorndyke's Cases by R Austin Freeman

John Thorndyke's cases is a collection of eight short stories featuring Dr.Thorndyke published in 1909. John Thorndyke is a scientific and logical man with a keen sense of observation very much like Sherlock Holmes. Like Holmes, he looks at the facts and deduces which may look like huge leaps but they are very logically explained. 

In "THE MAN WITH THE NAILED SHOES", the first story in the collection, Dr. Thorndyke looks at sets of footprints on the shore and observes that nobody had come to that part of the shore for several days, very logically he explains why it is so too. He gives us a glimpse into his observation and deductive skills.  They also chance upon a team of Surgeon, two constables, a sergeant and a corpse. Very soon the police find the killer with the evidence of the footprints, Dr. Thorndyke believes otherwise. Will he save the innocent and find the killer? 

In "THE STRANGER'S LATCHKEY", a small boy goes missing and his cousin is blamed as she is next in line to inheritance. Dr. Thorndyke uses his observation skill and footprints again to find out what happened.

"THE ANTHROPOLOGIST AT LARGE" deals with art robbery, where the robbers take only some recent purchases made by the collector, not his other expensive collection. Dr. Thorndyke finds a hat of the robber, not only finds where the robber works but also his ethnicity from the shape of the hat and hair of the wearer. That is without DNA and all. 

"THE BLUE SEQUIN" a woman is found murdered in the first-class carriage of a train, soon the police trace the murderer. Dr. Thorndyke is again sure that the suspect is not the murderer and traces the murderer, a very very strange murderer. 

In "THE MOABITE CIPHER", Dr. Thorndyke gets to solve a complicated cipher. 

In "THE MANDARIN'S PEARL", a young man visits Dr. Thorndyke about strange mysterious things happening to him, after he bought a real Pearl for pittance. While the man dies before Dr. Thorndyke gets to look into the case. Dr. Thorndyke uses his ingenuity to solve the case. 

"THE ALUMINIUM DAGGER" is a locked-room mystery. A man is found stabbed with an aluminium dagger, all the doors are locked. How was he killed? 

"A MESSAGE FROM THE DEEP SEA” a woman is found murdered, Dr. Thorndyke is one of the first to reach the scene, he gets to look at the evidence and the body and comes to a different conclusion than the police. This story also talks of preserving the scene of crime and importance of the investigator to visit the scene, observe everything and then deduces. Not being at the scene of crime could may make the investigator miss out on important clues. 

Overall, an interesting collection of short stories. I look forward to reading more Dr. Thorndyke's cases. 

The book is can be downloaded as a free book from Manybooks.net. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

I read 'Kim' as a kid and enjoyed in very much. Though I have seen a cartoon version of The Jungle Book on TV I never got to read it. I picked this book for the Back to Classics challenge. First and foremost, this is not a novel but a collection of short stories and songs. Three of these stories tell the tale of Mowgli. The first one narrates the story of how the Father Wolf and Mother Wolf save the Human child from the Shere Khan and adopt him. The next story tells the story of how Mowgli learns about the Law of the Jungle and learns who his friends are. Third one tells the story of how Mowgli won his fight against Shere Khan. While the characters and main plot line for the cartoon series I saw was derived from The Jungle Book, the cartoon is very different from the Mowgli stories here. I enjoyed getting reacquainted with Bhageera and Bhaloo. Other short stories also deal with animals, 'The White Seal' tells the story of a white seal that goes in search of an island faraway from human habitation to escape being hunted by humans for fur. 'Rikki Tikki Tavi' features the legendary fight between a mongoose and a snake. 'Toomai and the Elephant' tells the story of a young boy Toomai who forms a bond with elephants and gets to see and lives to tell about the rare elephant dance. 'Her Majesty's Service' tells the story of the camp animals, while I enjoyed all the other stories in this collection, the last story didn't hold my attention. There are jungle songs in between the short stories, I don't think I cared for them either. Overall, I feel I may have enjoyed it more as a kid. 

This book is available as a free ebook from many websites including Project Gutenberg and Goodreads. 

Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill

This is the third book featuring Dr. Siri Paiboun based in 1970s Laos. Dr. Siri is Seventy-Two and he is the national Coroner of the People's Democratic Republic of Laos. He is called to look into a body found mummified in the concrete road in remote village in Huaphan province. Dr. Siri's assistant, Dtui accompanies him. Dr. Siri is not just a Coroner, but also the host of thousand year old spirit Yeh Ming, so others spirits make contact with him. Will they help him in this investigation? Who is the person mummified in concrete? Why happened to him? In this remote province, very very faraway from city somebody is playing American Disco Music in the middle of the night making sleep impossible for Dr.Siri. Who is playing this music and why? 

While there is general madcap feeling about the book, it also shows the Communists practices in late 1970s Laos. Dr.Siri believes that communism would do overall good to people if they came to it on their own accord rather than being coerced to it. Communism and Religion don't go together. We have here not just religion here but religious superstition too- Black Magic, shamans, sacrificial altars, women who give birth to apes and spirits that take hosts in other bodies. 

The mystery is interesting and I didn't guess who is responsible for all these problems. It is a very different kind of mystery and is fun. Now I think I have to read Alexander McCall Smith's African detective stories, as Colin Cotterill's books are compared to them. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

A Certain Malice by Felicity Young

Inspector Cam returns back to his hometown from Sydney after his Wife and son were killed because of the undercover operation he was involved in. Back in his hometown Cam is called to investigate a charred body found in, what is thought to be, an accidental bushfire in a school. Who is the victim? Is the death accidental? A drunk caught in an accidental fire? Or the fire set to cover up the death? Inspector Cam has also deal with his corrupt subordinate who may have carelessly moved the body thus destroying some evidence and not owning it up. Or did somebody else turn the body?

The book cover is quite misleading, kind of steering the whole story in another direction. After a point, I did read the first few pages again to see if the misleading is deliberate on the author's part, nothing wrong with that. But I found that there is nothing in words that brought in that perception, it is just the cover, that coloured my perception thus keeping me off the track. Not that I would have guessed. 

I didn't realise it is a debut novel until I finished the book. While reading I felt that there is probably at least one earlier novel that features Inspector Cam that talks about his earlier bikies undercover operation and the fire that killed his wife and son. It is interesting how everything is tied up in the end. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Jack the Ripper and the East End Compiled and Edited by Alex Werner

The man is the product of his environment, the Monster who killed at least five women known as 'The Ripper' was touted as the product of the poverty and squalor of East End's dark and dangerous alley ways.  Or was he? What was the East End of the 1880s and early 1890s that created this monster? Has poverty lead to moral depravity as newspapers cried? Was the Dorset street really the worst street to live? 

Introduced by Peter Ackroyd, the essays in this collection are 'The Imaginative Geography of the Whitechapel Murders' by John Marriott, 'The Immigrant Community of the Whitechapel at the time of the Ripper Murders' by Anne J. Kershen, 'Law, Order and Violence' by Louise A Jackson, 'Common Lodgings and 'furnished rooms': Housing in 1880s Whitechapel' by  Richard Dennis, ''Deeds of Heroism': Whitechapel's Ladies' by Ellen Ross, 'Mapping the East End Labyrinth' by Laura Vaughan, 'Jack the Ripper and the legacy in pictures' by Clive Bloom. This collection of essays give insight into the East End of the 19th century with statistics, demographics, maps, newspaper articles and most of all rare photographs of the time. The Lodging Houses of East End were blamed for moral depravity, so how were the Lodging Houses of the East End and what was the impact of the Ripper Murders on the East End. We learn that George Bernard Shaw commented that Jack the Ripper had done more to spotlight the terrible conditions in the East End than any social reformer. 

We learn about the suspects. That many of the suspects were Jews. The writing on the wall near one of the brutal murders blames Jews for the murders. The East End was portrayed as a ghetto, was it so? We learn that the Docklands created a great scope for unskilled labour and immigrants flocked the Docklands for work. And Jews seeking refuge from prosecution from European countries lived in East End along with other immigrants namely Irish and local people. The colour coded poverty map of Charles Booth Map shows that Whitechapel had both well to do people living along with the poor. Not much different from other suburbs. 

How did the migrants Jews lived? How did people live in the East End? Why were the living conditions so bad in the East End? How was East End of the Ripper murders portrayed in movies and fiction? If East End had such a bad reputation as it was touted then did respectable women visit the East End? We find answers for all these questions. 

I loved all the photos in the book, they gives us an idea about the people and their place. Some of the photos showed that far from a place of desolation, East End had a vibrant market with beaming people. While all the research articles were interesting, the one that really caught my attention is the essay on 'Mapping the East End Labyrinth" by Laura Vaughan, which uses a concept called Space Syntax to create a colour coded 'Axial Map' of the East End to show how integrated or segregated each street is. With the help of the map the author points out that 

"It is striking to note that if we look at the location of the other murder sites, a similar spatial structure is revealed, with the streets typically being in the medium to low colour range, but not completely segregated, as might have been envisaged."

These are very readable research articles about the East End of the Jack the Ripper. Even if one is not interested in research, demographics, and essays about that time, the photos alone make it worthwhile. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes

“The Avenger was not a ghost; he was a living man with some kind of hiding-place where he was known, and where he spent his time between his awful crimes.”

“however nomad he may be in his habit; must have some habitat where his ways are known to at least one person. Now the person who knows the terrible secret is evidently withholding information in expectation of a reward, or maybe because, being an accessory after the fact, he or she is now afraid of the consequences. My suggestion, Sir, is that the Home Secretary promise a free pardon. The more so that only thus can this miscreant be brought to justice. Unless he was caught red-handed in the act, it will be exceedingly difficult to trace the crime committed to any individual, for English law looks very askance at circumstantial evidence.”

Jack the Ripper had killed at least five women in the East End. How did he escape notice? He has to live somewhere, and with all the blood on his hands and clothes somebody should have noticed something, also going out at strange hours in bad weather, should have made somebody suspect something. So why didn't the person who noticed come out with the truth? Is it greed for reward, money, or fear of being the accessary to murders, or fear of the Ripper himself? What is it that stopping these persons from talking up? Could it be something as inane as misplaced loyalty? Marie Belloc Lowndes has used this as the premise for her psychological suspense and changed the Ripper to Avenger. 

The Buntings are literally starving, and then they find a Lodger, who makes them possible to eat and live. The Lodger is eccentric, doesn't like anybody except Mrs Bunting to wait upon him,  Then there are murders in the East End. Could a Gentleman living in the West End be responsible for the horrible murders in the East End? The Lodger keeps strange hours, sneaks off into the small hours of the morning in fog. He reads and quotes from Bible, about women who should be punished. If you are starving to death, would you put the man who made it possible for you to eat again go to his death? What if he were murderer, somebody killing women every fortnight? But he looks so gentle, eccentric yes, bit touched upon the head perhaps, and he has taken harbour with you. Will you betray somebody who placed faith on you? I mean yes he is eccentric, but do you know for sure? If you did, what would you do? There are fears and suspicion and sometimes you just know even if you don't want to acknowledge to yourself. And Mrs. Bunting knows. There is the young policeman who is friendly to Bunting who drops in giving them latest developments in the murders. Then Mr.Bunting's daughter comes to stay with them creating a tense atmosphere. What is going to happen now? 

Mrs. Bunting is not one to betray. But she knows only the killer, the victims are just a name. If she knew the victim, realise that they are human beings too not just names, will her stand change? Interesting psychological suspense. 

The Honey Thief by Nazaf Mazari and Robert Hillman

The Honey Thief is a collection of thirteen related short stories based in Afghanistan about the Hazara tribe. Some stories are anecdotal and some are about the history of the tribe. 

This book is quite nostalgic for me. No, I didn't grew up in Afghanistan nor do I belong to the Hazara tribe. It is nostalgic in the sense it reminded me of the stories I grew up reading in a popular children's magazine in India called "Chandamama" which means 'The Moon' and also the stories my mother, sometimes my father, my grandmother and great-uncle narrated to us as young kids. These stories sometimes were fable like, sometimes folk tales, sometimes anecdotal, sometimes myths based from Indian epics, but always enjoyable. This is what this collection is some fable like, some anecdotes, some history to give us a sense of place and setting, some very sad, war does not paint pretty pictures but all very interesting.

The first story gives a brief introduction about the author and his identity as a Hazara. 
The second story, 'The Wolf is the most intelligent of the creatures' touches upon the relationship between grandfather and grandson is very heart-warming. The short story where an English man comes to Afghanistan during the communist rule to get a photo of a Snow Leopard, is an interesting tale with a slight twist in the end, and is my favourite in this collection.  I always thought people living in extreme conditions are attuned to nature and believe that nature is their best friend. In this story the opposite is relayed, nature is not one's best friend, but a treacherous enemy one should always be wary of looking for signs, or one would easily fall prey to it. Interesting short stories with some Hazara food recipes thrown in. 

Disclaimer: I received an ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

A Dead Man in Malta by Michael Pearce

We have all heard of cot deaths. But in pre first World War Malta still under British Rule, it is not the infants who are dying of Cot Deaths but Soldiers. First, a British Sailor dies and then another in a Hospital. Then a German Soldier's parachute has an accident, though he is not hurt, he is moved to a Naval Hospital for observation where he dies. It looks like a natural death, a cardiac arrest brought on by the accident probably? But this is third death under mysterious circumstances. Are the hygiene standards in the Hospital so bad that the patients are dying mysteriously or is somebody responsible for these cot deaths? Seymour of Scotland Yard is sent to investigate these cases. Malta is under British Rule and the Maltese resent the British. So is something else at play here? Is somebody trying to create trouble in the already troubled relationship between Britain and Germany? 

While the mystery is interesting and puzzling, and bunch of the characters are eccentric, the narrative did not grab my attention and I found myself drifting. I didn't guess the killer, but then I didn't care. Premise, the setting and bunch of eccentric characters should have worked for me, sadly it didn't. 

The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham

I loved the lighter vein and Wodehousian characters of The Case of the Late Pig, the first Campion book that I read earlier this year. So picked up another Albert Campion book for some fun. The Tiger in the Smoke is a completely different book from The Case of the Late Pig, it is thriller rather than a whodunit and in a much sober vein. 

Meg's husband is presumed dead in the World War II. Now after five years she has found happiness again. She is all set to marry Geoffrey and photographs of her husband in recent setting appear. She asks Campion to look into matter. Is he alive? What happened to him? If he is alive why didn't he get in touch with her? Is something else happening here? Who is set to create havoc in her life? 

While this book features Campion, this is not his book. This book is Canon Avril's, Meg's father and Jack Havoc's. Jack Havoc is behind the plan, what he wants becomes evident soon. He is the Tiger on the prowl in the 'smoke' that is London. 

Havoc is evil and Avril is Good. Havoc stops at nothing to get what he wants. He kills innocent people without a thought. Avril goes to face the evil, will he stop the evil? Will good win over evil? This interaction between good and evil leads to a thrilling finish. Canon Avril's thoughts on why he could never be a Judge touches a chord with me. 

'I should never have made a judge. I've often thought that. What a very terrible job that must be. Consider it,' he added as Luke sat staring at him. 'However carefully a judge is protected by the experience and the logic of the law, there must be times-not many, I know, or we should have no judges-when the same frightful question must be answered. Not faced, you see, but answered. Every now and again he must have to say to himself, in effect, "Everyone agrees that this colour is black, and my reason tells me it is so, but on my soul, do I know?"

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Snow White Must Die By Nele Neuhaus

Tobias is back in Altenhain, a German Village, after eleven years in prison. He was convicted for killing two girls. Now that Tobias is back in his village, everybody hates him and wants him to go away. He gets threatening letters, graffiti on his walls and gets even beaten. Is it just vigilantism or something else is happening here? Why is the whole village against him? He is not a serial killer, not a sexual predator, if the dead girls were seventeen Tobias was twenty too. One of the girls had dumped him that evening, the other probably witnessed his crime. If he killed them, it was not premeditated or planned, it was a crime of passion, and Tobias was not an outsider but a boy loved by one and all. So why this hatred against him? There was no proof that he killed the girls, the girls just disappeared and he was arrested on circumstantial evidence. So why does the village hates him is a question I can't help asking, and we are taken on an interesting journey to know this answer. When events of the past start repeating themselves, when another seventeen year old disappears, things become really difficult for Tobias. What happened to the girls eleven years ago? What happened to the girl who disappeared now?

When I read 'How the light gets in' by Louise Penny, I couldn't help comment that the cozy village where everyone looks out for one another is not something we read every day in our crime novels. But the village where everybody knows everybody's secrets, do not hesitate to do anything to protect themselves is more the norm in our crime novels, so is this village in this book. 
Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein conduct the investigation on the disappearance. I had a little confusion about Oliver's age. In the beginning we learn he has a two year old daughter, and then some way into the book we learn he is married for twenty five years, then we learn still further he has a grown up son who is getting married. Maybe this confusion because it is the fourth book in the series, but first to be translated into English. For a large tome this is quite a quick read, interesting plot line with multiple twists that gets very complicated. 

Translated from German by Steven T Murray