Asian Writers

June is dedicated to authors with ASIAN ORIGIN....review of books in this category will be posted all month....

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express (A Hercule Poirot Mystery) 

Story in brief:  Hercule Poirot is one of the passengers of the famous Orient Express, after returning from Turkey having completed a secret project. On the first night in the train, an American man, whose compartment is next to Poirot, is murdered - stabbed 12 times - and the murderer disappears in thin air. But the plan derails, as every good one does, due to a snow storm that forces the train to halt. The murderer is one of the members of the coach, and Hercule Poirot gears up to solve this mysterious crime.
***

I have read oh-so-many Christie novels, more than I care to remember. I am not really fond of her writings that much, yet I had read a lot of them during school days. So after ages and ages, I came across this one and given the mind boggling positive feedback how could I ignore this one?

However it turns out that I am in the minority....because I really can't bring myself to give anything more than two stars that too quite halfheartedly. The final conclusion, and without giving much away, is BIZARRE and expects the reader to be so naive and gullible as to accept the whole yarn about the motive and the way it was perpetrated, without even batting an eye. After reading Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep", the contrast between Poirot and Marlowe is even more striking. The former is a "thinking" investigator and Marlowe is a sleuth more akin to the real thing, where a combination of physical prowess and sharp deductive faculties is required.

This is perhaps not the best of her works, not in my opinion, books like the Murder of Roger Ackroyd, And Then There Were None, are some really good suspense filled books. I think I may be past the age where I can enjoy her books now.

I believe literary creativity esp. for this genre, should be within the realms of reality. This one for me was far-fetched and just didn't work out for me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Big Sleep

 Story in brief: What starts as an investigation of an innocuous blackmailing (relatively speaking for what follows) soon boomerangs into murders that happen with the start of a new chapter. Philips Marlowe, the six foot, ex-cop turned private detective with his wry wit, presence of mind and the capacity to take some good beating, finds himself sorting the mess of an esteemed rich man on his death bed, courtesy his wild and scandalous daughters. Marlowe starts to investigate the blackmailing angle and slowly pulled into the mystery of the missing son-in-law. 

***

This is my first Philips Marlowe book (I wonder which world I was in since I hadn't heard about this one) that showed up in a number of mystery book lists as a must read. And I am so glad that I did pick this one up. Raymond Chandler articulates, expresses in prose that is such a refreshing change from the sexplicit murder mysteries getting written dime a dozen. Yes, at times he does go overboard in describing a place, person or scene and as a reader you wish he would just get on with the story specially since his book is a fast paced, action filled, thriller. Philips Marlowe is no Hercule Poirot. Infact they are quite the opposite. While Mr. Poirot believes in using his gray cells while sitting down on a comfortable chair, Marlowe on the other hand is more for lack of better words a "hands on" person. He gets punched, badly, and returns it as well. He is a borderline alcoholic (my opinion) and lusts after gorgeous women in the most crude manner (the way the women are objectified in Chandler's books is a sore point with me). He doesn't shy away from making enemies. The book has a couple of murders, to keep the thrilling quotient up, multiple lines of stories that but obviously do converge somewhere in the middle of the book. The story never slackens anywhere and maintains it pace, and Marlowe is the bad-good detective (referred to as dick everywhere - how crude!) that you can't but help falling and craving for, much like the ladies in the story.

I would recommend this book, if you haven't read it yet, and I am certain it will be a welcome change from the usual books that are found in this genre.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Tell No One

Image result for tell no one coben harlan 

Story in brief: David Beck, a doctor who has dedicated his life for the noble cause of helping the poor/needy children, continues to mourn the loss of his wife, who was murdered eight years ago. Out of the blue, he gets mysterious emails which leads him to dig up the past and in the process he realizes that things are not what they appear (do they ever? what would be the fun in that?). At the cost of risking his life, Beck pursues doggedly, sure that the real murderer is still lurking free.


***
This is my first book my Coben Harlan and I had read rave reviews about his books, including this one. It is a fast paced thriller, but not the nail biting, spine chilling, adrenaline pumping ...you get the gist...kind of book. No matter, how many times the author uses 'sent a cold chill'... as a reader I didn't quite agree with him.
Reading the book, you get a distinct impression that this is a Hollywood flick, or written with that in mind. I think a lot of books these days are written with that dual purpose print and movie - a combo deal....more money (for the author/publisher!). There was no effort to build suspense, the real killer/motive was pretty much apparent in the initial chapters itself. The book has loopholes, which you can overlook (or forced too), just like David Beck did when he accepted his wife's death for what it was. He preferred to grieve alone, and not be part of the courtroom drama, so perhaps he missed the crucial point that the supposed killer was not being tried for his wife's murder! Overlook....overlook...

The end of the book that is supposed to be a 'twist' leads to the popping of several questions - Beck's supposed guilt that was mentioned in the first chapter and revealed in the last chapter,  had a definite bearing on all the events that ensued. How could he have so blindly overlooked all of that and just assumed his wife's mysterious murder...

The writing was pretty bland, insipid and downright irritating in certain places. In the kindle edition at least, there was no clear demarcation between the paragraphs for Beck and for the other characters. That was a bit confusing and could have been dealt with in a better manner.
Overall its a thriller, which was good while the journey lasted, but after that it left no impressionable prints behind, or any motivation to pick up another Coben Harlan book.



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Malice


Story in brief: Osamu Nonoguchi (ex-teacher, author of children books) finds himself implicated in the murder of his childhood friend, best selling author, Kunihiko Hidaka. All suspects have alibis, and Kaga (ex-teacher, detective) finds himself being sucked into the vortex of the mystery of the motive behind the murder. Its a crafty murder, ingenious, convoluted - and Kaga gives it his all to nail down the reason for the murder.

***
The book has been translated from Japanese into English by Alexander Smith. The book has been written in the form of journal (like so many books of late) -  one by Osamu and the other by Kaga. The writing is insipid, boring, vanilla. Or maybe its poorly translated. It is hard to say for sure. There are a series of interviews in the end by witnesses and it was frustrating to read all those first person accounts which came across as forced and fake. I felt a little put-off not to mention confused (which I suppose was the whole idea of building up the mystery)


The mystery in itself is refreshing. Even though the murderer is arrested early on, the motive, as per the detective Kaga doesn't ring true. Essentially, the greater part of the book is the search for the motive, not the murderer. That is a different take from the regular run of the mill murder mysteries.


Overall, its an okayish book. Read or don't, it won't make much of a difference.



Friday, March 18, 2016

Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng



Complicated relationships further complicated by the family and societal pressures. Most of the times, we are capable of sustaining them, at times cracks appear and at times it leads to a collapse, a breakdown. The entire ecosystem comes tumbling down like a house of cards….

“Everything I never told you” is a story of a Chinese-American family of five in the 70’s in a small American town, the Chinese father trying desperately to blend in while the American mother directs all her efforts to stand out from the crowd. Caught between them are their three children and due to the societal DNA of the 70’s the children grown up ostracized because of their inter-racial DNA. The parents are completely oblivious to the trials and tribulations that their children face on a daily basis, their entire focus, the cynosure of their eyes, Lydia, a fifteen year old teenager, who succumbs to all this pressure. Between her mother’s lofty aspirations to make her daughter an esteemed doctor, a dream she cherished for herself, and her father’s attempts to make Lydia a popular and much sought after girl in school and otherwise, to compensate for the lack of friends that he himself had because of his background.

But none of it works. Nath, Lydia’s older brother understands and empathizes with Lydia, even when he is constantly relegated to the background and all his accomplishments are overshadowed and come to a naught. At one point he starts to nurture a grudge against Lydia and one summer, when their mother had abandoned them, pushes Lydia into the lake. That summer is the turning point in all their lives, a dark spot that changes things forever.

The book is not a happy book, it’s a serious/sad book fraught with emotions and expectations that can break havoc on a fragile relationship. It’s about secrets , suppressed emotions, vulnerabilities of teenage children, unspoken thoughts between a husband and wife that deepens the chasm and going on living each day thinking it will all work out in the end.

But for Lydia and her family, things don’t work out.  Author Celeste Ng, paints a graphic emotional picture of the Lee family, a memory that will haunt the readers for several nights.  The book should be a reminder for all parents that children even though malleable, yet are fragile beings. Even an innocuous slight, a minor rebuke can create a deep gash in the emotional and diaphanous fabric of the child. It’s all the more important in today’s world of cut throat completion, to bond with our children, laud their innocuous efforts,  cherish  and nurture their dreams and not drown them with our aspirations. Else there will be another Lydia before the lesson will be learnt and by then it will be late.
Too late.




Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn



Book - Gone Girl
Author - Gillian Flynn



Boy meets rich beautiful girl….They marry. (Awwww….)

Both lose their jobs/money is finishing fast (But of course)….

Bad times begin and the ugly husband /wife rear its head.  (Now who would have thought of that!!)

Husband cheats (Disbelief…what a shocker!!)                                
Wife is missing. Husband guilty (speechless….)

If nothing this book is a mish-mash of all the cliches put together, in the most twisted and dark fashion possible.
Kill me. Kill me now! Gone Girl will be my nemesis.

I read the first part, flipping the pages, thinking that the wonderful reviews out there would be justified.
The first part finished without so much as my brain registering even a spike of intrigue and me suppressing a yawn.
Really a best seller? Indeed? There has to be some reason….

And thus started the second part. And I was surprised by the turn……mildly.

The second part of the book is definitely better than the first, which was just blah. Although the second part built up the suspense quotient (in terms of how it would end…kill me….), it had a lot of cussing and the choice of words, the sexual connotations/references were not to my taste. (That’s why I never read Fifty Shades of Gray….) The plot in itself if one were to look at it logically was flawed.  But because of the way the story was shaping up I moved on to the third section.

And thus started the third part. And ended quickly enough. The last page was a shocker and by that I don’t mean that it was a real suspense/twist et al. I was shocked because I thought some of the pages of the book had been ripped away but that was not possible as I was reading the kindle edition of the book. So it was an actual ending. A deliberate decision by the author to end it this way. 

Nooooooooooo!!!

I was awake till 2:00 am to complete the book  (kindle showed 80% and then I just had to finish the book that very night!) and when I did, I spent the remaining hours cursing Gillian Flynn and myself in turns. Gillian Flynn for writing this crap and me for reading it. 

It is an overrated book by an overrated writer like so many others out there.

Skip it if you haven’t got the book, Shred it if you have the book and not read it, Stop reading if you haven’t finished yet. For the rest join the club of Gone Girl miserables….

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden



Book:The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden
Author: Jonas Jonasson


Crazy. That's one way to look at this book. I wonder what the author had/did before the idea of this book germinated in his head....

 As weird as the name of the book, that is how weird the plot of the book, which by no means is a bad thing at least in this case. The book traces the path that the life of 5 year old young Nombeko whose sharp wits, brilliant intelligence transfer her from the shacks of  apartheid South Africa to peace loving Sweden so that she can get rid of a 10-megaton atomic bomb that accidentally landed in her lap which by the by she played a role in building.
It covers ~35 years of the girls life and juxtaposes it with historical/political events/figures, blending fact and fiction into a masterpiece of a story. In parallel runs another story of a Swedish family and their fight with the monarchy. The whole book is a combination of events that are improbable, outrageous and bordering on the ridiculous. I was often left wondering what crazy concoction is the author going to come up with in the coming pages?

The humor is dry and witty, its not a back slapping comedy. Lots of sections of the book is a third person narrative and something that will put many....many people to throw the book away. In my opinion the book runs an extra 100 -150 pages and towards the end it dragged on esp when the author started delving into the past of every character e.g. the king and his history.

Interestingly I finished it on Women's day, a perfect way to end a book whose chief protagonist was a woman who defied all odds and changed her life from a latrine cleaning woman to a .. . No matter what are background, if we  women decide it then we can move mountains...and getting rid of a ten megaton atomic bomb seems plausible too...