Book Review: Goodbye Freddie Mercury

The title of the book is hardly an indication of what this book is about. Title is merely symbolic of love that one of the two key protagonists has for music. It does hint at how the book ends though.

goodbyeFreddieMercury

Book opens with a reference to an honor killing like that of Qandeel Balooch’s – while it does set the cultural backdrop it really has nothing to do with the story. Story is set in a Lahore summer when it is burning hot. It is set in upper echelons of Pakistani political society and revolves around the lives of privileged 20-somethings, progeny of some influential and rich politicians or army men. Their lifestyles, funded by their fathers, are essentially a series of unending drug-fueled parties followed by sex.

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Book Review: What Kitty Did

When I had first heard of this book title, I thought that the title is obviously a nod to What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge. Sure enough author Trisha Bora quotes from What Katy Did in the book. This is obviously a point in favor of the book. I can’t imagine anyone who read what Katy Did while growing up not to like it.

what_kitty_did.jpgKitty is a clichéd heroine of those romcoms we read and watch: clumsy, make fool of themselves when drunk, with shit job and clichéd shit life with a ‘scum’ ex and dysfunctional family. However, as a blessing, she does have two things: she is a fantastic baker and has three good even if eccentric friends who hang out together through thick and thin. Her job takes her to an opportunity where she gets to write a piece about recently demised celebrity actress, called Roxanne Merchant. :eye roll:

I am not sure whether this book belongs to a mystery or romance genre. Until the 80th page, there is no sign of a mystery and until 120th page there is no sign of any cause for any investigation either. Even when the hints are dropped in the book, it is so outlandish and puerile that you know right away you shouldn’t expect much by way of a mystery solving. Then, we come to the love interest of Kitty: an obviously dashing character with intellect and kindness is included, only you are not sure how they grow so close in span of four dates.  It felt too rushed and unrealistic. This romantic angle could be the weakest link of the book.

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Book Review: Looking for the rainbow

Whatever Ruskin Bond writes always gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling. This memoir, Looking for the rainbow: my years with Daddy, isn’t different either. It is an account of one and half years Ruskin spent as a boy with his Daddy before he lost him. looking_for_rainbow

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Book Review: Bloomsbury Crime Box Set

unnamedBloomsbury Crime Box Set is combination of three widely different books: The Hanging by Danish writer duo of brother and sister Lotte and Soren Hammer, Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse and The Ghost Runner by Parker Bilal aka Jamal Mahjoub.


The Hanging

the_hanging_engThe book opens with two kids discovering the victims of a gruesome crime committed in the school. Chief Superintendent Konrad Simonsen is immediately called upon from his vacation to solve the murders. He is an archetypal police chief from those crime shows we watch on TV, whose personal life is in shambles but admired by his team. He won’t be stopped from solving crimes even if it means doing so by unconventional means.

The outrage about gruesome murders soon die; narrative in media and public is reshaped when it is revealed that the people murdered were pedophiles and deserved to die. The pedophiles were executed in school as they deserved. Simonsen’s team suddenly finds that public is no longer willing to help them solve murders. The public opinion is so divided that members of police team are forced to question their beliefs. The book is not so much about whodunnit but a police procedural that explores the impact of public opinion and morals on the investigation.

Before We Met 

bwmHannah has been happily married for a few months to Mark. One day when her husband fails to come home, panicking, in search of an explanation, she looks up her husband’s study and calls around. She is intrigued by few trifle but completely baffling discoveries. The book is befitting addition to genre of sinister marriages pioneered by Gone Girl. My only grouse with this book is that it had too many details and had a very slow start. This book could have been edited to be about 100 pages less and yet would have packed a punch. For most part of reading this book, I felt tension build up and hair on my neck rising since I felt something truly sinister is going to hit Hannah from behind.

The Ghost Runner  

I was very reluctant to read this book. Mostly because the book title seemed to suggest some kind of exorcist and this misconception was further backed by the synopsis which indicated the setting was an Islamic country and protagonist Makana was a Sudanese, living in exile in Egypt. I avoid reading stories from Islamic countries since stories of inequality, corruption, honor killings have a way of making you depressed. Sure enough, private investigator Makana is asked to investigate the death of a young lady shopkeeper, suspected to be an honor killing committed by her unsavory, exiled father. makanaMakana travels to Siwa, an oasis-cum-small town in Sahara desert, where lawlessness and exploitation of weaker people prevails. Tormented by his past, his memories of his dead wife and daughter, Makana relentlessly investigates amidst hostility of ‘not being one of them”.His only comfort being spitfire Zahara, a women’s aid worker. But strangely, before he can solve crime, several more bodies start to fall around him in Siwa. Can he solve the mystery? Even though I eventually enjoyed reading the book, the reveal seemed hasty and some twists I couldn’t quite make sense of. If you could, let me know.

(I received a review copy of the box set courtesy of Flipkart and the publisher.)

Book Review: Case Files Of PI Pojo – Killing Of Mr Heathcote

PI_pojo

Pratap Pande aka Pojo is a precocious private detective (PI) who has currently come to study at The Heathcote International boarding school in Panchgani. Born to writer-detective parents, it was only natural that Pojo would turn his attention to matters of detection and mystery. So far Pojo had opened his ‘office’ in derelict corner of the boarding school where he took petty cases such as ‘case of missing tuck’, ‘case of prize winning orchid’ etc meticulously documented in his case files.

However, then comes a mystery which no self-respecting PI can resist. Mr Heathcote, the cat who has been with Heathcote International since the beginning, is found dead. Mr Heathcote is no ordinary cat, he is not only loved and revered by Heathcotians, but also considered as their mascot. The cat had been constant, silent companion to Pojo on his stealthy errands around the campus. On its death, Pojo is intrigued and convinced that there is foul play behind Heathcote’s death.

Pojo’s investigation would lead him to several twists and slips. From tracing steps of a student athlete from rival school, breaking into senior’s lockers, visiting forbidden alleys and pathways (throw in some secret pathways), facing the wrath of the seniors, recording unsuspecting villains on camera  – Pojo would do it all. He would also find his two sidekicks, one his senior who he really can’t kick around and other a well-meaning, pesky junior Pops. Pojo will risk punishment and his reputation to unearth the mystery behind the death of Mr Heathcote. Will he succeed?

One can finish this mystery book by Megha Singhee in one sitting. It serves as a sweet reminiscence of life at boarding school – day trips, free days, ragging etc.  It is ideal for children since it is fun mystery with sly humor and has no references to violence or sex. For this reason, I would call this contemporary Feluda. I am sure we will hear more about PI Pojo’s cases.

Instagram for the book: https://instagram.com/p/2xpoZcElVt/

(I received a review copy of the book courtesy Flipkart’s review program.)

Conversations with Bangalore auto driver: A woman’s character

I wrote about a part of my conversation with a Bangalore auto driver. Our conversation meandered from NaMo to Muslim-haters, Rushdie, censorship, in that order.

He brought up Rushdie and how ‘westernized Muslims’ do disservice to religion, leave alone others. I asked if he had read the book. He said he didn’t but he has heard what he wrote about – a parody of Prophet’s life. Unable to resist, I asked what he thought of the ‘satanic verses’.

‘Satanic verses?’ (Later I think if he was just checking what I knew?)

groupI explain. ‘Quran, as I understand, was verbally revealed to Prophet by angel Gabriel (Jibrail as I said to him) in the cave of Hira and it was recorded later by his disciples.

So, before founding of Islam, Meccans worshipped three pagan goddesses. One day Prophet came back from cave and announced that these goddesses were exalted. However, few days later, Prophet retracts these verses that angel Gabriel has informed him that Satan tempted him to utter these verses. Hence, the phrase ‘satanic verses’, right?’

At this point, auto driver is ‘impressed’ with my ‘knowledge’. Even while driving, instead of looking at road, he turns to look back, as if seeing me with new eyes.

‘Yes, those goddesses are Allāt, al-‘Uzzā and Manāt. Prophet had perhaps said it out of his desire to make peace with erstwhile Arabs who worshipped goddesses.’

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Conversations with a Bangalore Auto Driver

On a sultry Bangalore evening at 6pm, I waited at the end of a tiring work day to go home. However, even after 40 minutes, I wasn’t able to either grab an Ola or get any benevolent auto driver to agree to take me to my destination, my home. I wasn’t alone. There were other women unsuccessfully trying to do the same.

autoSuddenly the lady beside me caught one auto and took pity on me. She suggested that I share her ride and after dropping off, I could go further to my destination. It was only a minor detour and I accepted. Honestly, there wasn’t much choice; I had been waiting there for long now.

Anyway, inside auto, I realised that the lady, like me, was from Delhi. Our conversation inevitably covered over-chagrining auto drivers, Delhi men, rapes, Delhi vs Bangalore so on. (I still bat for Delhi though less passionately; I may be growing to like Bangalore.)

As soon as the other lady got off the cab, the auto driver, silent all this while, turned to me and asked: ‘Madam, what were you both talking about auto drivers? I am not so educated but I do understand a little bit.’ I felt a chill go down in my heart and tried to remember what had I said about auto drivers.

I kept my cool, smiled at him in the rear view mirror and said: ‘We weren’t talking anything complex and educational anyway. Of course, you understood everything we said. And we did praise you, didn’t we? For not taking advantage of the situation by overcharging us?’ He was mollified.

‘Oh yes! That’s why I didn’t say anything to you. There is no reason why any auto driver should refuse or overcharge’. We had perhaps run into one conscientious auto driver in all of Bangalore. Thank God for that. Crisis averted. But our conversation did not end.

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