Archive for the 'Opinion' Category

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: Private India

Private India is your regular potboiler set in the backdrop of Mumbai. I actually stopped reading James Patterson books long time ago. I had liked couple of Alex Cross novels such as Along came the Spider. However, his later mystery books and even non-mystery books such as ‘Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas’ were very boring, I was forced to give up.

James Patterson has made quite a living from collaborating with different authors and even working with ghost writers. It seems he likes ‘more to conjure up plot than craft a story sentence by sentence’. Private India is one such collaboration; it is part of Private series. Private is an international detective agency; and indeed Private India has a branch in Mumbai. private_india

This book starts on a very promising note for me. It opens with an intriguing first of many killings by a serial killer. There are whole lot of props staged around the murder scene. For someone who has watched so many Criminal Minds episodes (with pleasure if I may confess), it was very promising mystery. There are about 116 short chapters divided into two parts. First few chapters also promise a bit of steaminess – an integral part of any pulp fiction. However, that promise will fail to deliver.

Private India headed by Santosh, a ‘recovering’ alcoholic is investigating the serial killer murders along with Mumbai police. While the chase is on for the serial killers, there are is also a subplot about terrorism (how can it not be after 26/11), predictably involving babas and dons. And since the book is set in India, we are not even missing a touch of Hindu mythology and the cult of thugs. It often feels like you could go around all of Mumbai by following the locations in the book. Since Private worked with the government, the contrast between forensic facilities at disposal of a private firm and the government facilities was interesting but predictable. 

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Private India’

5 Black Things I STILL Want to Own

Whenever I say with glee and smug satisfaction, Black is my colour. My Ma contends that black is no colour at all. Few weeks ago when my father was very unwell, my parents were scared of a relapse. You know how parents have some superstitions. My Ma stealthily takes me aside (so father doesn’t hear) and say, ”you know, dear, I am very scared. You were sitting in a black dress near your father’s bedside. Why would I see you wearing black? It is bad omen.” And I calmly reply, ”Mama, that’s because I wear black a lot. Haven’t you noticed last three days I’ve been wearing black dresses.” Ma couldn’t argue with that and I am very happy to let you know there was no bad omen. My father, thank God, is doing well.

So, with so much black clothing and black devices, are there any more black things I aspire? oh yes! 5 more black things I could do with:

1. Black ornate bathtub: I love bathtubs. When I go on vacation, before booking a hotel I check, Do you have a bathtub, sir? It maybe awkward, but let me tell you it is very important criteria especially on a vacation. :) I found something like this on Pinterest, but I could with do more ornate one. ;)

bathtub2. Black three-sided bookshelf: Actually the bookshelf does have four sides, all I want is my bookshelf to surround me on three sides in a room. yes, heard it right. On three sides. My current bookshelves are proving to be very inadequate. I want something like this (again Pinterest image of a wardrobe actually), but of course, with a preference for a larger space in middle to put a bed, where I can lie and read in those very comfy postures.

bookshelf3. Black Moissanite ring: I am not fond of jewellery, esp gold ones. Diamond is passè. ;) I want a simple ring with black Moissanite. Something like this would do nicely. (It costs around $1500 last I checked.)

ring4. Black iPad: yes, you heard it right, I want a black wi-fi enabled iPad. Hopefully I will win it in #WhatTheBlack

5. Little black dress: I know, I know. 2 months ago, I bought 17 dresses, most of them black. In fact, my wardrobe is predominantly black. I remember posting this FB update few days ago, leading to a wry query in the comments  about ‘Morticia audition?’.

FB_rant
Yet, my search for that perfect little black dress is incomplete. There is still one out there that is waiting for me.

This post is a part of #WhatTheBlack activity at BlogAdda.com.

Book Review: Delirious Delhi

I always love a book about Delhi – and the market is abuzz with them. I picked up Delirious Delhi solely because the author was co-blogger at a wonderful blog called Our Delhi Struggle. ‘Our Delhi Struggle’ was unique in the sense that it was collection of short, witty, first-hand experience of a couple who had moved from New York to Delhi. Their keenness to have ‘an authentic Dilli experience’ would often lead them to treasure troves and interesting revelations. For example, Dave and Jenny also found an old-style Hindi movie poster painter and had their own Bollywood poster painted that also adorns the book cover of Delirious Delhi. (The painter had his share of limelight in press thanks to Dave and Jenny.)

ImageDelirious Delhi can be easily called a tribute to Delhi, since it is obvious Dave and Jenny genuinely loved the city. The couple lived for two years in Delhi, after which they moved to Singapore.

And they did manage to have that ‘authentic’ experience. Dave, an advertising agency executive in Gurgaon lived in Hauz Khas. He did what millions of Delhites do everyday – travel to work. For more than a decade in Delhi, I too have travelled on an average 3-4 hours to and fro college or work. They zipped around the city in autos, learned various tricks/tips to bargain. Again, this is something I had to do every day (tough job at times) for 2 years when I worked in GK-2 – right in that square that has Nathu’s where Dave had his first meal in India.

The couple  went all round Delhi for the Indian food they would come to love – imagine my surprise when I read in the book ‘best South Indian food in Delhi can be eaten at Saravanna Bhawan’. I thought, how did he know! Since I keep finding people in north who are not so aware about it. Mystery soon unravelled – Dave and Jenny were part of Eating Out in Delhi group – and sample food from all over Delhi, including gastronomic delights of Old Delhi. I smiled when Dave was unimpressed with over-hyped Khan Market – I agreed.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Delirious Delhi’

Book Review: Delhi: 14 Historic Walks

They say, you learn more about a city by walking around.  You walk around Florence, Paris, Munich, Edinburgh and even New York! Delhi, a city I call home and one that is 100 years old this year, is another such city that can be appreciated on walks. ‘Delhi – 14 historic walks’ is a delightful guide book that helps you to accomplish that.

ImageFrankly, this book does not need a book review to extol its virtues. Its back cover lists its merits in simple no-nonsense words in the back cover. However, to do the book and Blogadda’s book program justice, I will first air my views for the record.

I jumped to have this book since I have been on Delhi walks (and none by INTACH to which Swapna Liddle belongs to but that I will come to later). Delhi has a fantastic cultural heritage, but most of us even while living in the city sleep-walk through it. I did.

I think I re-visited even the popular monuments Red Fort, Qutab Minar when I was studying at a college in Delhi, at least a decade after when I first visited those in childhood. That too because I had to take an NRI friend of mine around the city. I haven’t forgotten my ignorance and the embarrassing fact that I was enormously proud that I have never cared enough for these ‘cliche’ places to visit myself. And even if we deign to visit these places, we hardly see/know things. We fail to appreciate the beauty and wonder of it.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Delhi: 14 Historic Walks’

Book Review: The House of Silk, New Sherlock Holmes Novel

ImageThis is a book I would have never ever bought myself simply because I am cynic and did not really believe someone could pull off a Sherlock spinoff with same panache. I am only happy to admit that I was proven wrong.

Just under first 20 pages, I could sense Anthony Horowitz has stepped fairly well into Watson’s shoes. It begins, as did all Doyle stories, with Holmes making his remarks and surprising people with his deductions.

The House of Silk is an investigation conducted by Holmes that was believed to be too horrific in nature to be revealed at the time. Therefore, Watson records this investigation in the twilight years of his life, after the death of Sherlock Holmes, with instruction that it should be published a century after his death.

The case begins when the client walks into the now familiar house at 221B, Baker Street. The client is Edmund Carstairs, an art gallery co-owner. He has had a brief brush with a gang in past which once destroyed his paintings. He believes he is now being followed by the one of the gang members for vendetta. Mr. Holmes is intrigued but relaxed. Events take an unpredictable course when one of the street urchins – part of Wiggin’s army – assisting him is brutally murdered. Holmes, regretful for unknowingly putting an innocent urchin in the harm’s way, is determined to bring the killer to justice. This leads both Holmes and Watson on a journey where there are several traps, guns and pitfalls. Meanwhile, Edmund Carstairs’ family seems to be disintegrating. Holmes must not only find the killer but save his reputation by stopping what is assailing the Carstairs, who like everybody else seem to be losing their faith in him.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: The House of Silk, New Sherlock Holmes Novel’

5 Movies That I Have Loved

(This post is for my friend Meetu who runs a fantastic movie review blog WOGMA – for the uninitiated, USP of this blog  is that all movies are reviewed here Without Giving the Movies Away. This is part of a competition to celebrate WOGMA’s fifth birthday. :) )

Movies and books bring boundless pleasures in my life. I have already written in past about my movie quirks and movies I have loved.

This time I have spent last 2 days thinking which 3 movies to zero on as my favourites. Every movie in itself has served a purpose in my life. I distinctly remember laughing off all my work stress watching Bheja Fry – not a critically acclaimed movie this one – but it worked for me that day.  At different times, I have watched romantic flicks such as Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Pretty Women, When Harry Met Sally, Roman Holiday, Pearl Harbour, Before Sunset, Before Sunrise, Breakfast at Tiffany’s – and derived a girl’s happy pleasure out of it. :) Then there were movies such as Hotel Rwanda, Blood Diamond, Waltz with Bashir (fantastic animation) and more recently The Whistleblower – that opened my eyes to genocides, atrocities happening in the world. They struck a chord somewhere deep inside that I did not know existed. I still draw in my breath when I see that gas chamber scene where women suddenly find themselves in Schindler’s List – the relieved sigh is not far when I realise it was only a harmless shower. Adrian Brody’s lonely adventures in The Pianist and ill-fated friendship of two innocent kids – one German and Jew in The Boy in Stripped Pyjamas are etched in my otherwise forgettable memory.  No book on Holocaust (not even Diary of Anne Frank) could ever move me so deeply and eternally like these movies did.

Then there are those inspiring intriguing memoirs/biographies and true events that sometimes inspire/impact you more than written word – The Motorcycle Diaries, A Beautiful Mind, Pursuit of Happyness.  Then, there are hugely entertaining, classy mob movies – Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and mother of all – The Godfather, which must be my most-watched movie with my favourite acting men there!

Then there are Hindi movies I have loved and been proud of – Pyasa, Abhimaan, Maqbool, Satya, Rang De Basanti, Chak De India, Taare Zameen Pe, A Wednesday, Aamir, Ardhasatya…Yet it would be unfair if I pick any of these alone as my favourite movies. So I will pick 5 movies that I thought were unique for a reason – movies I would be proud to make if I could.

Continue reading ‘5 Movies That I Have Loved’


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