Archive for the ‘Crime Fiction’ Category

A Mysterious Death at Sainik Farms
Rukmani Anandani | Rupa | Rs 195

“Ugrasen couldn’t sleep… He tried to puzzle it out” – is how Rukmani starts off her story. Like Chetan Bhagat, the author does not shed any sweat over the language. But she does weave a challenging and chilling mystery. And in detective fiction this is what matters. Rukmani’s detective, a Tam-Bram named Ganpati Iyer with “a typical south Indian moustache” and a love for quoting couplets from Kural sets out to solve the murder of a rich Punjabi businessman living in Sainik Farms. The story holds together well, and the end, includes a surprise.


October Coup
Mohammad Hyder | Roli Books | Rs 295

Hyder’s account of the last days of the Hyderabad State before its annexation to the Indian Union proves that that truth has many faces. In February 1948 Hyder was appointed as Collector of Osmanabad district. As a civil servant of the Hyderabad State it was his responsibility to maintain law and order in the district. In this memoir he recounts the border incursions and campaign of violent raids by armed militia manned by the then Congress party workers. He also recounts his encounters with the Arabs and Pathans and most importantly the dreaded leader of the Razakars, Qasim Razvi. Fascinating account.


Treasures of the Thunder Dragon
Adhi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck | Penguin | Rs 499

Between 1999 and 2006 Adhi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, made several journeys to different parts of her beautiful country. On her journeys, she says, she experienced, “enthralling landscapes, breathless climbs and knee-crunching descents. But nothing was more rewarding than the encounters with the people…and the generosity with which they shared their lives and homes.” Bhutan or the Land of Thunder Dragon (Druk Yul) as it’s also known, is often described as the last Shangri La. In Wangchuk’s account it emerges as a land deeply steeped in Buddhism and in love with nature and its animals.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 24 June 2012)

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Mumbai Noir
Ed. by Altaf Tyrewala| Harper Collins | Rs 350

As in the first book, Delhi Noir edited by Hirsh Sawhney that took Delhi under its microscope, Mumbai Noir tells the story of the underbelly of Maximum City. The book is divided by places, events and notions that have shaped its hidden yet, palpable neurosis. Employing the devices of crime fiction and film noir, the stories in the book are divided into three sections: ‘Bomb-ay’, which looks at impact of bomb blasts and crime that scars its body politic; ‘Dangerous Liaisons’, that charts the relationship between the living dead and the newly arrived; and, ‘An Island Unto Itself’ that unspools the dream city. Incisive, heart-wrenching and dark.


In the Orchard of Swallows
Peter Hobbs | Faber and Faber |Rs 450

Hobbs is a gifted storyteller. In this slim novel, his third after The Short Day Dying and I Could Ride All Day in My Cold Blue Train, he sets a story of love and power in the modern day Swat Valley in Pakistan. The tale is brutal, yet timeless and as beautiful as the garden of life that it seeks to inhabit. A young boy, merely 14 falls in love with a daughter of a local politician. The boy ends up in prison to emerge 15 years later. Life beats to a different drum now, except for the swallows that fly – like dreams – unfettered.


Two Pronouns and a Verb
Kiran Khalap | Amaryllis| Rs 295

Khalap is a brand consultant who by his own admission enjoys ‘writing, rock climbing and spiritual evolution’. His first novel was Halfway Up the Mountain. This is his second. In it he spins a yarn around three protagonists, Arjun a poet and photographer, Dhruv a social activist working among tribals and an Osho Ashram visitor, a German girl, Eva. The story is set in a Pune wada but moves effortlessly at one point to Goa at another to Mumbai and yet another, tribal hamlet of Nagpur. The three places provide the backdrop to a rather mundane, insipid and uninspiring love-triangle.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 6 May 2011)

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Lest We Forget History
P G J Nampoothiri & Gagan Sethi | Books For Change| Rs 300

This document, put together by a retired police officer of the Gujarat cadre and a social activist, is a valuable addition to the material that has been produced on the state sponsored communal violence in Gujarat 2002. Appointed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to prepare the preliminary report on the gruesome events that shook the nation, the two gentlemen, recount their findings from 2002 and experiences thereafter, with an honesty that deserves both praise and attention. They openly admit that their report is NHRC-centric, but this does not in anyway take away the seriousness of their commitment to justice and fair play.


All The Single Ladies
Jane Costello| Simon & Schuster| Rs 499

Costello’s first romantic novel, Bridesmaids, made it to The Sunday Times top 10 bestsellers in UK about five years ago. Ever since, the author and her publisher have been milking her “celebrity” status. You could say, that commerce has its own logic, yet the question that begs to be answered is, should you read her? In All The Single Ladies, the writer prods the reader to get on with one’s life after being dumped by a man. Do you really need to spend Rs 500 to learn that? If so, why not visit any random Internet relationship portal that offers the same profound wisdom for free?


I Never Knew It Was You
Kalpana Swaminathan| Penguin| Rs 299

As far as fictional characters go, Bombay’s most famous detective, Inspector Godbole is impossible to top. So Swaminthan does the next best thing, she invents his alter ego, a 67-year-old silver haired female ex-cop called Lalli. This book features Lalli’s fourth case as a crime buster. Apart from the plot, it’s the writer’s keen eye for detail that will have you asking for more. Take this description of modern-day Vile Parle for instance: “Now all that remains is a heap of rubble, waiting like a parent by the gate. Shops have gone from general stores to shopping centres, but these won’t last. By next year we’ll have a mall.”

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 8 April 2012)

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No Rest for the Dead
Ed by Andrew F Gulli & Lamia Gulli |Simon & Schuster| Rs 499

This multi-author mystery featuring capital punishment, revenge and alcoholism was put together by the managing editor of The Strand, the legendary British mystery magazine. Inspired in part by past experiments such as The Floating Admiral published by the Detective Club in 1930s, this book took brother-sister duo six years to complete. Gulli, who is friends with many crime authors, initially roped in 12 writers but the result was ‘frustrating’, so he expanded it to 26. He wrote the prologue for it and handed it over to the writers, to pen a chapter each. The list of contributors includes celebrity thriller writer Jeffery Deaver, who has written the latest James Bond sequel, Carte Blanche. Available as e-book and audio book on Amazon.


How to Love Your Body
Yaana Gupta| Penguin| Rs 199

Though dubbed as ‘the next generation diet book’ this slim book shuns all diets. Instead, it advises you to eat wisely and listen to what your body needs. The learning for Yaana came from her modeling career in which she starved and binged in turn. In the book, the pretty Czech reveals that she came from a broken home, started modeling at 15 and aspired to be Christy Turlington. But her modeling career never took off in Europe because of her short height. She made it in Japan and India though. In India she observes, the models were skinny “all bones, no ass, no boobs” and “height did not matter”.

Himalayan Art
Swati Chopra| Roli Books| Rs 695

This coffee book provides a simple introduction to the art and crafts of the Himalayan region. Stretching from Afghanistan to North East India it is nearly impossible to codify the influences that shaped it. Yet, Chopra attempts to give it a voice by setting aside specifics of art objects and emphasising the dominant religious philosophy and rituals. The vast swathes of Himalayas from Tibet, Ladakh, Sikkim, Lahoul and Spiti, parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan are thus capped as Vajrayana Buddhist; Himachal and Uttranchal as Brahminical Hinduism; Nepal, a melting pot of Hinduism and Buddhism; Afghanistan of Hellenic art; and Kashmir, of Bhakti-Sufi and Shaiva-Tantric practices. Beautiful colour plates make for an interesting flip through.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 1 January 2012)

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Michael Lewis| Allen Lane| 213 pp, Rs 599

In Boomerang, American writer and journalist, Michael Lewis travels to – Iceland, Greece, Ireland and Germany to understand what caused the European financial crises and comes up with some startling observations. In his telling of the story, the Icelanders are alpha male risk takers, Greeks corrupt and mistrustful, the Irish overzealous and the Germans double faced. And all that adds up to current Euro fiasco. According to Lewis, Iceland turned itself into a banking hub by recycling world’s money – taking short-term loans from foreign entities and relending it to themselves to buy assets – like Indian power plants or Danish newspapers – creating false prosperity and living off money they did not own. In Greece the banks did not sink the country, it was the mammoth money guzzling government infrastructure that sank the banks. The Irish borrowed money from foreign banks and invested it in Ireland pledging to pay back what they couldn’t.


The Unlucky Lottery
Hakan Nesser| Mantle, Pan Macmillan| 437 pp, £ 12.99

This is the sixth book in the Van Veeteren series penned by one of Sweden’s most popular crime writers, Haken Nasser. First published in 1998 as Munster’s Fall, this book retires Veeteren and introduces a new detective, Inspector Munster. The action takes place in Maardam, a fictitious small coastal town in Sweden. In it four Swedish pensioners find out one day that they have won 20,000 kroner in a lottery. They gather to celebrate. Soon afterwards one is stabbed to death with a carving knife and another disappears. To unravel the mystery, Inspector Munster, must interact with a psychotic family that hides a hideous secret. Is it all make believe or did it really happen? It’s a Scandinavian roller coaster and with enough loops and twists to keep you between the pages.


The Lady of the Rivers
Philippa Gregory| Simon & Schuster| 502 pp, Rs 499

This one is for the teenage history buffs. The Lady of the Rivers tells the story of Jacquetta Woodvile and her daughter, Elizabeth who ended up marrying England’s king, Edward IV in a secret ceremony. Jacquetta married the Duke of Bradford, an ambitious man thrice her age and shortly lived as the first lady of English ruled France. Her second marriage was to Sir Richard Woodvile. During this time, she served Margeret of Anjou through the ‘War of the Roses’, a particularly turbulent period in the Anglo-French relations. Phillippa Gregory reconstructs the events of the 15th century to weave an intriguing tale of life, love and survival. It’s a mystery, she says, why Jacquetta has been ignored by historians, when she appears to have played an important and sometimes decisive role in the events that shaped Anglo-French affairs in the middle ages.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 30 October 2011)

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