Thursday, December 8, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books: Best Crime Stories Vol.3 (Ed.) John Welcome

Best Crime Stories Vol. 3, edited by John Welcome, is an anthology of 11 stories which I enjoyed a lot.



The volume begins with a masterly study of terror: Max Hensing by Algernon Blackwood.  Williams, a reporter interviewing Dr. Hensing, standing trial for having poisoned his wife, is so much repulsed by the man that the tone of his articles loses journalistic objectivity. When Hensing is acquitted by the jury, Williams becomes convinced that Hensing is stalking him. This is an on-the-edge thriller and has made me want to read more of Blackwood. The second story interested me because of its title: A Bit of a Smash in Madras. Written by J.Maclaren-Ross, this is a wry, humorous comment on the judicial system especially in the colonies. The Diptych by A.J. Alan and The Burglary by Arnold Bennett are two delightful stories in which men try to outsmart each others. Incidentally, I also increased my vocabulary by coming to know that diptych is a painting, especially an altarpiece, on two hinged wooden panels which may be closed like a book. Decadence by Romain Gary has a macabre humour about it as an underworld don develops a taste for art. William P. McGivern's M. Duval constructs the perfect alibi only to realise that the best-laid plans of men and mice.... Both Rudyard Kipling and Daphne du Maurier add a touch of the supernatural in their stories. While the former is hugely successful in The Return of Imray the latter's Kiss Me Again, Stranger is the weakest story in the collection. Operation Pasqualino by Alberto Moravia is a coming-of-age story in which a heist goes wrong, with the master-of -operations getting some well-deserved slaps from his family and the man he wanted to steal from. Hilarious. Late-299 by John Galsworthy is a study of pride in which a man resists all attempts by the world to break his spirit. Another terrific story is The Blue Hotel by Stephen Crane with its masterly exploration of the collaborative nature of sin. It has made me eager to read more of Crane.

More than anything, this volume taught me that there needn't be a twist-in-the-tail for the enjoyment of stories related to crime.  Recommended strongly.

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First Line: Crime takes many shapes and the compiler of an anthology of crime stories does well to remember this.

Introduction: John Welcome
Pub. Details: London: Faber and Faber, 1968
First Published: 1968
Pages: 223
Source: CL [823.08 W449B]

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Submitted for Friday's Forgotten Books @ Pattinase.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Initial Impressions: Malice by Keigo Higashino

I feel that Japanese writer Keigo Higashino is one of the finest writers of mysteries. First I read
The Devotion of Suspect X and marvelled at his ingenuity. Then came Salvation of a Saint which I found to be even better than Devotion and now I have read Malice which is a fantastic mystery, a police procedural, as also a comment on the way we write and read a narrative with all our prejudices and fallings.




Best-Selling author Kunihiko Hidaka is leaving Japan for Canada with his second wife, Rie ( whom he married after his first wife died in an accident). On his last night in Japan, he is visited by his friend Osamu Nonoguchi, also a writer, albeit not as famous or successful as Hidaka himself. Before Nonuguch enters Hidaka's house, however, he has a strange encounter with a woman who accuses Hidaka of having poisoned her cat. The two friends talk about various things before another woman, Miyako Fujio walks in. Miyako feels that Hidaka has created a character based on her brother (a former classmate of both Hidaka and Nonoguchi) and presented him in a bad light and wants to discuss the issue with Hidaka. Nonoguchi takes his leave as he has an appointment with his publisher . As his publisher goes through his manuscript, Nonoguchi receives a telephone call from Hidaka who sounds tense and wants him to come over once again to his house. Nonoguchi does so but when he reaches over there, he finds Hidaka dead. Enter Detective Kaga, who was earlier Nonoguchi's colleague at a school where the latter still teaches. Now Detective Kaga has to find out how Hidaka was killed in a locked room but soon he finds out that why Hidaka was killed is far more important.




I found this book absolutely brilliant. Strongly recommended.


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First Line: The incident took place on April 16, 1996, a Tuesday.

Original Title: Akui
Original Language: Japanese
Translator: Alexander O. Smith

Pub. Details: London: Little, Brown, 2014
First Published: 1996 (Japanese edition)
Pages: 281
Source: CL [813.32309 H534M]

Other books read of the same author: The Devotion of Suspect X, Salvation of a Saint

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Have come to know that the Tuesday Night Bloggers are looking at Foreign Mysteries this month, so am submitting this post for the meme.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Forgotten Book: Satyanveshi Vyomkesh by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay

Despite my love for mysteries, I haven't read much of our Indian detectives. But this month, I was determined to read the exploits of Byomkesh Bakshi, a detective created by Bengali writer Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, in 1932 and to whom I was first introduced to by an eponymous TV serial that was telecast in 1993.




Though, I call him a detective, Byomkesh himself prefers the term Satyanveshi (Seeker of Truth) and in fact, Satyanveshi, is the title of his first adventure when not only did he get introduced to the reading public but also to Ajit Bandyopadhyay, who became his friend and chronicler of adventures.



The volume that I read contains the first fourteen stories of Byomkesh's career, from Satyanveshi to Aadim Dushman. The last story though published in 1955, is set in 1947, with India not only gaining independence but also being partitioned. Set in Calcutta, the last story describes  the horror of those days with riots breaking out, killings becoming common, and the communalisation of the law-enforcing agencies.


The other stories describing a haunted fort, a ghostly seance, a disappearing diamond, a poisonous spider, a deadly gramophone pin are all pretty gripping and I am keen to read the second volume of his adventures.

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Those who cannot read Bangla or Hindi, needn't worry, Byomkesh Bakshi has been translated into English too.



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Submitted for Friday's Forgotten Books, today @Sweet Freedom

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First Line: Satyanveshi Vyomkesh Bakshi se mera pehla parichay samvat 1331 mein hua tha.

Original Language: Bengali
Trans. Sushil Gupta
Pub. Details: Delhi: Vani Prakashan, 2012.
Pages: 599
Source: CL

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

TUESDAY'S OVERLOOKED FILM: DEAD OF NIGHT (1945)

DEAD OF NIGHT is a British horror film that was released in 1945. It is what is called an anthology film with different sections of the film being directed by different directors.






The film begins with the arrival of architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns)  at the house of Elliot Foley (Ronald Culver) for some renovations needed in the house.



 From the beginning, Craig looks a little bewildered



 and his bewilderment seems to increase as he is introduced to the other people assembled in the house: Mrs Foley, the mother of Elliot; Racing car driver Hugh Grainger (Anthony Baird); pretty young-miss Sally O' Hara (Sally Ann Howes); self-possessed Joan Cortland (Googie Withers); and famous psycho-analyst Dr. van Straaten (Frederick Valk).






It is a strange gathering and we are never quite told their relation to one another except that they are acquaintances and puff out smoke like engines (the amount of smoking that goes on caused a fug in Delhi.I kid you not. :)

Stranger still is Craig's behaviour for he suddenly bursts out saying:"Still there. So it isn't a dream this time." It seems he has met all these people before in his dreams. The guests try to analyze how this could be as he is a stranger to them all. Meanwhile Craig wants to leave the house as he is sure that something awful will occur if he stays in it. To put him at ease, the others start recounting their own paranormal experiences. Thus, Grainger tells them of his dream of a hearse driver who later materialized as a bus-conductor; Sally tells of her encounter with a ghostly child; Joan reveals the possession of her husband by a haunted mirror.






 As the guests demand a rational explanation from Dr. van Straaten and Criag tries once again to leave the house, Elliot defuses the tension by constructing a story of two men obsessed by golf but tension soars up once again as Dr. van Stratten narrates the case of a Ventriloquist and his dummy.



Based on stories by E.F. Benson, John Baines, H.G. Wells, and Angus MacPhail, this movie has all the necessary chills needed to keep you on the edge. From the surreal images as the credits roll in to Dr. van Straaten's habit of continuously removing and putting on his glasses to the smell of fear that seems to emanate from Craig to the different reflection seen or not seen in the mirror to the  loopy grin of the ventriloquist's dummy, everything foreshadows an ominous end.




Also adding to the uneasiness is a feeling that whether it is all only a big gag. The doctor remarks that it seems to him as though all of them had concocted all this to destroy his most cherished beliefs. Another person wonders that as they are just characters in Mr. Craig's dream, they will as a consequence all vanish once he wakes up (which incidentally echoes the Indian philosophy of everything being 'maya' or illusion. This entire world, all the people and their actions are just being dreamt by Brahma and once he wakes up the world will disappear)

I enjoyed the movie tremendously. The stories of the haunted mirror and the Ventriloquist dummy


(always something creepy for me) make you want to scream while the Twiddledee-Twiddledum action of Potter and Pitter as the two golfers was real fun.



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Recommended strongly.


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Submitted for Tuesday's Overlooked A/V @ Todd Mason's Blog Sweet Freedom. Plz head over there for the other entries.



Wednesday, November 2, 2016

German Literature Month VI

What with the rush associated with Diwali (hope you all had a nice one & wishing you the best in the new year), I completely forgot to write a sign-up post for the VI edition of the German Literature Month, hosted by Caroline @Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy  @lizzy's liiterary life.




I will start the event with a reading of E.T.A Hoffman's The Golden Pot and Other Tales




 and then pick up the books as the month advances. One book that I am really keen on reading is the one that I picked up from Delhi Book Fair, this year: My Father's Keeper.



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Details of the reading event can be found here.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Short Notes: The Boat by L.P. Hartley


At the beginning of the second world war, Timothy Casson, returns from Italy - where he has spent much of his adult life and where he finds himself more at home than in England - and settles at Upton-on-Swirrel. A freelance-journalist, Casson chooses his home because it has a boat-house where he keeps his boat and dreams of sailing down the river. Only the village is more concerned about its fishing and does not quite allow Casson to use his boat. At first Casson waits for the permission to be granted but as one slight follows another, things come to a head....

I found the book to be uneven, at times I could not put it down, at others it simply seemed to drag. Definitely not as interesting as Hartley's The Go-Between but okay as a portrayal of English class-consciousness and the changes that the war was bringing to a closed community.


Two interesting facts that I came to know was that a late morning-snack or early lunch was called 'elevenses' (it was the same in Death in the Wrong Room) and Italians were being referred to as 'ice-creamers'.



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First Line: "This is a quiet little hole," said the cook.

Publishing Details: London: Putnam & Co., 1949.

First Published: 1949

Pages: 540

Source: CL [823 H25B]

Other books read of the same author: (Among Others) The Go-Between

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The #1947 Club: Death in the Wrong Room by Anthony Gilbert

Anthony Gilbert is the pseudonym of Lucy Beatrice Malleson (1899-1973), member of the Detection Club and author of some seventy novels, a majority of which feature Arthur Crook, a lawyer from London, whom Gilbert deliberately created, in 1936, as a foil to the aristocratic amateur detectives who dominated the literary crime scene at the time.

Death in the Wrong Room, featuring Arther Crook, was published in 1947 and reflects the changes that came in England during the war years. This review is offered as part of the #1947 Club being hosted @ Stuck in a Book.




Colonel Anstruther retires from the British Army in India and settles down at Sunbridge with his daughter Rose and faithful family-retainer Jock. Rose entertains a little but otherwise the family has little contact with the others. But then Rose - described as having stepped out of The Primavera -:

@Wikipedia

 falls in love with Captain Gerald Fleming and elopes with him. The colonel builds himself a new house, named The Downs, which becomes the talk of the town. Six years after her elopement, Rose returns to her parental home and is welcomed by the Colonel and Jock but her father warns her that her husband should not follow her. Rose reassures her father that there was no cause for such a thing happening: Captain Fleming was dead. An incorrigible gambler, after having run through his wife's money and jewels, he had finally shot himself. "Living is very expensive," Rose tells her father, "but life itself is very cheap." Rose once again takes up her maiden name and life continues as it was before. Soon afterwards the colonel's brother Joseph Anstruther joins them. Crime is his hobby and he thinks that The Downs is the ideal site for committing a murder.

But then comes the war and life changes. The rationing begins, servants become a fickle lot, and finances become strained. Meanwhile Sunbridge sees an influx as the Blitz drives people away from London to the countryside. Realizing that sooner or later they will have to give shelter to these 'refugees' on government order, Jock hits upon the brilliant plan of taking in lodgers. The lodgers could stay in one wing of the house, use one of the two staircases, have meals and tea at different times than the family...in short the Anstruthers will never have to sully themselves by interacting with the lodgers. The plan is put into action and the lodgers come and go, paying the Anstruthers but never really interacting with them, all the transaction being handled by Jock.

But then towards the fag end of the war comes Lady Bate with her niece Caroline. A harridan, she takes offense at this arrangement which not only doesn't allow her to meet the family on an equal footing but also makes her share the arrangements with the other two lodgers: the chatterbox Mrs. Hunter and the deaf Miss Twiss, whom she doesn't consider her equals. As Miss Bate's resentment simmers things start turning uncomfortable. Meanwhile Caroline meets the handsome Roger Carlton who, after being introduced to her aunt, impresses the old lady so much that she starts thinking of changing in her will in his favor, much to the chagrin of Caroline. As things reach a breaking point in The Downs, Joseph Anstuther's prediction that it was an ideal place for committing a murder come true.



Unlike two of Gilbert's novels read earlier: The Clock in the Hatbox and Death Knock Three Times, this doesn't have a knock-out punch in the end but it still made me feel apprehensive and very-very aware that I was reading it while all alone in the house and made me very conscious of the creaks and other noises. And the humour is delicious. Gilbert is very good with tartar old ladies and the conversation among LadyBate, Mrs. Hunter, and Miss Twiss is a joy to read. Also the novel is very good in depicting the snobbery of the English upper crust even as the sun-set for them and the British empire.



With this, I have read six of Gilbert's novels and all of them have been more or less good with the two mentioned above being absolutely brilliant. I don't know why publishing houses do not bring out her books. Rather than an umpteenth edition of an Agatha Christie, I would like authors like Gilbert to be republished.

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First Line: THE HOUSE stood on the side of a hill, with a windmill for background, and behind that a wide expanse of pale sky with nothing to interrupt the view but a few trees, and in the far distance, a tall pointed spire white as limestone against the grayer clouds.

Publishing details: NY: Detective Book Club
First Published: 1947
Series: Arthur Crook #17
Pages: 188
Source: Open Library

Other Books read of the same author: (Among Others): The Clock in the Hat Box

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