Friday, October 20, 2017

Review: Magpie Murders

Magpie Murders Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Strange that I should be giving only two stars to a book that I found hard to put down but the end was so lame that it quite ruined the book for me. Horowitz captures the golden age style of writing splendidly - I would love reading the earlier Atticus Pund mysteries- but the frame-narrative was disappointing. The opening lines, however, are some of the best out there:

"A bottle of wine. A family-sized packet of Nacho Cheese Flavoured Tortilla Chips and a jar of hot salsa dip. A packet of cigarettes on the side (I know, I know). The rain hammering against the windows. And a book.
What could have been lovelier?"

Indeed what can be lovelier though I can do without cigarettes and replace wine with tea.


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Friday, October 13, 2017

Forgotten Book: Close Quarters by Michael Gilbert

Of late, writer and lawyer, Michael Gilbert has been a lot over the blogosphere. Yvette @insomanywords did a series of posts on him and then Margot Kinberg @ Confessions of a Mustery Novelist turned the spotlight on his first novel, Close Quarters. Unable to resist any longer, I borrowed Close Quarters from the Open Library and found it so engrossing that I finished it in a day.



Published in 1947 but set a decade earlier there is (as other reviewers have commented upon) a Golden-Age feel to the novel which takes place in the closed community of Melchester Cathedral with its Bishop, Dean, Canons (Principals and Minors),  Precentor, Vicars (Chorals), Vergers (Principals and Others, Head Master, Choir Master, Solicitor, Gatekeeper-Sergeants. With little idea of organized religion and even lesser of the hierarchical clerical order, this made my head reel. It did not help matters that some of the names also seemed alike: Halliday and Hinkey, Prynne and Parvin,  and I was glad to note that the Dean's nephew, Seargent Pollock from the Scotland Yard, who was conducting an unofficial investigation into certain unsavoury occurrences at the Close, was 'scribbling desperately in his notebook' as his uncle rolled out these personages. And no, the list of characters given at the beginning didn't really help me as I was reading it on my lap-to and couldn't go back and forth.  In fact, this is a book that would be better read as a printed copy since there are maps and even a cross-wood puzzle that I'd have loved to solve had it been on a page in front of me. Sigh...



Anyway, to get back to the story, the Dean  is a worried man and in a masterly first chapter - as he tosses and turns on his bed while a storm rages outside - we are told why: there is a smear campaign on against the Principal verger, Appledown which has taken the form of anonymous letters and messages which appear all over the place: on flags, walls etc; there is the accidental death of a Canon a year back; there is the widow Mrs. Judd who just wouldn't move out of the premises; there is Vicar Malthus who seems to be always disappearing; there are the small, niggling things which has made the Dean realise that there is 'something rotten in the Close'. The atmospheric first chapter sets the tone of the book which can turn downright eerie and scary at times (And since I was reading it in the dark of the night, I KNOW).



Unwilling to involve the police, the Dean calls over his nephew who can conduct an unofficial investigation. However, soon after the arrival of Pollock, a murder occurs and the police does get involved in the form of Inspector Hazelrigg (who would go on to appear in six other books by Gilbert). Incidentally, I guessed the identity of the murderer through something read either in an Agatha Christe or Sherlock Holmes where it was said that it is the unexplained things, however insignificant they might appear to be that give you the clue to the whole affair.



The closed community - where Masters prepare lessons in Latin and students learn Greek but where Edgar Wallace is also available as bed-time reading - adds to the tension though there is humour to be found too (as a character puts it) in "lacerating each other's characters in the most Christian way imaginable."





All in all, this was a book that I enjoyed. Besides Margot's, other reviews of the book can be found here:


Noah's Archives

I Prefer Reading


I already have Gilbert's Smallbone Deceased, Death has Deep Roots, and Killing of Katie Steelstock on my wishlist; would you recommend any other?

*



First Line: The Dean as he lay awake in bed that memorable Sunday night, pondered the astonishing vagaries of the weather.

Series: Inspector Hazelrigg #1

*

Submitted for Fridays Forgotten Books @ Sweet Freedom. Please head over there for the other entries.



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Celebrating 25 Years

To Both of You

25 Years of Love, Joy, Happiness, Togetherness, Support, Concern, Laughter, Sharing, Caring...









*

Wishing many many many more years of Love and Happiness, moments to cherish, and memories to treasure....


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Review: Assassins: A British Mystery Series Set in 1920s London

Assassins: A British Mystery Series Set in 1920s London Assassins: A British Mystery Series Set in 1920s London by Jim Eldridge
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A promising start to a police procedural set in post-WWI London peters down to a rather predictable end. It is quite unfortunate since I liked the mix of real-life and fictional characters. Also the team of Detective Chief Inspector Paul Stark and his sergeant, Robert Danvers - coming as they are from two different strata of a very class-conscious British society - is rather engaging. However, nowhere did the narrative really make me feel the tension of murders being committed at a delicate point of British history- the privation after the war, the Irish question, the looming threat of Bolsheivism - the author throws everything in the cauldron but nothing gives the book that extra edge. The romantic sub-plot seems forced too. That said, I'd like to read the second in the series before giving up on the series.

*

Opening Lines: London, October 1921
Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for the Colonies, glowered at the tall, thin police detective standing before him. ‘Are you suggesting that my actions have interfered with a criminal investigation?’ he demanded menacingly.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Review: सरदार भगत सिंह के सहयोगी शिव वर्मा

सरदार भगत सिंह के सहयोगी शिव वर्मा सरदार भगत सिंह के सहयोगी शिव वर्मा by Pramod Kumar
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Biography of revolutionary and later member of the CPI (M), Shiv Verma, a close associate of Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev and who has written one of the most moving accounts of his departed friends in his award-winning book Sansmritiyan. Since hardly anything is known about Verma this is a laudable attempt but the writer goes into certain irreverent details which add nothing to the narrative.

*

First Line: Mujhe smaran nahin ki mahan krantikari Shiv Verma se sabse pehle mein kab mila.

Source: Purchased in 2015.

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Revolutionary's Life: Bandi Jeewan

Bandi Jeewan Bandi Jeewan by Sachindra Nath Sanyal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book which according to a British secret report sent "more young men to the jails and gallows than any other book" is a first-hand account of the revolutionary movement in India during the second and third decades of the twentieth century. Sachindranath Sanyal, who was awarded the life-imprisonment twice by the British authorities in India gives a vivid account of what it meant to struggle for one's freedom during the colonial rule. It also details the often-negative attitude of the Congress top-leadership towards the revolutionaries. An interesting read though the Hindi of the first volume is a little tough to understand at times.

*

First Line: Kisi samaj ko pehchanane ke liye us samaj ke sahitya se parichit hone ki param avashaktya hoti hai, kyonki samaj ke pranon ki chetna us samaj ke sahitya mein bhi pratiphalit hua karti hai.

Ed. Pt. Satyanarayan Sharma

Pub Details: 1922. ND: Sakshi Prakashan, 2015
Pages: 368


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Review: A History of the Indian Nationalist Movement

A History of the Indian Nationalist Movement A History of the Indian Nationalist Movement by Verney Lovett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A biased, often condescending look, at the freedom struggle of India.

*

First Line: An accurate knowledge of the conditions of the past is necessary for a right understanding of the problems of the present.

Pub. Details: 1920. ND: Vishal Publishers, 1972.
Pages: 303.
Other books read of the same author: None.

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