Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category


Strike One!


Review of The Cuckoo’s Calling; Robert Galbraith; Mulholand Books; pp 464

– Shana Susan Ninan

Robert Galbraith. Now, who would have guessed this to be the famous fantasy writer J. K. Rowling’s pseudonym? Well, the book is a roaring success. It’s gripping and a fun read, all the way until the last sentence! As this book was one among a gift pack of three, I was in no hurry to read it. And let’s say, I hadn’t seen the part about Rowling on the blurb yet. But, boy, when I got to it, I couldn’t leave the book. Divided into four large chapters, it drew me back each time I put it down.

The woman has her ways. Rowling hasn’t used an ounce of magic in this plot – she mesmerizes her reader through absolutely loveable detective language and tonnes of charisma only a crime fiction can allow. Published in 2013, The Cuckoo’s Calling revolves around the life and office of Cormoran Strike, a one-legged, decorated war hero. His latest (and only, at the moment) case comes from the brother of a late friend of his. Battling his own demons and a now-ex-fiancée of a 15-year on-off relationship, he dives into the centre of the action. Trying to reinvestigate Bristow’s mixed-race, adopted, supermodel sister Lula Landry’s suicide, he unearths much more than he can hold, often having to rely on his temp’s support – in work and in life. Robin, his temporary secretary, is intuitive and much more brilliant than an average typist-telephone operator. She herself goes on minor investigative sojourns and returns triumphant.

The private investigator and his temp are now pulled into the world of high fashion, papparazzis, aristocratic multibillionaires and coke-snorting rockstars. Working on something the Met has already ruled a suicide, he has a lot on his hands, and those that knew Lula aren’t that forthcoming. Lula’s boyfriend, musician and part film actor Evan Duffield as well her closest supermodel friend Ciara Porter are very much caught in the headlights.

Strike’s and Robin’s characters are most well-rounded. So is Bristow’s. The others actors in the plot have been moulded neatly to fit into the narrative. Strike’s past and his family’s weird history come into the story in bits, in grape-sized bits that’s juicy and intriguing, at the same time, unravelling his life in front of the reader. The title is apt and keeps you guessing quite into the middle of the story.

I wonder how this book would’ve been received, without the Rowling tag, when it was first published. Would the readers lap it up unbeknownst that it was written by one of the best storyteller’s in the world right now? I surely did. This one’s standing on its own legs, and not on the fame of the Potter series writer.

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Rating: 9.0/10 (11 votes cast)

Love and Litigation

Review of Just Dreams; L.J. Taylor; Waterview Publishing LLC 2014; pp 278

– Shana Susan Ninan

Seriously, the simple title of the book does nothing to tell us about the genre of the book. Taylor has weaved Romance and Thriller elements neatly, pulling the reader right into the middle of the action. As a civil trial attorney with a 20-year experience, her words just hold you tight to the plot. I read the book in two sittings on a weekend! It was just fab!

Sparks fly when attorney Kathy Brooks agrees to represent ex-marine and novelist Charles Morgan, Jr. in a high-profile suit against a powerful government defense contractor. But when Charles’ hidden agenda threatens to expose the government’s dirty little secrets, what started out as the case of a lifetime could cost Kathy her heart, her career and even her life. I felt bad as Charles kept leaving her out of his original plan, all along. But the strong bond they share keeps them glued to each other, in the courtroom and otherwise.

There’s blackmail, kidnapping, and murder. And some romance thrown in. all the characters have been planned and well-developed. That gives strength to the plot and the continuity of the story. Kathy the hard-assed lawyer keeps us on track with the case, which seems to be taking up a large part of their lives. They’ll need all their nerves to focus and win.

L.J. Taylor is a graduate of Vassar College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She began writing novels during National November Writing Month in 2007.

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Rating: 9.2/10 (6 votes cast)

Moustache, Mystery and the Man

Review of The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery; Kyril Bonfiglioli, completed by Craig Brown; Penguin 2012; Rs 399; pp 175

The moustache – hair garden, rather – on Mortdecai’s upper lip is as much the protagonist as Hon. Charlie Mordecai himself is. The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery is the fourth Charlie Mortdecai in the series, and definitely has you laughing. It’s more like a Holmes Meets Wodehouse kinda humour, with nothing less to be said.

Two decades after the author’s death, this book was completed by Craig Brown and published by Penguin. This whodunit follows Mortdecai for almost half the book in his convalescent state – a long rest time which he’s put to good use by cultivating a largish hairy chrysanthemum on the upper lip. Much to the chagrin of his wife, Johanna, and his acquaintances. He is invited to Oxford to investigate the death of a lady Don at Scone College. The protagonist and his trusted ‘dawg’ Mr Jock leave us in splits of laughter, and so does the sections where Mordecai navigates major pain-in-the-necks to get at the villain.

Kyril Bonfiglioli has studied at Oxford and worked in the army, then as an art dealer, quite like his creation, Charlie Mortdecai. Bonfiglioli was born on the south coast of England in 1928 to an English mother and Italo-Slovene father.

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Rating: 8.7/10 (7 votes cast)

Mrs Hudson, At Your Service

Review of The Case Book of Irene Adler; San Cassimally; Green Okapi Press 2014; pp 189

– Shana Susan Ninan

A thief and an investigator – that’s what Ms Irene Adler is. And she plays her part right down to the t. As a contemporary of the famous Sherlock Holmes, and at times, circumstantially against him, Adler comes to Holmes’s refuge. She gets Holmes to hire her in place of Ms Turner, the housekeeper. Armed as Mrs Hudson, with good disguise put on, Adler tells her side of the story this time. Let me assure you, in the solving of the cases mentioned, she’s adept and insightful, sometimes even seeming to outwitting Holmes. Their intellectual connectedness is thoroughly explored in San’s work.

Three most brilliant minds of the time – Moriarty, Holmes and Adler – comes under one roof in one of the stories, and you hold your breath, waiting for the unthinkable to happen. I shall let those who’ve not yet got a copy of San’s book to wait it out and read the rest of the happenings that follow the three masterminds.

Adler’s cases range from ambitious thefts, disguising as gypsies to retrieve a Romany child to redeeming her gay friend’s esteem and even tying the knot with her gay friend to save his skin in society. She learns to ride the horse, hunt game and use the gun deftly, all taught to her by her friends at the Club des As, a common group of friends who are out to right some social wrongs.

The author’s trademark playwright background and love of theatre comes through in the plots. Adler herself being a not-so-famous actor who’s now turned to a different occupation. San hails from Mauritius and received his education at Manchester and Cambridge Universities and is a prize-winning and produced playwright.

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Rating: 8.3/10 (6 votes cast)

Surviving Love

Review of Don’s Wife – …What You See is Only Half the Truth; Vinod Pande; Mahaveer Publishers 2013; Rs 295; pp 501

– Shana Susan Ninan

Vinod Pande’s debut novel, Don’s Wife reads like a movie script. And, not surprisingly, Pande is a documentary and film-maker and ex-broadcaster with BBC, now settled in Bombay. A city infamously known for its seedy underbelly. The plot revolves around Kamini, the wife of Don Harsh, and her life. She’s flamboyant, self-driven and a passionate lover. Her life is as intriguing as her death.

With a colourful cover page that leads the reader in Kamini’s world, Pande takes us through several cities of Maharashtra, the many places she visits, and the people that populate her vibrant life. She’s torn between ardent love and ever present responsibility. Her choices will decide her future, and that of her family’s.

The sexual content in the book is badly written, to say the least. Sex is a topic one has to deal with, carefully, irrespective of the genre. In a novel, just like in a film, sex cannot, and should not, be portrayed in a clinical manner, full of jargon and unintelligible layers. I found the sex scenes in this novel comparable to a low-rate blue film, only meant to tickle a certain section of the audience, and not meant to create a soothing and lasting feeling in the minds of a majority of its readers. I’m sure the author can definitely improve on that note.

And, as with most Indian fiction writers, a strong and sensible editor could’ve provided a tighter flow of the story, something that would ensure uninterrupted reading.

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Rating: 5.5/10 (6 votes cast)

Vengeance, Thy Name is Woman


Review of Murder by Bequest; John Spencer Yantiss; Amazon Digital Services – Kindle Edition 2012; pp 346

– Shana Susan Ninan

Sherrod Reynard Colsne (pronounced kōn, with silent “l” and “s”) and Montague Boyd “Monty” Weston, the protagonists of Yantiss’ Murder by Bequest reminds me of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. And, rightly so. The author’s style of writing, the tone and treatment of the plot, the visual appetite of the story, luring murder mysteries, and of course, the Holmes-ian dialogues.

Criss-crossing three continents, are the lives of an American aristocratic family’s past. And the past certainly caught up with them. When multiple murders haunt the Harkness family, we’re pulled into a murder spiral. After the murder of Bertrand Wellman Harkness, IV, his elder daughter Eleanor Catherine Harkness, hires the two detectives to solve the puzzle. Their presence on home turf isn’t well-taken, and they end up having to almost prise open mouths to get closer to the murderer.

Colsne and Weston, put Eleanor up at Colsne’s Townhouse, as she’s desperate to get away from the clutches of her large and imposing family, including her mother, Camille. The next couple of days are packed with more murders and plots, scrutinized investigation by Colsne and then a superb climax. I thought I’d stop breathing, at one point, towards the end of the story and the book!

John Spencer Yantiss was born to parents of Anglo-Scotch-Irish, and Lithuanian descent. In 1993 he began writing classic detective mysteries, based on the character Sherrod Reynard Colsne, in the transatlantic and cumulative tradition of Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe. He’s musician and singer, he started piano lessons at age 5, and began writing poems and songs at age eight.



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Rating: 9.3/10 (3 votes cast)

Checkmate The Murderer

Even Dead Men Play Chess and The Grandmaster’s King; Michael Weitz; Musa Publishing 2012 and 2013

– Tiya Mary Joshi

The book opens with the death of Erica, a girl who dies in a horrific accident on her seventh birthday in an explosion caused by the fumes of preparation of methamphetamine at her home. The narrator and the protagonist is Ray Gordon who is a chess teacher to this little girl’s brother.

Ray teaches chess to many, and among them is Walter Kelly who is two and a half hours’ drive away from him, and this time when he goes the Kelly family tell him Walter (an expert in wood working) has died from accidentally falling on his table saw. Ray trusts his instincts and believes that it is a murder. But why is a 65-year-old without any vices, murdered? To uncover this he plays detective in action, goofs up a bit, finds evidences knowingly and unknowingly and discovers that it is the family property, a wooden cabin which seems to be the center of the problems. Heading out there he finds a meth lab, gets caught sneaking. He realises that Walter himself had left him clues in his chess book with reference to the Evergreen Game (a tactic in Chess). He just has to find that hidden move, which will seal it. A lot of action follows which ends with him finally finding that Walter’s trusted neighbor and friend was the drug dealer who had chanced upon Walter’s cabin, and when Walter found this out had murdered him to keep his business going.

A Super short read, but be prepared to read it at one go, because once you pick it up you don’t feel like keeping it down unless you are done with it.

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Rating: 9.3/10 (9 votes cast)

Man On The Prowl

Review of Fire in the Rain; Surendra Mohanty; Self Published 2013; pp 139; Rs 100

– Shana Susan Ninan

Set in India’s various metros, Surendra Mohanty’s self-published serial killer thriller comes to you with strong characters, fast-moving plot and fluid writing. That the killer is revealed to the reader in the very first few pages of the book is a dampening factor. But then again, each thriller story is different, so this is just another mode of storytelling that the author chose, I suppose. If you’re looking at a nail-biting chase to the end, it’s not there, because you already know the man on the prowl, and you are aware of his modus operandi.

The cover image of the book is quite striking, with an apt font and design for the name. But I guess a looming villainous silhouette in the background could have made a big difference, especially when this novella sits there on book shelves among Thrillers.

Friday the thirteenth is ominous for many. More so for the women who fall for the protagonist’s charm. I shall not use his name so that I don’t give away the aliases. He moves from metro to metro, hunting and killing with a revenge. And, in the end, it takes a stronger woman to bring him down.

Some of the scenes are really visual – almost movie-like. The climax seems open-ended, setting the tone for a sequel. We are really not sure whether the charismatic villain meets his end or not.


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Rating: 7.0/10 (7 votes cast)

Cracking the Templar’s Code

Review of The Templar’s Secret; C. M. Palov; Penguin 2012; Rs 350

– Shana Susan Ninan

A Templar thriller that’ll keep you glued to the pages. C. M. Palov’s The Templar’s Secret got me finishing the book in a matter of two days. now, considering I have a hectic day job and a scrambling toddler waiting for me back home, that’s saying something about the pace of the book. Switching between early Mediaeval age and the present day, the plot takes you to Fort Kochi in South India, Spain and Paris, as well as New York!

Realisation dawns quite late for ex-MI5 and Templar expert Caedmon Aisquith as his high school love, Gita Patel comes to him asking for his help in finding their abducted daughter. As part of her work, she had contacted the Vatican Archives for almost secret information, which gets her into the soup. A criminal mastermind inside the Papacy hopes to retrieve an old and abandoned gospel called the Evagelium Gaspar. And he does this by kidnapping (using his extended resources of course) Ms Anala Patel and holding her to ransom.

Caedmon is jolted from his carefree present life and, along with his love, Eddie, and Gita he follows a series of clues to figure out the location of the long lost gospel. The book opens with a Templar knight being tortured to get information on the very same gospel that the trio are now after. What is interesting is that a lot of history comes across in the lines but in a very unassuming way, something a lay reader can digest.

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Rating: 6.0/10 (6 votes cast)

Opposites Attract, Love Happens

Review of Bound to Love; Sally Clements; Embrace Books 2011; pp 218

– Shana Susan Ninan

A feisty and impulsive redhead. A self-reliant, matter-of-fact, security expert. A kidnapping and a museum heist. Sally Clements, who mixes crime and romance, weaves a quick read, full of suspense and fun in Bound to Love, set in England and France.

Both Tempest and Jake act the way they do as a result of their fathers’ deaths. Jake’s father took the bullet for a stranger without thinking of his wife and son back home. And so, Jake deplores people who act on instincts, without thinking of the consequences. On the other hand, Tempest’s father was robbed and attacked on a street, and left to die there. She feels that if someone, anyone at all, were to help him he would have been alive today. Tempest never wastes a chance to help anyone, not even a stranger.

When Paul, Jake’s buddy and partner decides to get even with Jake, Tempest, a.k.a. Red as Jake calls her, falls into the thick of things. What follows is a series of events, intriguing and interesting. The two run around to stop the heist and to restore calm. In the process, falling in love. Clements writes with passion, often letting images float into readers’ minds without interrupting the flow of reading.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)