Asian Writers

June is dedicated to authors with ASIAN ORIGIN....review of books in this category will be posted all month....

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express (A Hercule Poirot Mystery) 

Story in brief:  Hercule Poirot is one of the passengers of the famous Orient Express, after returning from Turkey having completed a secret project. On the first night in the train, an American man, whose compartment is next to Poirot, is murdered - stabbed 12 times - and the murderer disappears in thin air. But the plan derails, as every good one does, due to a snow storm that forces the train to halt. The murderer is one of the members of the coach, and Hercule Poirot gears up to solve this mysterious crime.
***

I have read oh-so-many Christie novels, more than I care to remember. I am not really fond of her writings that much, yet I had read a lot of them during school days. So after ages and ages, I came across this one and given the mind boggling positive feedback how could I ignore this one?

However it turns out that I am in the minority....because I really can't bring myself to give anything more than two stars that too quite halfheartedly. The final conclusion, and without giving much away, is BIZARRE and expects the reader to be so naive and gullible as to accept the whole yarn about the motive and the way it was perpetrated, without even batting an eye. After reading Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep", the contrast between Poirot and Marlowe is even more striking. The former is a "thinking" investigator and Marlowe is a sleuth more akin to the real thing, where a combination of physical prowess and sharp deductive faculties is required.

This is perhaps not the best of her works, not in my opinion, books like the Murder of Roger Ackroyd, And Then There Were None, are some really good suspense filled books. I think I may be past the age where I can enjoy her books now.

I believe literary creativity esp. for this genre, should be within the realms of reality. This one for me was far-fetched and just didn't work out for me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Big Sleep

 Story in brief: What starts as an investigation of an innocuous blackmailing (relatively speaking for what follows) soon boomerangs into murders that happen with the start of a new chapter. Philips Marlowe, the six foot, ex-cop turned private detective with his wry wit, presence of mind and the capacity to take some good beating, finds himself sorting the mess of an esteemed rich man on his death bed, courtesy his wild and scandalous daughters. Marlowe starts to investigate the blackmailing angle and slowly pulled into the mystery of the missing son-in-law. 

***

This is my first Philips Marlowe book (I wonder which world I was in since I hadn't heard about this one) that showed up in a number of mystery book lists as a must read. And I am so glad that I did pick this one up. Raymond Chandler articulates, expresses in prose that is such a refreshing change from the sexplicit murder mysteries getting written dime a dozen. Yes, at times he does go overboard in describing a place, person or scene and as a reader you wish he would just get on with the story specially since his book is a fast paced, action filled, thriller. Philips Marlowe is no Hercule Poirot. Infact they are quite the opposite. While Mr. Poirot believes in using his gray cells while sitting down on a comfortable chair, Marlowe on the other hand is more for lack of better words a "hands on" person. He gets punched, badly, and returns it as well. He is a borderline alcoholic (my opinion) and lusts after gorgeous women in the most crude manner (the way the women are objectified in Chandler's books is a sore point with me). He doesn't shy away from making enemies. The book has a couple of murders, to keep the thrilling quotient up, multiple lines of stories that but obviously do converge somewhere in the middle of the book. The story never slackens anywhere and maintains it pace, and Marlowe is the bad-good detective (referred to as dick everywhere - how crude!) that you can't but help falling and craving for, much like the ladies in the story.

I would recommend this book, if you haven't read it yet, and I am certain it will be a welcome change from the usual books that are found in this genre.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Tell No One

Image result for tell no one coben harlan 

Story in brief: David Beck, a doctor who has dedicated his life for the noble cause of helping the poor/needy children, continues to mourn the loss of his wife, who was murdered eight years ago. Out of the blue, he gets mysterious emails which leads him to dig up the past and in the process he realizes that things are not what they appear (do they ever? what would be the fun in that?). At the cost of risking his life, Beck pursues doggedly, sure that the real murderer is still lurking free.


***
This is my first book my Coben Harlan and I had read rave reviews about his books, including this one. It is a fast paced thriller, but not the nail biting, spine chilling, adrenaline pumping ...you get the gist...kind of book. No matter, how many times the author uses 'sent a cold chill'... as a reader I didn't quite agree with him.
Reading the book, you get a distinct impression that this is a Hollywood flick, or written with that in mind. I think a lot of books these days are written with that dual purpose print and movie - a combo deal....more money (for the author/publisher!). There was no effort to build suspense, the real killer/motive was pretty much apparent in the initial chapters itself. The book has loopholes, which you can overlook (or forced too), just like David Beck did when he accepted his wife's death for what it was. He preferred to grieve alone, and not be part of the courtroom drama, so perhaps he missed the crucial point that the supposed killer was not being tried for his wife's murder! Overlook....overlook...

The end of the book that is supposed to be a 'twist' leads to the popping of several questions - Beck's supposed guilt that was mentioned in the first chapter and revealed in the last chapter,  had a definite bearing on all the events that ensued. How could he have so blindly overlooked all of that and just assumed his wife's mysterious murder...

The writing was pretty bland, insipid and downright irritating in certain places. In the kindle edition at least, there was no clear demarcation between the paragraphs for Beck and for the other characters. That was a bit confusing and could have been dealt with in a better manner.
Overall its a thriller, which was good while the journey lasted, but after that it left no impressionable prints behind, or any motivation to pick up another Coben Harlan book.



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Malice


Story in brief: Osamu Nonoguchi (ex-teacher, author of children books) finds himself implicated in the murder of his childhood friend, best selling author, Kunihiko Hidaka. All suspects have alibis, and Kaga (ex-teacher, detective) finds himself being sucked into the vortex of the mystery of the motive behind the murder. Its a crafty murder, ingenious, convoluted - and Kaga gives it his all to nail down the reason for the murder.

***
The book has been translated from Japanese into English by Alexander Smith. The book has been written in the form of journal (like so many books of late) -  one by Osamu and the other by Kaga. The writing is insipid, boring, vanilla. Or maybe its poorly translated. It is hard to say for sure. There are a series of interviews in the end by witnesses and it was frustrating to read all those first person accounts which came across as forced and fake. I felt a little put-off not to mention confused (which I suppose was the whole idea of building up the mystery)


The mystery in itself is refreshing. Even though the murderer is arrested early on, the motive, as per the detective Kaga doesn't ring true. Essentially, the greater part of the book is the search for the motive, not the murderer. That is a different take from the regular run of the mill murder mysteries.


Overall, its an okayish book. Read or don't, it won't make much of a difference.