My grandmother sends her regards & apologises – Fredrik Backman – Book Review


GrandmotherRegards

Goodreads blurb: From the author of the internationally bestselling ‘A Man Called Ove’, a novel about a young girl whose grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters, sending her on a journey that brings to life the world of her grandmother’s fairy tales.

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy, standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

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Now with a name like that and a cover like that any book lover worth his salt will find it hard not to pick this book up and read it, and true to its unconventional name and interesting cover, the book lives up to the ‘unconventional’ tag that most people will attribute to it. In fact so much so that it runs the danger of not being read completely. The initial slowness and uniqueness of the narrative can and will probably overwhelm most readers, but trust me when I say this, stick with the book beyond the first 20 odd pages and you will be taken on what ends up being quite a lovely pleasant journey.

As the blurb states, an ‘almost’ eight year old girl’s life is completely overturned when her best friend, her grandmother passes away. Gone are the days when Elsa could come home, cry her heart out, talk her heart out, argue about seemingly trivial things with her grandmother. With her passing, Elsa’s grandmother takes away most of what seems good to Elsa about her short life so far. She is completely at a loss as to what to do next, how to live the rest of her life.

And it is in this context that the final ‘treasure hunt’ that her grandmother sets her upon assumes importance. This gives Elsa a ‘purpose to her life’, an overarching noble goal to strive for, a final chance to prove to her grandmother that she is indeed worthy of all the trust that her grandmother reposed in her. That being said, the treasure hunt puts Elsa in the path of all the tenants and residents of the apartment building that she has spent all her life.

In fact it tests little Elsa’s courage and fortitude to an extent that even the little one couldn’t have imagined. As the treasure hunt crosses stage after stage Elsa soon realizes that it is more of a discovery of her grandmother’s past and her grandmother’s personality. With each stage, Elsa learns more about her grandmother as a person, and as an individual completely unique and different from how she knew her. The rest of the narrative takes us readers along on this bittersweet journey of Elsa where she figures out a lot of her grandmother’s past which explains the personalities of all her neighbors and their stories.

At the end of the book, readers are left with what can only be described as an extremely ‘warm’ feeling in their hearts and a beatific smile on their faces. The impact that this little girl’s treasure hunt has on us readers is nothing short of magical and therein lies the charm of this uniquely unconventional paperback.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in return for an honest and unbiased review of the same.

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Patang – Bhaskar Chattopadhyay – Book Review


Patang

Goodreads blurb: ‘I hate the rain…I hate it, hate it, hate it. But the rain can’t stop me. No one can…I’ll go out and play tonight. I will kill only four. No more, no less. Just four.’

In the midst of one of the worst monsoons in Mumbai, a man is found brutally murdered, his body posed like a kite on the tallest cell tower in the city. As one corpse after another turns up in the unlikeliest of places, each gruesomely killed and carefully arranged in a grotesque manner, the Mumbai Police realize they have more on their hands than they can deal with.

Enter Chandrakant Rathod, a maverick investigator the police turn to in times of need, who plays by his own rules and lives for the thrill of the chase. Pitting his sharp instincts against the machinations of the sadistic, ruthless killer, the detective succeeds in nabbing the psychopath and putting him behind bars. Then, three months later, the killings begin again. A deadly game is afoot – a game that will challenge Rathod to the utmost, for it is a game that he cannot hope to win…

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Very few books have the ability to hook you right from page one, line one, word one and keep you hooked till that last page, last line and last word. And believe me when I say this Patang by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay is one surprising candidate for such a book. Given that I was sent a review copy of this book by the publishers without even asking for it, the only reason I picked it up and read it almost immediately was the cover design, the back blurb and the relatively smallish size of the book. And man, did it turn out to be quite an enjoyable experience or what!

While most well written crime thrillers and more so murder mysteries are always a joy to read, the happiness is doubled when the setting is local and the characters Indian as the ability to relate to the narrative is that much more when compared to books by Western authors. And when the book is as well thought out, scripted and narrated in a crisp, cut-throat, and breathless manner like the author has with this one, then the joy is more than quadrupled.

Trying to write murder mysteries involving serial killers is always tricky as the author has to walk a thin rope balancing the development of the character of the antagonist with relatively credible motives while making the narrative interesting enough for readers to thoroughly enjoy the book. And to his credit the author has balanced both these disparate ends very well coming up with a crackerjack of a first half. And as if the first half was not good enough, the second half takes us readers on a dizzying roller-coaster of a ride with the lovely cat and mouse chase between the protagonist and the antagonist.

And the ending, well, that portion, to me, took the cake and the entire pastry shop with it. I didn’t see it coming the way it did at all. Full credit to the author for having made it so shocking while being entirely believable and credible as well. For sure any homicide thriller lover worth his name should surely read and enjoy this book.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link]

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A review copy of this book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Journey under the Midnight Sun – Keigo Higashino – Book Review


JourneyUnderTheMidnightSunGoodreads blurb: When a man is found murdered in an abandoned building in Osaka in 1973, unflappable detective Sasagaki is assigned to the case. He begins to piece together the connection of two young people who are inextricably linked to the crime; the dark, taciturn son of the victim and the unexpectedly captivating daughter of the main suspect. Over the next twenty years we follow their lives as Sasagaki pursues the case – which remains unsolved – to the point of obsession.

Stark, intriguing and stylish, Journey Under the Midnight Sun is an epic mystery by the bestselling Japanese author.

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To be very honest the only reason I picked up this book to read and review was the fact that it was by the same author who had written The Devotion of Suspect X, a book which I am yet to get around to reading, but one based on which I saw a Malayalam movie Drishyam which I immensely enjoyed and found to be extremely well conceptualized. And man, did Journey under the Midnight Sun blow me away or what!!!

As the blurb reads, the book begins with the murder of a pawnbroker which is being investigated by detective Sasagaki from the homicide division of the police. And his investigation leads him to the house of the principal character Yukiho, an unusually captivating girl who seems endowed with maturity and wisdom way beyond her age. Further, Sasagaki is also introduced, albeit briefly with Ryo, the son of the pawnbroker himself as part of his investigations.

The narrative then follows the lives of Yukiho and Ryo over the course of the next two decades and it is using this overarching narrative arc that the author takes us readers on a joyride of a book. Following the decades where computers, the internet, and various other technological innovations are being introduced to Japan, the story tells us about Ryo and his various (mis)adventures operating strictly on the greyer side of prevailing rules and regulations. His trysts with software piracy and various other business ventures are as much a reflection of the seedier side of Japanese society and teenagers in the 80s and 90s as much as they move this particular novel along.

Yukiho’s narrative is more traditional and follows her life as she is adopted by an aunt and seems to come into her own under her aunt’s tutelage. Her blossoming into a beautiful, capable and a woman ‘wanted’ by any man who sets his eyes on her is far more interesting and intriguing. More so because she seems to possess an inalienable ‘aura’ around her. Her ability to captivate men and make them into her puppets seems almost magical and her ability to manipulate almost any and every situation to her advantage is almost unbelievable.

But over the course of these two decades Sasagaki keeps himself busy in trying to figure out the mystery of the unsolved murder of Ryo’s father, the pawnbroker. And the last portion of the book where Sasagaki seems to have cracked the case itself makes for some really interesting reading. It is in this portion that the author puts together the seemingly unconnected and unrelated pieces of the bigger jigsaw puzzle together. Does he manage to solve the mystery, what actually did happen to Ryo’s father forms the crux of the book itself.

Suffice to say that I have become a huge fan of Keigo Hagashino and am making a beeline to read the rest of his books sometime soon after reading this one. Despite its size which is almost double that of other books in its genre, this book truly remains worth the time and effort readers put into it. A truly thoroughly enjoyable read.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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The publishers offered a review copy of this book to me in return for an honest and unbiased review of the same.

Crimson City – Madhulika Liddle – Book Review


CrimsonCity

Goodreads blurb: A serial killer is terrorizing Dilli and Mughal nobleman and detective Muzaffar Jang might have finally met his match.

In the spring of 1657, the Mughal armies have reached the Deccan, besieging the Fort of Bidar. Back home in Dilli, there is unrest: the empire seethes and stirs, and its capital reflects this turbulence. Muzaffar Jang, newly married to his beloved Shireen and trying to adjust to life as a husband, stumbles into the investigation of a merchant’s murder. Even as another crime – the kidnapping of a wealthy moneylender’s infant son – occurs, Muzaffar finds himself at odds with his brother-in-law, Khan Sahib, the Kotwal of Dilli.

Things get increasingly puzzling as one murder follows another and, soon, it is clear that the streets of Dilli have a serial killer on the loose. Muzaffar, who soon finds himself at odds with the system as well as those closest to him, must follow his gut to unmask this audacious murderer, while trying to obey Khan Sahib’s warning: do not get in the way of the law. But has he finally bitten off more than he can chew?

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The first thing that strikes you about this book blurb is that it deals with a series of murders set in the Delhi of Mughal times, even before Aurangazeb, and the fact remains that while it remains to write a credible crime thriller set in contemporary times, the difficulty of writing a book in this genre set in a period of which the author has only ‘theoretical’ knowledge of makes it all the more interesting. And trust me when I say this, Crimson City by Madhulika Liddle does not disappoint either on the authenticity front (in that it is set in the Mughal period) or on the crime thriller front (in that it is an extremely competent book in this genre).

Although this is the fourth book in the Muzaffar Jang series, it can very easily be read as a standalone book like I did without readers missing out on any continuity of the characters etc. The author throws in more than quite a few subtle hints at the beginning of the book with regard to the main protagonist, Muzaffar Jang, his abilities, his reputation, his strength of intuition and perseverance to follow up on problems until he resolves them, etc. And the best part of it is that these hints are so subtly hidden in the narrative flow that they don’t quite come across as irritants and serve only to enhance the overall reader experience.

Muzaffar is newly married and is settling down into marital bliss quite well when he stumbles upon the murder of a cloth merchant. One thing leads to another and pretty soon he finds himself in the thick of the action as a series of murders occur in Delhi. Although he is asked to stay away from ‘official police work’ by his mentor and brother-in-law who happens to be the ‘Kotwal’ of Delhi, his inquisitive nature and a series of co-incidences manage to keep Muzaffar involved with these crime investigations.

Forming perfect foils to his inquisitive nature are his new wife Shireen who proves to be the best sounding board that Muzaffar could ever have akin to the role that Dr Watson plays in Sherlock Holmes mysteries, albeit strictly from the background unlike the good doctor. With each conversation they have about the murders, Muzaffar’s faith in his wife’s abilities, intuition and general good sense is proven right, so much so that she ends up playing a reasonably critically active role at the very end of the book. And Akram, Muzaffar’s old friend from earlier mysteries also ends up playing quite an active role in the proceedings as well.  All in all, Madhulika builds up the narrative with quite an interesting mix of characters, all of whom stand out on their own reasonably well.

In a nutshell, buy this book if you like well written period books, especially in the crime thriller genre.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for an honest and unbiased review of the same.

After The Crash – Michel Bussi – Book Review


AfterTheCrashGoodreads blurb: On the night of 22 December 1980, a plane crashes on the Franco-Swiss border and is engulfed in flames. 168 out of 169 passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie?

Eighteen years later, having failed to discover the truth, private detective Credule Grand-Duc plans to take his own life, but not before placing an account of his investigation in the girl’s hands. But, as he sits at his desk about to pull the trigger, he uncovers a secret that changes everything – then is killed before he can breathe a word of it to anyone…

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Now with a blurb like that this book promised to be quite the mystery thriller and while it doesn’t quite fall into the ‘edge-of-the-seat’ type of thriller, this book is more than quite a competently written mystery for sure. And what’s more it belongs to the European thriller genre of which I have quite recently become a reasonably big fan of.

The author uses the journal of Credule Grand Duc in which he tries to reconstruct his eighteen year old investigation into the crash and the mystery behind the sole survivor, Lylie (a smart polyphonic reconstruct of the two possibilities, Lyle-Rose and Emilie) and who her actual parents are. This method of storytelling, in my opinion, works quite well for this book as it spans more than quite a few years in its scope.

Marc Vitral, Emilie’s elder brother is given the Grand Duc’s journal by her on her eighteenth birthday with instructions that he read it only after she leaves the restaurant where they are meeting. This sets Marc on quite the journey, metaphorically where he follows the Grand Duc’s trail of investigation over the past decade and a half, and literally where he makes his way to the Carville residence to get some much needed answers. As if this weren’t enough, Malvina Carville, Lyse-Rose’s elder sister is on a journey of her own to get some answers from the Grand Duc and get him to justify her entire childhood which had been put out of gear due to the crash itself.

Who is the sole survivor of the crash? Lyse-Rose Carville or Emilie Vitral? Which family does she belong to? These are the questions that form the heart and soul of this well written book. And the answer eludes even somebody as competent and methodical as the Grand Duc until the very last moment when he has quite the epiphany.

Read this book if you want to go down on a journey of two disturbed families, two extremely disturbed ‘siblings’ of the sole survivor with completely different personalities, one crazy hard-nosed methodical investigator who is determined to do whatever it takes to get to the very heart of the mystery.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for an honest and unbiased review of the same.