Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Tragedy of Z- A Drury Lane Mystery by Ellery Queen

I picked this book for the London place name theme I am doing for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge hosted by Bev. This book does not take place in London but in New York but has a London place name in its title.

The story is narrated by Patience Thumm, daugther of ex-Inpsector Thumm of New York Police. Elihu Clay, a businessman, requests the Thumms to investigate his partner Dr. Ira Fawcett, brother of Senator Joel Fawcett for fraud. Patience and Thumm stay at Elihu Clay's place trying to investigate the Fawcetts. They end up investigating a murder-murder of Senator Fawcett. Senator Fawcett is found murdered in his home. Who murdered him and why? Aaron Dow newly released prisoner from County jail is suspected. Though Patience logically proves(?) that Dow could not have committed the murder, nobody listens to her and Dow is arrested for the murder. Drury Lane is a famous retired Shakespearean actor who also investigates cases. Drury doesn't actively get involved in the case until the end.

Thumms go to investigate something, when their investigation is stopped for some reason, why don't they come back home? How long will they stay in somebody's house doing nothing? Don't they have anything else to do? And what happened to their initial investigation?

Patience is very observant, logical and is good at deductive reasoning and proves her skills early on. It has all the elements of a great detective story, mysterious past, spies, mysterious stranger leaving the premises, footprint in the ash etc. There are some codes to solve. But you cannot solve the code. You need to wait for Drury to do it. I lost interest somewhere on the way. I hardly ever abandon a book and not losing interest is never the reason. So I burrowed away to dig up a diamond in the end.

The finale is interesting, everything is summed up nicely, Drury Lane sets up an electrifying scene, explains the whole thing in a logical way eliminating suspects and finally revealing the murderer. If not for anything, the climax alone makes this book worth reading. I did not guess the killer.

I do wish Patience Thumm had more to do. Despite her intelligence, observation skills and deductive reasoning, she just solves the minor things, leaving the major things for Drury Lane. There are some bits of humour but very very little, after all it is the Tragedy of Z.

The book was orginally published in 1933 under the pseudonym of Barnaby Ross. I borrowed it from the Open Library.

My post for Crime Fiction Alphabet letter T.

Merely Mystery Reading Challenge 2012 Complete

I signed up for the Shamus Who Has Seen It All level of the Merely Mystery Reading Challenge 2012 and committed to read 12 books in 12 categories. I read the following:

The Whodunit: The Vault by Ruth Rendell

Locked Room Mystery: The Big Bow Mystery by Israel Zangwill

Cozy: Amendment of Life by Catherine Aird

Hard-Boiled/Noir: V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton

The Inverted Detective Story: U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton

The Historical Whodunnit: The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

The Police Procedural: Water-Blue Eyes by Domingo Villar

The Professional Thriller: The Retribution by Val McDermid

The Spy Novel: Shroud of Darkness by E C R Lorac

Caper Stories: Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

The Psychological Suspense: The Burning court by John Dickson Carr

Spoofs and Parodies: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Imagine somebody could enter your favourite book and change the story or worse kill your favourite character? Acheron Hades, a master criminal, is going to do just that in an alternative universe in 1985. It is not any book-but the one and only Jane Eyre. Will Thursday Next, literatec detective, stop Hades. Will she save Jane Eyre?

Thursday Next, a literary detective, is recruited by SpecOps to find Hades. Next is the only person for the job. Hades has stolen the manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and killed a minor character in the story, who has disappeared from the pages of all books. This is just the preliminary. He is going to do worse-kidnap Jane Eyre. Will Thursday Next stop him and save Jane Eyre?

There were some laugh out loud humour like the reference to Millon De Floss. The discussion about who really Shakespeare is, who wrote his works is interesting. I like the time travel bit. The kidnap of Jane Eyre does not happen until the last third of the book. P G Wodehouse and black humour sits well with me when compared to this kind of humour. There were some really nice moments reminding me of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Fforde does play a master stroke in the end. But that's just it. Good though it was, it was a slow read for me. I just have a feeling that if there is a movie based on this book, I would enjoy it more.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Friday Memes

This week I am posting from The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill
Friday Book Beginnings is a weekly meme where we share the opening line of our current read. Book Beginnings is hosted by the Rose City Reader.

Rain, rain all day, all evening, all night, pouring autumn rain.

Friday 56 hosted @ Freda's Voice is a weekly Meme where we share an interesting snippet from page 56 of our current book.

The guard's whistle blew as the door slammed shut and I found myself alone with a striking-looking woman who was surrounded by suitcases, bags and hat-boxes and sitting with a very upright posture in the opposite seat.

The Scarlet Letters by Ellery Queen

It is ordered that Miss Batcheller for her adultery shall be branded with the Letter A.
- Unknown, Records of Maine Province (1651)

It was around this law that Nathaniel Hawthorne wove the story of The Scarlet Letter

No, I am not going to write about Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. This is about The Scarlet Letters by Ellery Queen published in 1953.

Dirk and Martha Lawrence are considered one of the happiest couples in New York. Of late, there seems a shadow over their happiness. There are times when Dirk lost his temper in public over no reason and Martha looked like a "dull pigeon". Martha is Nikki 's friend and Nikki, Ellery's Girl Friday. Did I say written by Ellery Queen featuring Ellery Queen the Mystery writer and amateur detective?

Dirk is also a Crime Fiction writer only of the darker sort. With his failing career, Dirk's moods become darker. He is convinced that Martha is having an affair. Martha is a nice girl, not the kind of girl you would expect to do something like that. Martha approaches Ellery to help her in anyway possible.

A good secretary can save a writer's career! I am not saying this, Ellery is! Ellery decides to lend Nikki not only to save his writing career but keep him sane and save Martha. Nikki notes that Martha is indeed seeing somebody. She gets Letters written in Scarlet with the day, time and .....a letter of the alphabet every week. ( like our crime fiction alphabet)

Thursday, 4 P.M., A

Will Ellery find out what code they are using? What is Martha doing? Why not divorce Dirk? Knowing Dirk, how can she meet somebody on the sly, hoping to get away with it. How long will Ellery and Nikki play the guardians? Can they make Martha see reason before Dirk becomes murderous?

This is the second Ellery Queen book I am reading. The first one I read was The Tragedy of Z, a Drury Lane mystery, it was disappointing except for the final denouement. This book had me glued to the screen(ereader), despite the murder not taking place until the end. I was wondering what was Martha up to? More than that, how long can  somebody interfere in other's lives? What are Nikki and Ellery up to? There was a sense of something going to happen. You kind of know what is going to happen. There is an interesting mystery at the end that Ellery solves. I can't say much without spoiling it to you. Some of it is probably a bit far fetched nevertheless an enjoyable mystery.

I borrowed the book from Open library.

My post for Crime Fiction Alphabet S and Colour coded challenge.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Fall into Reading 2012

I am participating in the Fall into Reading 2012 challenge from September 22-December 21 hosted by Katrina at callapidder days
I saw Bev @ My Reader's Block doing it. I have a list of books to finish too, some for challenges I am participating this year and I have to return the books I borrowed from the library. So here is my list ! Challenge Complete (21/12/12)
A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine (27/10/2012)
Bloodline by James Rollins (30/9/2012)
The mist in the mirror by Susan Hill-(4/10/2012)
The man in the picture by Susan Hill- (1/10/2012)
The little stranger by Sarah Waters (17/10/2012)
The Caller by Karin Fossum (5/10/2012)
The lock artist by Steve Hamilton(17/11/2012)
The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (4/12/2012)
The long song by Andrea Levy(21/12/12)
Whited Sepulchres by Anne Perry(13/10/2012)
False Pretences by Margret Yorke (8/11/2012)
Service of all the Dead by Colin Dexter(22/10/2012)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Phantom by Jo Nesbo

Harry Hole is back in Oslo, not on the request of the Oslo Crime Squad like last time, but on his own. He is back because Olegg is arrested for the death of his friend and drug user, Gusto. Olegg is Rakel's son, and Rakel, Harry's one and only true love. Olegg is reluctant to meet or speak to Harry, after all, Harry seems to have deserted them after the Snowman debacle.

Part of the story is narrated by the dead Gusto, the thief, which tells the story of the degeneration of an ambitious boy into a junkie- we get to know why junkies are called Junkies. I wonder if it all boil downs to bad blood. The voice of the dead gives details that otherwise would not have been possible. Gusto keeps referring to his absent dad. And the absent Dads figure a huge part in Gusto's and Olegg's life.

The other part of the story is Harry's investigation into Gusto's death. After tackling serial killers in Leopard, Harry's investigation takes him into the drug scene in Oslo in this book. Mikael Bellman, formerly of Kripos, now of Orgkrim is credited with cleaning the streets of Oslo of drugs. But

"You upset a food chain and you don't know if all you've done is make way for something else. "

There is a new synthetic drug called Violin more powerful than other drugs. There is a new supplier and a new distributor for this drug. A Phantom fleeting by controlling the drug scene whom nobody has seen, and nobody knows-known only by the name Dubai. Somebody wants to kill Harry and stop the investigation. Will Harry find out who killed Gusto? What happened to Irene, Gusto's foster sister? Who is Dubai? Who is the burner in the Police? Who is creating the new synthethic drug Violin? Will Harry save Olegg?

There are layers and layers of mystery. You solve one there are a few more to be solved. You cannot complain there are not many clues, on the contrary, way too many clues. Nesbo gives us a catalogue of torture methods- Man on the Moon, Beetle to name a few. There is lots of violence and some macabre. I didn't expect the end. I am enjoying these multi-layered mysteries.

Some quotes:

The art of dealing with ghosts is to dare to look at them long and hard until you know this what they are. Ghosts. Lifeless, powerless ghosts.

'But perhaps that's why we take snaps,' Harry continued. 'To provide false evidence to underpin the false claim that we are happy'

Sunday, 16 September 2012

R is for Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell is one of my favourite writers. If Agatha Christie is the Queen of Plots, Ruth Rendell is the Queen of characterisation for me. I am fascinated by her characters. Ruth Rendell books deal with real crimes in the real society. She has constantly dealt with the issues of racism, immigration, mental illness, domestic violence, obsessions, the problem of isolation and loneliness in modern society. I love reading Rendell because of her writing style, her characters, plot, her observations about society, and most of all she never fails to surprise me. There is always the twist in the end. Ruth Rendell along with P D James is credited with creating whydunit.

Rendell writes police procedurals featuring Inspector Reginald Wexford and his assistant Mike Burden. I like the contrast between Wexford and Burden. While Wexford is older, open minded, and liberal in his views, Burden is younger, closed and conservative in his views. You can easily shock Burden. Wexford is sensitive and ponders a lot about everything. Somehow, I like Burden more than Wexford. Inspector Wexford series mostly takes place in fictional town of Kingsmarkham. More recently I find Hannah Goldsmith interesting. Atheist feminist anti-racist Hannah Goldsmith has a difficult time trying to balance between her different -isms. She should be irritating, annoying trying to be politically correct, balancing her different ideologies, but it is interesting to see her deal with her issues.

Ruth Rendell also writes standalone thrillers. In many Ruth Rendell standalone there are just one or two main characters. She sets the scene, introduces her characters and we know what is going to happen is inevitable but not predictable. I like her London based books. I wonder if Ruth Rendell lived near Hampstead. So many of her books feature the protoganist taking a walk in Hampstead. Ruth Rendell also writes more darker psychological thrillers under the pen-name Barbara Vine.

I like the title of her books- A Sight for sore eyes, An Unkindness of Ravens, A Guilty thing surprised, Some lie and Some die, No more dying then, Harm Done, A new lease of death- to name a few.

I read four Rendell/Vine books this year.

The Vault by Ruth Rendell Retired Inspector Wexford

The Monster in the Box by Ruth Rendell Inspector Wexford

The Saint Zita Society by Ruth Rendell standalone

Asta's Book by Barbara Vine

Here is the complete list of books from Wikipedia should I say I read most of them.

To Fear a Painted Devil (1965)
Vanity Dies Hard (1965)
The Secret House of Death (1968)
One Across, Two Down (1971)
The Face of Trespass (1974)
A Demon in My View (1976)
A Judgement in Stone (1977)
Make Death Love Me (1979)
The Lake of Darkness (1980)
Master of the Moor (1982)
The Killing Doll (1984)
The Tree of Hands (1984)
Live Flesh (1986)
Talking to Strange Men (1987)
The Bridesmaid (1989)
Going Wrong (1990)
The Crocodile Bird (1993)
The Keys to the Street (1996)
A Sight for Sore Eyes (1998)
Adam and Eve and Pinch Me (2001)
The Rottweiler (2003)
Thirteen Steps Down (2004)
The Water's Lovely (2006)
Portobello (2008)
Tigerlily's Orchids (2010)
The St Zita Society (2012)

Inspector Wexford series
From Doon with Death (1964)
A New Lease of Death (1967)
Wolf to the Slaughter (1967)
The Best Man to Die (1969)
A Guilty Thing Surprised (1970)
No More Dying Then (1971)
Murder Being Once Done (1972)
Some Lie and Some Die (1973)
Shake Hands Forever (1975)
A Sleeping Life (1979)
Put on by Cunning (1981)
The Speaker of Mandarin (1983)
An Unkindness of Ravens (1985)
The Veiled One (1988)
Kissing the Gunner's Daughter (1991)
Simisola (1994)
Road Rage (1997)
Harm Done (1999)
The Babes in the Wood (2002)
End in Tears (2005)
Not in the Flesh (2007)
The Monster in the Box (2009)
The Vault (2011)

Written as Barbara Vine
A Dark-Adapted Eye (1986)
A Fatal Inversion (1987)
The House of Stairs (1988)
Gallowglass (1990)
King Solomon's Carpet (1991)
Asta's Book (1993)
No Night Is Too Long (1994)
The Brimstone Wedding (1995)
The Chimney-sweeper's Boy (1998)
Grasshopper (2000)
The Blood Doctor (2002)
The Minotaur (2005)
The Birthday Present (2008)
The Child's Child (2012)

My post for Crime Fiction Alphabet R.

Caravan of Thieves by David Rich

"My father didn't teach me much except how to lie, cheat, and steal, and then lie, lie, lie some more."

Do you think this skill will come in handy to Roland Waters as an undercover Marine in Afghanistan and now as a man in search of a huge treasure? Dan Waters, the con artist, lived by the philosophy that he never had anything he didn't steal. He had successfully stolen a body bag with 25 million dollars from the last days of Saddam's Iraq from McColl and his gang. Back home from Afghanistan, Colonel Gladden wants Rollie to look for his father Dan and the body bag. Treasury man Steve Shaw, and Gladden's men accompany Rollie on his search. Soon McColl and his men follow. There is a caravan of thieves looking for the treasure one trying to outsmart another much like the Caravan of thieves in Afghanistan- everyone suspecting everyone.

Will Rollie find his dad and the treasure? What happened in Afghanistan? Rollie narrates the story alternating between what happened in Afghanistan and his present treasure hunt. Will Rollie outwit the caravan of thieves? Who is behind McColl and his gang?

There are some points to ponder, some pearls of wisdom and some really funny stuff. After a point, I was wondering why Rollie is doing what he is doing, revenge does not feel like enough motivation. But Rollie has an answer!

"I don't know why any of us, including me, did what they did."

It is not like the usual crime fiction I read. Nevertheless, a funny adventure and treasure hunt.

DISCLAIMER: I received an ebook ARC copy from the publisher for review. I was not compensated for my opinion or this post.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Friday Memes

This week I am posting from Perfect People by Peter James.
Friday Book Beginnings is a weekly meme where we share the opening line of our current read. Book Beginnings is hosted by the Rose City Reader.

Late on an April afternoon, thirty nautical miles east of Cape Cod, a wind-blown young couple with luggage and worried faces are standing on the helicopter deck of a converted cruise liner, gripping the handrail.

Friday 56 hosted @ Freda's Voice is a weekly Meme where we share an interesting snippet from page 56 of our current book.

Sometimes I have the sense he is contemptuous of ordinary human emotions. That he feels we should be above these and on some higher plane.
That he has some kind of hidden agenda.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A Case to Answer by Margret Yorke

How do you feel, when you start reading a book and you realise that you have found your next favourite author? So much so even before you finish the book you want to go hunting for all the books by the author. And how do you feel after such promise the book doesn't live upto the expectations.

Let me make it clear, there is nothing as such wrong with the book. I bought the book from library crime book sale and expect the book to be a crime fiction, a murder mystery. The book's cover said Winner of the 1999 CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger, I would expect the book to be a mystery, wouldn't I? For all I know Margrer Yorke is a crime fiction writer.

A Case to Answer published in 2001 had all the elements I enjoy in a book. I liked the story telling. I was completely drawn into the book. I was involved with the characters. Many aspects reminded me of my favourite writer, Ruth Rendell. The Characters and situations that got me engrossed in the book. Newly widowed displaced woman who feels invisible, a teenage girl feeling unwanted unloved looking for some love, a boy who had a wrong start in life and is hoping to make the right turn, selfish step children, parents who don't want to take responsibility of their children. A handsome brother and a not so good-looking sister, a teen who wants to know if she was created in a test tube and crying for attention, who can go to any lengths to get the attention. All the elements of a perfect crime read. A writing style that gripped me, and compelled me to keep reading.

Charlotte Frost, newly widowed, displaced from a large family home to a small house in a new town by her step children is having difficulty in restarting her life. When her late husband's teenage grand-daughter Imogen is pregnant, her step children burden her with the responsibility of looking after her. Imogen gets friendly with Jerry, who decides to turn a new leaf after a brief stint in crime. And then Charlotte dies in an accident and Imogen is suspected. Imogen doesn't want to reveal her alibi. When she is not ready to help herself, who will prove her innocence?

There is no mystery. A murder and some dark motives would have hit the spot for me. The last few pages were really a chore to finish and I was hoping something would turn up, somebody with a sinister past, something that would make this an interesting mystery. Nothing. I would definitely read another Yorke but not very soon.

Monday, 10 September 2012

A Question of Belief by Donna Leon

In Summer, when all the world heads to the Venice, what do you think the Venetians do? They move to cooler mountains to beat the heat. Commissario Guido Brunetti of Venice is looking forward to his summer holiday to the cooler mountains with his family to escape the heatwave and tourist onslaught. He has even boarded the train and almost near his destination. Do you think crime is going to take a break too as Brunetti hopes? No such luck. Even before he reaches his destination, he is back investigating a murder.

A court clerk Fontana was found murdered. Brunetti hears rumours about delays in court cases which may have been due to Fontana. Was Fontana corrupt? Was he killed because of his dealings in the court? Or is there more to his murder?

Vianello, Brunetti's assistant, approaches Brunetti with his family trouble. Vianello's elderly aunt, the brains behind a successful business and a very level headed woman seems to have lost her rational behaviour. She is spending her hard earned money on a fortune teller. Can Brunetti and Vianello find out what is happening and stop this? What made the level headed rational woman part with her hard earned money?

The Fontana mystery is quite straightforward and one can guess what really has happened and Brunetti solves because he sees somebody in the funeral. But the case of the soothsayer is a surprise, I didn't guess it but the case solves itself. As usual I took a plunge into middle of a series. I do like putting up the bits like a jigsaw puzzle. This is the 19th book featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti published in 2010. An interesting mystery giving glimpses into corruption in most sacred places (read Justice) in Venice and how ingenious Con Artists have become.

Oh! I do understand that Summer may not be a good time to visit Venice.

I picked it from the library for the European Reading Challenge and this is my post for Crime Fiction Alphabet Q.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Behold here's Poison by Georgette Heyer

Earlier this year I read Georgette Heyer's Venetia. Considering that I don't like romances (read love stories), I really enjoyed Venetia. One of the reasons was Venetia itself and the other was the surprises. I wanted to try one of Heyer's mysteries and picked up Behold here's Poison published in 1936 from the library.

When Gregory Mathews is found dead one morning, his family is sure that it is the roasted duck that caused his heart attack. The friendly doctor Dr.Fielding, engaged to be married to Gregory Mathews' niece, has no suspicion and is ready to sign the death certificate. But dear Gertrude, Gregory's sister, feels there is more to his death than a roasted duck and asks for a postmortem much to the discomfort of the family. Is it a surprise that Mathews was poisoned and the roasted duck is not the culprit? He died of Nicotine poisoning. Ever heard of anybody being killed of Nicotine poisoning? Yes, Nicotine kills not just slowly but on a overdose very quickly. This is the second book in months that I read that features Nicotine poisoning. I don't remember the other book so Nicotine poisoning is not a surprise to me. It looks like Nicotine was not ingested so how was it adminstered? Is the police bothered? Superintendent Hannasyde and Sergeant Hemingway conduct the invesigation. They go on a chase of an elusive person who was depositing money in Gregory's account every month.

The pool of suspects is very small. The bickerings between the sisters-in-law is interesting and the way they make fool of themselves is comical. Randall is an interesting character. Do people like Randall really exist? Some of things that follow the first death is predictable and the final reveal is no surprise. I did guess the killer there were good many clues. I found the story interesting mainly because of Randall, with his sharp foul tongue and the way he rattles everybody. 'I may be a vile beast, but at least I am not a bore.' Randall reminds me of Oscar Wilde's characters with their ready wit and sharp tongue. Not a great mystery but a witty one.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Stretford Subway Art-II

I am posting this for the Saturday Snapshot meme hosted by Alyce at At Home with Books.

Some more Stretford Subway Art! The Girl with a Balloon is imitation of famous Banksy Street painting in London.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Friday Memes

This week I am posting from Phantom by Jo Nesbo
Friday Book Beginnings is a weekly meme where we share the opening line of our current read. Book Beginnings is hosted by the Rose City Reader.

The squeals were calling her. Like acoustic spears they pierced all the other noises of the night in the Oslo city centre: the regular drone of cars outside the window, the distant siren that rose and fell, and the church bells that had begun to chime nearby.

Friday 56 hosted @ Freda's Voice is a weekly Meme where we share an interesting snippet from page 56 of our current book.

Beate didn't answer. She didn't need to. Harry knew she knew what he was doing, grasping at straws.

Orange Berry


I don't know what these berries are. But I find them in abundance near my home.

Asta's Book by Barbara Vine

Asta's Book by Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine is published in 1993 and tells the tale of a woman in search of identity, murder that happened eight decades ago and the quest for a lost child.

Asta moves to London from Denmark in 1905 with her family. Asta's husband Rasmus is away in Denmark to finish of some pending business. Asta lives with her two sons and servant Hansine and is pregnant. She wants a girl this time. Asta takes to writing her dairy regularly. She gives birth to a girl, Swanny. After Asta's death, nearly seventy years later, her diaries are published with great success.

Swanny, Asta's favourite daughter receives an anonymous letter, about her parentage. Who is Swanny? Is she adopted? Who are her real parents?

Asta makes a mention about Mrs. Roper in her dairy, who was brutally murdered in 1905. What did Asta know about the murder if she did know anything about it? Roper's 14 month old daughter Edith Roper had been missing from the day of murder. Was she murdered too? Was she kidnapped? What happened to her?

Asta's granddaughter Ann along with her friends are on a quest to find out who Swanny is and who killed Mrs. Roper.

I was almost disappointed at the reveal. It was something I worked it out. I love reading Vine/ Rendell because of her characters, plot, her observations about society, and most of all she never fails to surprise me. So if I have worked out the mystery it means Vine has failed to surprise me. Wait! I wasn't disappointed. She probably knows how my mind works and comes with a conclusion and then surprises me again.

Part of the story is Asta's Diary, part of it is narrated by Asta's granddaughter Ann and part of it consists of documents of the Roper trial.

The second chapter was confusing, I wonder whose funeral it is. Who is narrating the story and who are all these people. But that is also part of the mystery story telling Rendell/Vine adapts and slowly I got absorbed in the story.

We are familiar with stories of teens looking for their identity, in quest of who their real parents are. We have a twist here, Swanny is 58 years old when she receives the anonymous letter. How do you think a 58 year old would behave under such circumstance? Isn't it enough to be the favourite child of your mother and to have a loving devoted husband? Swanny is obsessed and keeps pestering 83 year old Asta for information. Asta is a real character, her anecdotes and the way she teases everybody is interesting. Roper case is interesting. Will Ann find out whodunit after nearly eighty years? Why didn't the police look at the obvious?Only it is not so obvious.

I have read The Grasshopper,The Birthday Present, No Night is too long, Fatal Inversion, The House of Stairs and Minotaur by Barabara Vine. To me this is one of Barbara Vine's best.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I picked up the Book Thief for the Getting lost into a Comfortable Read Challenge. I vaguely knew that the book was about Nazi Germany. I wanted to understand why a book about Nazi Germany could be a comfortable read for somebody. I am glad that I read it and now understand why it is a comfortable read for somebody. Amidst war, human suffering, death and chaos there is innocence, small joys and hope. It is about how books can save somebody's life, even literally.

We have read and seen about untold sufferings of Jews in Nazi Germany. What is the life of the common German citizen one who did not join the party because it is against his conscience? What is the life of a citizen who supports the Nazi party? How did common people live in Nazi Germany? What happened to communists? What did the German children do?

The book thief is about Liesel Meminger, a girl born to communist father who is sent to a foster home. On the way, her younger brother dies. She takes The Grave Digger's Handbook from her brothers funeral, thus starting her career as book thief. She finds the foster home a place of love and care. She finds refuge from her nightly terrors in the loving arms of her foster father, Hans Hubermann and the books he reads to her. Rosa Hubermann is the women with a sharp tongue but with a heart of gold. Liesel makes friends with Rudy Steiner, a neighbourhood boy. She forms a special bond with Max Vandenburg, a jewish fist-fighter who finds refuge in Hubermann's basement.

I found the headlines like chapter headings distracting, I was tempted to just read them and skip the chapter. The chapters are really really short. The story is narrated by Death and I liked this unusual narrator. But isn't he omniscient? There were way too many cuss words.

Death kinds of builds up suspense, pointing out the end is near. He keeps pointing out consequences to action because he did this he is going to face something horrible. Everybody dies and death is horrible. But sometimes it could be worse as Death itself points out. Given the subject and the number of pages (584) it could have been heavy reading. But it isn't, at least, for me. The games the children play, how Liesel and Rudy take to stealing, the library in the mayors house all this, Liesel's small joys, hopes and pains and the relationships she forges with people and more distract you from bigger horrible things happening very near their abode.

An interesting perspective into the lives of Germans during World War Two.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason

A Murder mystery based in Reykjavik, Iceland, sounded interesting to me, so I picked it up from the library.

The story starts with Maria's mother's funeral and Maria's suicide two years later at her holiday home. Maria never recovered from her mother's death. She was depressed and was constantly contemplating on death and life after death. Her suicide seemed inevitable. But her friend Karen believes there is more to her suicide and urges detective Erlendur to investigate. It is the recording of Maria's seance that makes Erlendur to start an unofficial investigation. The death of Maria's father in her childhood, looms in the background. Was it an accident or murder? And was Maria involved in his death? Is this the main reason for Maria's obsession with death and afterlife? Erlendur's investigation takes him to probe the past, about experiments in after life. Indridason also explores these topics -is their life after death?

There are two narratives, one of Erlendur's investigation and the other on what led to Maria's death. We do know quite early on 'who'. But how and why are the questions? Some of it is quite chilling. Indridason plays with our fear for dark and shadows.

Erlendur is also investigating the case of disappearance of two young people thirty years ago. Erlendur seems to be at leisure to investigate these disappearances and suicide, no work pressure. He also has to come to terms with his experience and loss in a blizzard as a young boy. There is his personal story of his long estrangement with his wife and its impact on his grown up children. Will there be a friendly reunion? Will they at least forget the past and meet on friendly terms?

I found the story interesting but the ending repetitive. We already have the story of what happened to Maria side by side of Erlendur's investigation. Why was the need to sum it up again? Erlenur does seem naive in the end. A Chilling Mystery! I am planning to read other books by Arnaldur Indridason.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Postman Always rings twice by James M. Cain

After reading Double Indemnity earlier this year, I wanted to read The Postman Always rings twice by James M. Cain published in 1934 considered a Noir Classic. I always wondered what Noir meant. Wikipedia tells me that Noir is the story where the preparator of the crime narrates the story.

The story is narrated by Frank Chambers, a drifter, somebody without any goal or destination. He meets Cora in a run down roadside joint in California. There is instant attraction between them. There are not many descriptions. Frank comes straight to the point without playing with words. He calls her a hellcat. She wants to be free of her Greek husband whom she married because she had no choice. Now she wants to kill him as she has a new choice. They don't mull over to think what is right or wrong. They have no moral rudder. No emotions are involved in their decision, they are quite matter of fact in their approach. They decide to kill Cora's husband Papadakis. They come with an idea and execute their plan. Will Cora and Frank be successful in their attempt?

She wants to stay, he wants to run and the story flows from their character. A real big cat also makes an appearance. The trick the lawyer plays is ingenious. At 116 pages it is an explosive fast read which I read in a couple of hours. The plot of double Idemnity is narrated in a paragraph about insurance in this story.

I am always interested in the why. Why someone did a crime? That's why I like Ruth Rendell's book, they are called the 'whydunits'. When the preprator narrates the story, you would know why, wouldn't you? Or would you? Oh! And it is all so real. Is this how real people go about commiting crime, thoughtless and bumbling!

I read somewhere that The Postman Always Rings Twice inspired Albert Camus to write The Stranger. I didn't know about it until I finished the book, I didn't see the similarities between Mersault and Frank Chambers while reading. Now I do see. They are so matter of fact without any emotions- Existential is the word, isn't it?

I haven't seen the movie, would love to watch it. My post for Crime Fiction Alphabet P.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Stretford Subway Art


I saw Bev @ Reader's Block participating in Orange You Glad It's Friday. This photo meme is sponsored by Hood Photo Blog where we share a photo with as little or as much orange.

This is my post for Saturday Snapshot and Orange You Glad It's Friday.

Stretford Subway Art

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month August 2012

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month August 2012

I read the following crime fiction in August 2012.
When Red is Black by Qiu Xiaolong
Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason
The Postman Always rings twice by James M. Cain
The Great Impersonation by E Philips Oppenheim

And the Crime Fiction Pick of the Month is

The Postman Always rings twice by James M. Cain

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII

I am participating in R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII

The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as:

Dark Fantasy.
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

There are two simple goals for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII

1. Have fun reading.
2. Share that fun with others.

Peril the First:

I am aiming for Peril the First. I am planning to read mostly thrillers or mysteries.

Asta's Book by Barbara Vine
The Phantom by Jo Nesbo
Perfect People by Peter James
Che Committed Suicide by Petros Markaris

I may join the group read depending on the availability of the book in library.