Friday, 3 December 2021

Palm beach murders by James Patterson - 3 in 1

"Palm beach murders" by James Patterson - 3 in 1!
This book is published by Grand central publishing in 2021 and had 384 pages. 

This book is a collection of three thrillers. 

Let's play make believe. 
Christie Moore, a beautiful lady undergoing divorce, meets Warren Hawking, also a divorcee and an architect, and they hit off. Warren executes crazy stuff for fun like Dine-n-Dash, Pharmaceutically induced orgie, Trespassing, Thievery etc.

How far will he go? Will Christie be in trouble? Who is murdered?

Tim McGhee is an ex marine and now senior ad agency executive. He is loved by all and is about to hop jobs. Then there is a murder at his ad agency. Then there are two more.

Who is murdered? Are the murders connected? Who is the murderer?

Matthew Quinn assembles his team (Stingrays) of Jenna (an actress), Kate (ex army), Theo (an ex grifter) and Otto to investigate disappearance of beautiful and lovely Page Rairson and either find her or her body. There are many suspects; a trust fund kid, a captain of a yacht, a life guard, victim's twin friends and a cop.

Who engages Stingrays? Is Page dead? Can the Stingrays solve the case?

First story is interesting and has surprise element. Second story is very predictable. It was so predictable that I was hoping against hope that I would get a surprise. It never came. Third story has a mild surprise at the end. 

First two stories are narrated in first person singular. Third story is narrated in first person singular when it comes to the team. Only Matthew's portion is delivered in third person. 

Since this book had three distinct stories, each story can be read with interval in between. The stories are ok, you don't dislike them. 

Why did I read this book? It was available.
What did I like? First story.
What I didn't like? Second story.

Ok to read while travelling. 

Thursday, 2 December 2021

Escape to nowhere by Amar Bhushan

"Escape to nowhere" by Amar Bhushan - Uninteresting spy thriller!
This book is published by Konark Publishers Pvt. Ltd. in 2019 and has 336 pages. This book is being made into a Netflix movie. 

Ravi Mohan, an intelligence officer and senior analyst of Agency (read RAW), comes under suspicion for espionage. He invites officers not belonging to his division, talks to them on matters not related to him, fishing for information and takes them to expensive restaurants. Jeevanathan, Security Head of Agency, assigns the surveillance to KM Kamat, head of CEU. An elaborate surveillance is mounted but ....

Can they establish that Ravi is a traitor? Can they find Ravi's handler? Can they apprehend Ravi?

As is the case for any intelligence operation, or any operation for that matter, a lot of time is spent doing mundane things. Here author has avoided dramatization or making things spicy. Thus the story becomes very slow,  even less interesting and sounds like a report. It doesn't generate interest, doesn't excite you and at the end doesn't give you the satisfaction of accomplishment. 

How come so many persons not related to his assigned desk brief Ravi Mohan about sensitive matters? This guy regularly sleeps in office during office hours, spends a lot of time chatting with people not directly related to his work. It appears that RAW operates like any other government organization and lacks professionalism. A supposedly master spy agency works like a bureaucratic organization. 

It's said that this novel is loosely based on 2004 scandal involving RAW joint secretary Rabinder Singh. So it's possible to identify some real life characters based on their position, with Google's help. 

The chapters are, rather unimaginably, titled Day1, Day2 etc.. The story happens in about 3 months.

I started to read this book after reading a news report that Vishal Bharadwaj will be directing a Netflix film based on this book starring Tabu. After Redding the book, I wonder what role Tabu will play? There is no strong female character in the book!

Why did I read this book? It's being made into Netflix film. 
What I didn't like? Lack of thrill. 
What did I like? Peek into working of RAW. 

Not a must read. 

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Accidental fiancée by Zeenat Mahal

"The accidental fiancée" by Zeenat Mahal - Pakistani story!
This book was published by Indiareads incorporated in 2015. This book is a single short story. 

Akbar Rasul (bad boy) and Khayyam Zafar (firebrand feminist and socialist) were arch nemesis in architecture college. Years later their families arrange their marriage. Khayyam requests Akbar to scrap the engagement. Akbar won't let go the opportunity of lifetime to humiliate her. 

Why does Khayyam accept engagement with Akbar? Why does Akbar call her KK? Who has extinguished fire in Khayyam? How long will the engagement last?

Author develops the lead characters in a very short span. The story becomes instantly interesting. The tussle between the two is palpable. Akbar does what Akbar is expected to do. But why does Khayyam behave contrary to her personality?

The story reaches peak and then abruptly it ends. This sudden death is baffling. It wouldn't have mattered if author had used couple of pages more for smooth landing, but she chooses crash landing. Had this landing been a shock, it would have served its purpose. But it ends very predictably. It leaves a taste of dissatisfaction. 

Faiqa Mansab (Pseudonym Zeenat Mahal) is a Pakistani author from Lahore. She looks promising. Won't mind reading more of her works. 

Why did I read this book? Pakistani author, Indian publisher. 
What I didn't like? Predictability. Sudden death. 
What did I like? Lead characters. 

Recommend as a quick read. 


Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Cold springs by Rick Riordan

"Cold springs" by Rick Riordan - Ambling along!
This book is published by Bantam in 2004 and has 416 pages. 

Catherine, daughter of Chadwick, a school teacher, & Norma dies of drug overdose. Mallory, 5 year old daughter of John and Anne Zedman, was with her at that time. Time leap. Both marriages fall apart. Mallory starts using drugs and befriends Race Montrose, younger brother of Samuel who supplied drugs to Catherine years ago. Anne decides to enroll Mallory to Cold Springs. A dead man comes to life. 

Who killed Thalia? Who is blackmailing John?  Why did the marriages fail? What happened to the millions? What is Cold Springs? Who is behind all this?

The story has interesting characters. Chadwick, 6'8" gentle giant. Norma, his beautiful wife. Anne, childhood friend of Chadwick and Principal of school. John, her businessman husband. Perez, bodyguard and man Friday of John. Mallory, a drug addict frightened teenager. Race, a brilliant black boy whose family has a criminal history. Samuel, his elder brother. Hunter, head of Cold Springs and a man driven by his ambition of reforming kids. 

Concept of Cold Springs is interesting. A school that takes in spoilt, messed up, drug addict rich kids and breaks their ego, teaches them survival skills, discipline, accepting orders and reforms them, makes them fit to go back to the society. 

Rick's writing style is completely different as compared to humorous style of his more famous books based on various mythologies. The narration here is dark and atmosphere is mostly gloomy. There are no real happy moments or light moments. It's a slow burn.

That is the draw back of the story. Slow burn should not slow down. The story slows down considerably on multiple occasions. I was reading this book for a very long time.  Relationship between Chadwick and Anne is strange. 

Identity of the perpetrator is concealed very well. All my attempts with imagination failed to identify, until author zeroed on the real one. 

End of the book is stretched to the limit of reader's patience. It goes on and on. Readers start thinking if it's going to end at all. Title has nothing to do with the story. 

Why did I read this book? Author
What I didn't like? Pace of story. 
What did I like? Successful concealment of identity. 

Not a must read. 

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Rising Sea by Clive Cussler a Graham Brown

"The Rising Sea" by Clive Cussler a Graham Brown  - The thrill ride continues!
This book is published by Penguin in 2019 and has 464 pages. This is Book 15 of 'The NUMA files'.

There is an unprecedented rise in sea levels in last 6 months. NUMA investigations rule out global warming, melting ice caps and hollowing glaciers. China has a secret mine of Golden Adamant, a living meta material, in East China Sea. China-Japan friendship blossoms. Honjo Masamune, a legendary sword that disappeared around WW II reappears. How sophisticated Robots can be? 

What is causing the rising sea? Is it going to flood the world? How come China and Japan are becoming friends? What is the significance of automatons? Who are Kurt and Joe pitted against?

Book starts with a scene from feudal Japan. A fight between a Samurai wielding a katana forged by master forger Masamune against Shogun sporting a sword forged by Masamune's protégé and competitor Muramassa.

Kurt is investigating the rising sea levels when he discovers an international conspiracy. He has to literally race against a robot car, do wing boarding, fight automaton that moves and looks like real human and what not. Paul and Gamay are declared spies by China. Will they find an unlikely ally?

Story is interesting. It takes the reader from glaciers to America to Japan to China. Reader doesn't have time to relax. Story keeps you interested. It also has an unrelated adventure at the beginning, James Bond style. Chinese General from earlier book 'Nighthawk' makes an appearance. Cussler also drops a hint that one of the next book will unfold in China. 

 Clive Cussler has amazing attention to details, especially technical details. He doesn't disappoint. However there are two loose ends. Although no mitigating measures are taken, why do geysers stop? What is the importance of golden adamant? Cussler leaves these two questions unanswered. Rare loose ends from him, unless there is a use for them in subsequent books. 

Why did I read this book? Author
What I didn't like? Loose ends.
What did I like? Everything else. 

Read, if you are reading the series.

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Mandodari: Queen of Lanka by Manini J. Anandani

"Mandodari: Queen of Lanka" by Manini J. Anandani - A decent try!
This book is published by Penguin in 2018 and has 288 pages. This is author's debut novel. 

Mandodari is revered as a one of the panchakanya (five virtuous and chaste women) in Puranas, despite being Ravan's wife, in following famous ashoka.
अहल्या द्रौपदी सीता तारा मन्दोदरी तथा |
पञ्चकन्या स्मरेन्नित्यम महापातकनाशनम् ||
This book tells her story. 

How was Mandodari? How was her relationship with Ravan? Did she approve Sita's abduction? Why did she marry Vibhishan?

This author also subscribes to one of the popular theory about Sita's parentage. Anand Neelakanthan has also subscribed to the same theory in his book 'Asura'. Manini has created a background story in support of the theory that is interesting and more convincing than Anand.

Unfortunately same can't be said about rest of the book. Narration is kind of drab. It's neither interesting, nor gripping, neither ornamental, nor flowery. Doesn't capture your imagination. When you narrate a story through a character that's not in the thick of action, narration becomes indirect. Author's job becomes that much more difficult. 

The relationship between Mandodari and Ravan could have been depicted better. Here she is shown as a wall flower, but author could have given it an emotional angle. That would have made it more appealing. Mandodari was the queen and regent but she is never shown making or participating in any important decisions of state. 

The tussle between Mandodari and Nayanadini erupts suddenly and dies equally abruptly. Why was it included in the book as it doesn't help the story in any way. Although Vedavati's story is there in this book, Ravan's rape of Rambha is conspicuous by absence. 

The war is explained well initially but the most important battles where Indrajeet, Kumbhakarna and Ravan are killed are hurried through. Ravan appears defeated before his final battle with Ram. The portion where Mandodari decides to marry the traitor Vibhishan also deserved more space. 

Surprisingly, most of the chapters in the book have a very similar length. Was it by design or luck?

Cover shows half the head of a lady (Mandodari) and remaining four heads of Ravan. It is a curious cover. I thought author would be propounding an explosive theory that Ravan was the face but Mandodari was the real power, after looking at the cover. But author doesn't insinuate anything like that. 

Why did I read this book? Interesting cover. 
What did I like? Story about Sita's parentage. 
What I didn't like? As mentioned above. 

Not a must read. 

Friday, 29 October 2021

Sons of fortune by Jeffrey Archer

"Sons of fortune" by Jeffrey Archer- Like a movie! 
This book is published by Pan in 2014 and has 608 pages.

Susan and Michael Cartwright had twins, Nathaniel and Peter. Millionaires Robert and Ruth Davenport have Fletcher Andrew, after two miscarriages. Both deliveries happen in same hospital. Fletcher dies but a nurse quietly switches him with Peter. Peter becomes Fletcher. The book traces the life and career of these two boys. Nat takes finance and Fletcher law. Both end up in politics and end up running against each other for the post of Governor.

How do their careers pan? Do they get to know each other? Do they come to know the truth? Who wins?

Story is good. Since the author had to cover a span of more than 40 years, there are multiple short time leaps. Their lives are narrated alternatively. They run parallel but not same until they converge. The convergence is unique, murder, of all things!

It has drama, romance, love, suspense, swindling, politics etc. It's a fast and happening story. It's a good script to make a movie.

Some of the events appear to have no particular reason to be in the story. The Yale episode, the way Elliott dies etc. are some examples. The story wouldn't have altered without them. The court drama and the details of the case appear a little weak and could have been better. 

Author has stretched the end a bit till the election result. Had he ended the story when they go for final counting, it would have been more appealing and impactful. 

Why did I read this book? Author. 
What I didn't like? A few things as mentioned above. 
What did I like? Something is always happening.  

A good read.