Friday, September 12, 2014

North Korea Undercover by John Sweeny

I'm trying to expand my horizons by reading more non mystery books, I have become especially enthralled with books about Politics and History. I expect myself to read and review more and more books from this genre. I will continue to read mysteries but those are going to be rare as I have already read most of Carr, Christie and Sharadindu but will always be on the lookout for exceptional mystery novels. To the book review now...

John Sweeny, a former BBC correspondent for Panorama, travels to North Korea with a bunch of LSE students. John poses as a Professor of LSE to gain access to the enigmatic state. Free media is not allowed inside South Korea's poor cousin so John and his crew had to go undercover. BBC crew and the LSE students travel to different places in North Korea, starting from the capital city Pyongyang. All along the trip they are accompanied by minders who carefully plan their trip so the "tourists" are never able to see the real face of the totalitarian state, but that does not prevent the tourists to get a good glimpse of the horrors and absurdity that prevail in the communist nation. John keeps describing in each chapter the different places he visits in DPRK(official name of North Korea). He also keeps referencing to the immediate history of North Korea, how Kim Il-Sung took over North Korea n 1948 with the help of his Soviet allies and established a cult of personality in the country which would later be maintained and expanded by his son, Kim Jong-Il, who the author keeps referring to mockingly as "Bad Elvis" because of his obsession with Elvis Presley, the regime is now run by Kim 3, Kim Jong-Un, who according to the author is the Fat Kim.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Mystery of the Fortress and other stories by Saradindu Bandyopadhyay

I managed to get hold of the elusive "Mystery of the Fortress", an English translation of Saradindu Bandyopadhyay's stories about his favorite creation Byomkesh Bakshi. Originally written in Bengali this book enumerates 5 different stories, each a puzzling mystery one after the other. The translation has been done by Mr. Shankar Sen, and I must admit he has done a fine job of it. After a few disaster translations of Saradindu Bandyopadhyay's works like "Rhythm of Riddles" I was afraid that these fine stories would leave an indelible bad impression on the readers mind due to sub par translation.

It's been two years since I last read a story about the Seeker of truth, I hope I don't have to wait another two years to get hold of another Byomkesh book.

Following the old tradition of my blog, I'm going to do capsule reviews of the quintet.

The Invisible Triangle - A really short story of a murder of a married woman, who is an intelligent, independent business woman and has only a formal relationship with her impudent husband. The identity of the murderer is no secret but Byomkesh has to prove how the murder was done. An average read by any stretch of the imagination, good characters, good build up but a disappointing end.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie

Young Carla approaches M. Poirot for his help in investigating a murder committed 16 years ago. Her mother was accused and then convicted for killing her husband, Carla's father, Amyas Crale. Crale was a famous painter and womanizer. He was known for his artistic temperament and promiscuous ways. He had several lovers in the past but used to always return to his wife. Things were different now, Elsa, his latest muse is a sublime young beauty. The middle aged Amyas has fallen for her and now wants to marry her despite him being married and having a little daughter.

Middle aged men often fall prey to their carnal desires but this man has gone too far he is keeping his muse and his wife under the same roof. The result is that foolish painter is found poisoned. His wife is accused of murder, the evidence and the battery of witnesses against her is too strong. She is convicted and dies in prison. Carla, her only daughter believes that her mother was innocent and that now she wants closure for herself and her mother. Poirot now has to investigate a murder committed 16 years ago.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Death in Five Boxes by Carter Dickson

Dr Sanders, a forensic working on a poisoning case is walking back to his home after a long day at the office. In the middle of the night he is asked for help by a beautiful young woman who asks him to accompany her to a a certain Mr Felix Haye's flat. On reaching there he is shocked too find a gathering of 4 people who look like dummies, all of them have been heavily drugged and Mr. Haye is found murdered.

 The Police find that the guests were poisoned by someone who rigged their drinks by putting atropine in their glasses. So what's so Carr(read impossible) about this murder? Once the remaining guests are revived, their statements corroborate that no one poisoned the drinks and that the glasses were watched all the time.

Add in the conspicuous disappearance of a prime suspect, another murder and a truck load of suspects and we have a case for the Old man.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Riddle of Monte Verita by Jean-Paul Torok

"Her Face became the face of the pretty wife, and she ran out to meet her husband."

Jean-Paul wanted to write a book which ended with now the famous last lines of Carr's "The Burning Court." - perhaps the greatest mystery novel ever written? Thinking about the ending of the The burning court still makes the hair at the back of my neck stand up. Alas, we are not reviewing the master's work.

Jean-Paul, a self confessed Carr fan tries to write a novel in the fashion of those good old GAD days. That too an impossible locked room crime novel. Jean-Paul's Pastiche is remarkable work of detective fiction especially the last 30-40 pages.

Summary:

Monte Verita, situated in beautiful Switzerland is holding a symposium, where the theme is detective fiction. Recently married, Pierre is accompanied by his young wife Solange. Pierre is an erudite on the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Professor Lippi, another erudite attending the symposium, makes a speech and pokes fun of detective fiction, especially of impossible crimes, locked rooms and murders in hermetically sealed chambers. The German, Dr Hoenig and Lippi get into a raucous argument. Dr Hoenig claims that he will bring a locked room challenge in front of all present. Little did Hoenig knew that he will himself become the centre of a locked room murder. In view of two guards posted outside Hoenig's Villa, he is murdered by what appears to be a woman. The guards rush from their own villa to Hoenig's but found it locked, once they force themselves inside the killer has disappeared in thin air.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

He Wouldn't Kill Patience by Carter Dickson

Edward Benton is a worried man, he is the director of the Royal Albert Zoological garden and Hitler's war is coming ever close to the Zoo . Edward lives with his daughter at their home inside the Zoo complex. Edward has become a shell of his former self, he is in perpetual agony concerning the fate of his precious animals.
The government wants to shut down the Zoo and eradicate the animals. Edward wants to save the animals and hopes to have them transported to safety and far away from the horrors of the war.

Enter a couple of warring magicians, who are invited to Edward's home for dinner along with the "Old Man", Henry Merrivale. On reaching the Benton's house they find his daughter missing and the house being conspicuously empty. Soon they discover that Edward Benton's study is locked and then the poor man is found dead inside. People around him start contemplating that since the room was locked from inside and Edward was very stressed he might have committed suicide. There was only one problem "He Wouldn't Kill Patience"

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Demon of Dartmoor by Paul Halter

The Demon of DartmoorAt the turn of the Century in Dartmoor, a Woman was pushed down to her death from the stairs of her aesthetically beautiful home called Trerice Manor, by an Invisible hand. Fifty years later on Wish Tor peak in Dartmoor, a young beautiful woman is plunged from the peak to her death, the locals find playing cards scattered over her dead body. Next year, history repeats itself, another girl dies in the same way, witnesses claim that she was talking to an enigmatic stranger who they could not see, later two lovers reported that the poor girl was pushed in the abyss by an invisible man, again a few playing cards are splattered near the dead body. Same time next year, A third victim is claimed by the invisible man and this time the dead body of the poor girl disappears without leaving a vestige.

Few years later, Nigel Manson, a successful actor comes to Dartmoor with his wife and buys Trerice Manor, now lying in desolation. Nigel is smitten by the house and gets is restored. He invites his impresario, Frank, and his co-actor/mistress, Natalie, to spend the weekend with them. Nigel is sitting on the window ledge, of his splendid house getting photographed by his beautiful mistress who is standing at the ground below. Mrs Manson, Frank and the village doctor are in the same room as Nigel, suddenly Nigel is propelled out of the window and he cracks open his head on impact with the ground, Nigel immediately dies. Witnesses in the room, and Natalie claim that there was no one behind Nigel neither could he have slipped, so how did he fell? Witnesses claim that they felt that he was pushed from the ledge by an invisible man.

Dr Alan Twist, the famous criminologist and Inspector Archibald Hurst are called in to Dartmoor. The moors where legends of hell hounds, murderous invisible men and the red devil do the rounds in the local inn with rounds of beer, where legends and macabre tales are interwoven in the lives of the people. Twist and Hurst have to now lift the veil of superstition and catch the demon of Dartmoor before it strikes again.