Miss Marple Omnibus-Volume 2

Agatha Christie is no doubt the queen of mystery! Even though there is a recent flood of detective novels in the world over from diverse backgrounds, she manages to be the most popular detective story writer along with Arthur Conan Doyle. And she is my favourite too.Till recently I had not read a single Agatha Christie book in a long time. I saw one of my classmates having one big fat Agatha Christie book with her and I borrowed it from her. It was titled ‘Miss Marple Omnibus-Volume 2.’ This omnibus has 4 novels featuring Miss Marple, Christie’s much loved, old, shrewd detective dame! These 4 novels are-1) A Caribbean Mystery 2) They Do It With Mirrors 3) The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side’ 4) A Pocket Full of Rye.

All the four novels are really good and till the end they keep you guessing as to who the culprit is. The reader perhaps seldom finds out the real culprit as Christie always manages in most of her novels to direct the reader’s suspicion to characters who are not the culprits at all! 

Taken from blogadda.com

The Caribbean Mystery‘ as the title suggests is set in the Caribbean with Miss Marple enjoying a vacation in an opulent hotel. Now this doesn’t sound dramatic though, does it? But well, Miss Marple has the uncanny ability to get tangled in crimes that happen in the oddest of places! The murder of Major Palgrave, who was also staying in the hotel, and the disappearance of a photograph of a murderer about which Major Palgrave was telling a story to Miss Marple, sets a chain of events rolling! That story is connected to Major’s murder and other ensuing sinister murders! The story has a chilling end and I am sure if the reader is smart and keeps an eye out for things, they can guess who the murderer actually is. If you can’t, then you will certainly smack yourself in the end of the story for not solving such a simple mystery!

The second novel, ‘They Do it With Mirrors’ is equally riveting. This one is very predictable if you use your brains. Miss Marple stays as a guest in a friend’s house, Carrie Louise’s house to be precise after the latter’s sister insists that there is something sinister brooding in the house. And I suppose, the sister’s intuitions are right because Miss Marple feels the same too and eventually a murder does take place in the most queer fashion when a hot, violent argument between Carrie Louise’s husband, Lewis and a deranged patient of his! It seems that the police would handle it but fame precedes Miss Marple and her help is sought out. It is predictable but still reading how Miss Marple arrives at the solution is marvellous.

The 3rd novel,’The Mirror Crack’d From Side To Side‘ is a brilliant detective novel. The revelation of the murderer and how Miss Marple gets to it will leave the reader shell shocked. Miss Marple’s friend, Dolly Bantry, has sold her house to a famous actress, Marina Gregg. She holds a party in that house to commemorate her stay in it and an inexplicable murder takes place. The solution is far from simple and Miss Marple stretches all her talent to the limit to find out the murderer. This novel is by far the best among all four in terms of its shock value

The last novel, ‘A Pocket Full Of Rye’ is another excellent novel. Rex Fortescue dies of poisoning. And so does his wife. Some rye in the former’s pocket and some other eccentric and strange incidents that happened in the house, allow Miss Marple to connect the crime to a famous rhyme. It is uncannily similar to it and Miss Marple gets down to helping the police in search of the cold blooded killer. The end is surprising as usual. This is because, Christie constantly tries to put suspicion on other members when in fact the culprit is someone else altogether!

This omnibus is wonderful! An engaging book. A must read for all fans of Agatha Christie.

An Old Bookshop In Mumbai

Bookshops are many in Mumbai. From chain stores like Crossword and Landmark to the roadside stalls which sell books dirt cheap! The only problem however with them is that they are limited in their collection. The former only has bestsellers and not old books such as those from the 80s’ or even the early 90s'(unless they were bestsellers they won’t have those books). While the latter do have huge collections and some roadside booksellers will also have that one rare book you are looking for!

There are a cluster of old bookshops located in South Mumbai. And before you stop reading this post, thinking that I will write about the Strand Bookshop, then you are quite wrong, my friend. Strand Bookshop is quite a homely bookshop, agreed but this post is about a really good, old, yet rarely acknowledged bookshop in Kalbadevi. Its name is ‘The New And Secondhand Bookshop.‘ I will make a bet that not many people have heard of this place before.

Firstly, this bookstore was established in 1905 and is therefore over a hundred years old, 110 years old to be exact. Unlike the chain bookstores or roadside book stalls, this place has a phenomenal collection. As the name suggests, it has both new and second hand books. From obscure textbooks to national geographic books to forgotten poetry books to valuable history, psychology, anthropology books and to fiction of course, this bookshop has it all! They even have a few books that are priced at only Rs. 10. It is two storeyed shop and it can be easily missed if one doesn’t pay attention.

The best aspect of this bookstore, apart from its huge collection, is the atmosphere. There is a lingering smell of dusty books that pervades the shop. As you browse through the long, endless shelves and come across books in beautiful bindings, hardbound, leather bound, you get the feeling that you are transported back in time, wandering in a lost library that has some how managed to salvage its books in a pretty good condition. The seclusion of these shelves allows you to feel that you are about to explore or discover a new book. And trust me, you are bound to stumble upon some rare book or an old one at least if you look diligently. This feeling of seclusion and exploration is heightened on the first floor where it is rather dark but not dingy. Here there are some research/encyclopedia type books. Not many people come up here and you are mostly alone browsing these shelves.

The prices may not be very cheap and bargaining may be difficult, but I suppose all book lovers should come here at least once just to breathe in its musty, library like atmosphere. However, if you are addicted to swanky, plush bookstores with perfect lighting that sparkle off brand new books neatly displayed on polished shelves kept on carpeted floors, then skip this shop completely! ‘The New and Secondhand Bookshop‘ is not the one to cater to your luxury needs of bookstores. They are only there to cater to your bookish needs and the store owners are quite helpful if you ask them about one particular book. They know their books thoroughly and their affection for them can be seen which is lacking in many owners of chain bookstores who see books only as a means to an end and have no attachment whatsoever with them.

The New And Secondhand Bookshop (NSB)‘ is located on the Kalbadevi Road, Kalbadevi,Mumbai, 400002. Furtados and Metro and Edward Cinema are close by landmarks. The nearest station is Marine Lines on the Western Line and CST on the Central Line.

My suggestion for all book lovers would be to go here not only to buy books but also for the pleasure of simply browsing through the rows of shelves.

Mountains of Fresh Air

I always wanted to read Ruskin Bond books when I was in school. My mother always urged me to buy them particularly the Rusty series. However, somehow, I never got the time, being busy with Enid Blyton, Harry Potter, Nancy Drew, a few children’s classics, Hardy Boys and Agatha Christie, to actually peruse his novels except a few short stories taught as part of the syllabus. Even when I entered college, a boy in class discussed how immensely he loved the simplicity of Bond’s stories and language. That really encouraged me to pick up his books but I was still too engrossed in Harry Potter, Agatha Christie and Sidney Sheldon.

Taken from goodreads.com

Now when I am finally 19 years old, I issued a Ruskin Bond book,’Rain In The Mountains-Notes From The Himalayas‘ from the library, read it silently and thoroughly enjoyed  it. My fears of the book being too kiddish for my tastes were dispelled just as I began reading the prologue. Moreover, I understood what that boy in my class meant when he said that Bond’s stories and language is simple.

I cannot think of any other word except-BEAUTIFUL-to describe this novella. Let me clarify that this isn’t really a storybook, but rather a collection of short stories, poems, journal notes, essays etc. that Bond penned. Thus it is not only beautiful but also very personal at the same time.

All the writings in this books magnify and vividly describe all things natural that surrounds Bond’s home in Mussoorie. All his experiences are a lengthy ode to the beauty of the Himalayas. Such is the power that when I used to read the book in the train, I would forget the city air, the rants, the loud talk and laughter of the women in the compartment and be transported to an ethereal place up in the Himalayas. I would be going on trek on a glacier with Bond, admiring a whistling thrush, the majestic deodars, imagining fairies on Pari Tibba, meeting the villagers, meeting Prem and his family rather than traveling in a dusty, stinky, hot local train of Mumbai.

His writing style is very simplistic, his use of language and words is such that they are not only comprehensible to children and adults alike but also effortlessly convey Bond’s experiences and the mountain’s fresh air. They are not childish but far from it. His poems are not masterpieces, barely have a rhyme scheme but paint a vivid picture of nature in all its glory nonetheless.

His short stories, notes, articles etc. make us-urban people-come in touch with two things we don’t seem to revere: nature and people. All the writings in the book describe the supreme delight Bond feels by observing or sensing the simplest of all things. Like a ladybird, a walnut tree, the discovery of a new stream, a messy garden, the rains, an old lama,a school boy, a window, a postman,a sea shell, a bank manager, a praying mantis etc.-things we hardly stop to think about, things we do not take a pleasure in because we are too busy deriving pleasure from fickle, material things, like car, bike, jewelry etc.

The book thus rekindles a love for nature, of people. It creates a serenely happy feeling yet when Bond mentions that these gems of natural beauties are being destroyed, a sad, forlorn feeling creeps up. This book should be read by all heartless corporations, mining companies, government officials who fail to see the throbbing of life in nature, who will swiftly destroy all beautiful, natural wonders for their own selfish gains without realizing the damage they have done, the loss they have created.

 

Yours,Conspiratorially!

Doomsday Conspiracy‘ is the mother of all Sidney Sheldon books I have read so far. Sheldon stretches his own limits of writing thrillers in this book. It goes beyond any of his books I have read so far in terms of its pace, mystery, characterization, suspense and plot.

Taken from fantasticfiction.co.uk

The story has all the ingredients that any suspense novel in general and Sidney Sheldon novel in particular will have. So what makes it stand out in my eyes? The heightened speed and pace of the story. It never slows down, infact the reader has to constantly keep up to avoid the story from running away! Its like Sheldon has put a foot on the accelerator of the story continuously. The plot rushes fast, barely allowing the reader to breathe.

So now the story of ‘Doomsday Conspiracy‘ goes something like this:

Robert Bellamy is the protagonist. He is the Commander in ONI-Office of Naval Intelligence. He had served in Vietnam where he found his love, Susan, a nurse in the hospital he was admitted to with no hope for survival. One ordinary day, Bellamy is summoned to the office of the NSA-National Security Agency-where General Hillard assigns him an extremely odd and seemingly tough task-to find the witnesses in a tour bus, who saw a weather balloon crash which contained secret weapons of mass destruction.

So what’s do difficult about this? (SPOILER)

Bellamy has no idea who these people are, what tour bus it was, what their names were, how many there were-absolutely nothing! All he is given is loads of cash and a warning to not take any outside help(SPOILER COMPLETE). As Robert goes deeper and deeper finding one witness after another, some pieces fit together while some seem increasingly bizarre. After his success, Bellamy realises that the hunter has become the hunted(This phrase is over used in today’s world, isn’t it? Ah…well..I can’t help it!). All security agencies are on his tail.

BUT WHY?-is what Bellamy himself does not know.

Bellamy, being the best officer, knows all the tricks in the book and does his best to successfully avoid capture. Entire chapters devoted to Robert on the run from the authorities are thrilling and super exciting. The reader runs with him to all possible places, hides deftly with him and just as Robert has no time to sleep and relax, so does the reader. The reader feels the tension building, the suspense lengthen and the fatigue that gnaws at Robert.

Doomsday Conspiracy‘ also conveys a message-to be good to the environment and save out planet Earth(Its like a pre-cursor to the film ‘Avatar’ in this sense). This is the unique feature of the book. Sheldon’s brilliant ability to entwine a suspense novel with a raging environmental issue speaks volumes of his talent as a thriller writer. This makes the book not only a contemporary one but also nothing short of a masterpiece.

The last verdict-If you haven’t guessed yet- the book is a must read ten times over. You won’t regret picking up ‘Doomsday Conspiracy‘. Its unputdownable.

 

 

Coldness of the Partition

Ever wondered how a child reacts to violence? What are the effects of cruelty, brutality on a child’s mind? His/her psyche? How it scars them? What they think of it ? How they interpret it? Ok..now you must be wondering why I am babbling child psychology cum emotional talk in a book review blog. But don’t worry I intend to write a book review only which will partially answer a few of those above seemingly unrelated questions. So what’s the book? Is it a psychology book? Or a EQ book?

Taken from mouthshut.com

Definitely NOT! Its a fictional novel produced by an astonishingly talented writer. The book’s name is ‘Ice-Candy Man‘ or ‘Cracking India’ written by Bapsi Sidhwa.

Partition was a big blot on Indian history. A lot of books were written during that time that were devoted to the sentiments, pain and grief of the common people. While most Partition literature prominently deals with adult perspectives, ‘Ice Candy Man‘ provides a rare child’s perspective of the Partition. Of course, this perspective is more or less colored by Sidhwa’s adult perspectives and ruminations too but nevertheless the book is essentially from a child’s point of view.

In a nutshell, ‘Ice Candy Man‘ is narrated by a Parsi girl, Lenny Sethi, living in Lahore. She has polio and an Ayah-Shanti-looks after her. Shanti is an attractive female constantly surrounded by a medley of male admirers who are mostly employed in Lenny’s house. Lenny learns about the news of the division, the spread of hatred as they unfold through the events she herself witnesses or hears from adults. But mostly Partition is represented or personified with Ayah’s life. How Partition, how one person’s love for her ruins her life to a large extent is a metaphor for how things turned from bad to worse, how religion got entangled with love during the Partition. Sidhwa has cleverly represented Ayah as the complex inter-cultural and inter religious background of Lahore in the pre-Partition days. Lenny’s thoughts not only reflect her childlike, sometimes confused, innocent perceptions but also depict Partition in a different light. Its gruesomeness is heightened when a child describes it. It seems even more mindless, awful and unnecessary.

Sidhwa’s style of writing can be difficult to digest as it seems desultory, jumping from one topic to another, one time frame to another in a flash. It can appear unconnected and difficult to keep track of but perhaps through this style, she is trying to portray a child’s mind and how rapidly it jumps from one interesting aspect to another. The randomness of children and their short attention span is marvelously portrayed in their writing style.

Ice Candy Man‘ is worth reading. it may be hard to find as it was first published in 1988. But one can easily get it online and if one searches diligently, one is bound to find one copy in some well managed library.