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Rephrasing the famous opening line from, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘it a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of
power, must be in want of more power.’ Power and money are often themes around which entire books or series revolve. Power and money are often motives around which detective stories revolve. But when Jeffrey Archer uses these two aspects in his best-seller, ‘Kane And Abel‘, he fuses other aspects as well such as a bildungsroman theme, ego, hatred, economic empires, economic clout and a concise history of America from the 1900s’ to the 1960s’. This curious fusion creates a thrilling page turner in the form of ‘Kane And Abel.’
The plot is as simple as can be. Two infants-William Kane and Wladek Koskiewicz- are born on the same day on two different continents: Kane with a silver spoon in America and Wladek to a nameless mother in Poland. While William’s life is set out for him by his father who is the chairman of Kane and Cabot bank, Wladek’s life is fraught with difficulties and struggles in the light of which he discovers his strengths and weaknesses as well as his father’s identity. Kane steadily rises to the positions of power in America while Wladek embarks on a life changing journey to America to make a name and a fortune. Kane becomes part of the board of directors in his own bank while Wladek runs a hotel in Chicago after a lot of struggling in low paying jobs. Gradually, these two rise in power and stature, get to know each other by quirks of fate which cements their relation of hate and turns both on to a path to destroy each other. Are they successful in their personal vendettas? Read up the novel to find out more.
Some say that ‘Kane And Abel‘ is Archer’s best work so far. Having read only 1 other book by him, ‘Prisoner Of Birth’, I can’t really affirm this particular claim. What I can vouch for is that the novel will keep you engrossed with its breakneck speed, compelling plot, grasping writing, the twists and turns and the clearly etched out characters and situations. Spanning 60 years, ‘Kane And Abel‘ not only narrates the story of the titular characters but intersperses them with the historic moments of American history- the sinking of the Titanic, World War 1 and 2, Great Depression etc.. This proffers the reader interesting nuggets of history and manifests how history shapes human lives to a large extent.
The downside of the novel is that Archer tries too hard to make the two characters collide. There are too many coincidences that are strewn throughout the story through which their paths cross. After a point, these get too hard to believe. The occurrences of so many coincidences in real life is next to impossible. Archer also has tried to create sympathy for the two characters which at times is at odds with their sole aim for power and destruction. Moreover, there is also an impossible paradox to believe: Both William and Wladek helped each other at some point or the other despite the fact they were hell bent to destroy each other financially and emotionally. This is rather hard to digest.
The worst drawback of the novel is that it is male centric. Women have hardly any role to play in the story other than being mothers,grandmothers, daughters and wives. The only exception is Wladek’s daughter who is assertive and a working woman and not just a rich man’s submissive daughter. Perhaps to make up for this male centric vision of the novel, Archer has extended the story of Wladek’s daughter in the sequel, ‘The Prodigal Daughter.’ This constant association of power with men reiterates the stereotype of empires and power and money being a man’s domain with women only playing arm candy to the men.
Barring the above downsides, ‘Kane And Abel‘ is a fine piece of fiction, one that you can breeze through in a couple of days and elicit oodles of excitement from it as well.
Crime was never so bloodthirsty, brutality never so horrifying,loyalty never so exaggerated, mafia never so goddamn cunning than in the super famous, ‘The Godfather‘ penned by Mario Puzo. Everyone or almost everyone has read the book. It is included even on BBC’s top 100 books to read! For sure, it is a phenomenal novel that traces the American-Italian mafia in New York City with a chilling, nasty, story involving murders, shootings, family, loyalty, and the ubiquitous Mafia.
The story begins on a light note with assorted Americans asking Vito Don Corleone for help at his daughter, Connie’s wedding in 1945 just after WWII. However there is an unmistakable undertone of the macabre right from the beginning. The reader would quickly know that Don Corleone is a dignified, respected superior wields a powerful influence in New York, that his is an empire of crime and that he is a man not to be meddled with! This immediately sets the tone for something explosive to happen, something thrilling. The story moves on while giving the reader a quick, brief bird’s eye view of the characters and the situations. Then, a meeting with Vincent Sollozo, who wants Don’s help in starting a drug business, goes awry as the Don refuses to help out feeling that the drug business is too risky. Don being too old fashioned would rather stick to gambling, bookmaking etc. An all out war ensues between the five mafia families of New York wherein a lot of blood is shed and Don’s two sons, Sonny and Michael are unwittingly dragged. There are losses on both the sides and the Corleone family goes into decline and eventually the Don offers peace quite reluctantly only after a great personal loss which he promises not to avenge. But, being a foresighted man, he sees to it that all of Corleone’s families losses are restored and all revenges settled in the future. His son, Michael, takes up this job quite successfully and recovers the power and influence of the Family as it was in the pre-war days.
This 450 odd pages family cum Mafia saga is an intricate novel that will engage all sorts of readers of all ages. While it is at times violent and rather graphic, it is nonetheless a brilliant work of fiction that chills the bone with its lightning speed narrative and excessive doses of murders, crimes, beat ups and revenges. The writing style helps increase the speed-it is precise, to the point, does not meander and sticks to the point and Puzo does not go into elaborate descriptions when unnecessary. The pace of the story thus never slows down- a must for any thriller novel to be worth a read!
The story though quite gruesome and seemingly murderous, is quite sophisticated with an awesome plot, an astonishing ending, a complex chronology and an elaborate and labyrinthine narrative that marks the zenith of an extremely captivating crime novel.
What is rather difficult to overlook is the male centered plot of the novel. Women characters have no substantial role to play except be loving, obedient, and religious.
Other than that, ‘The Godfather‘ is a must must must read for all as it is carefully written with an eeriness that is omniscient and suspense that will make everyone keep turning the pages. Its a recommendation you don’t want to refuse!
I heard about the author, Sue Grafton, when I read the book, ‘Chicken Soup For The Writer’s Soul.’ It mentions her story, about how she got her works published which was mainly a collection of mystery fiction of what came to be known as ‘the alphabet series’ as each novel had an alphabet in its title.
When I came across one of the novels, ‘L for Lawless‘, in the college library, I excitedly picked it up hoping to be treated to an excellent thriller. However, my hopes, though not completely dashed, but nonetheless they were subdued. The novel was a bit uninspiring and did not motivate me to read her other novels.
‘L for Lawless‘ stars her usual private investigator, Kinsey Millhone. The novel begins with her narrating how she got involved in this mystery and how she regrets it. She recalls how it all started when a friend, Henry Pitts, asked her to look into late Johnny Lee’s mysterious absence of records in the Army Office when in fact he was a World War 2 fighter pilot. He had recently died and his grandson, Bucky, wanted a decent funeral paid for by the Armed Services. This request seemed harmless, a little bit of snooping around would have easily solved the problem or so Kinsey thought. Each passing day, a new aspect of Johnny’s life was unearthed and she found herself sinking deeper into his mucky past. A couple of break-ins in his house signaled even more mysterious trouble which Ray Rawson, an apparently old friend, helped Kinsey to understand. As she plunged into solving this ‘easy’ problem she found more criminal shadows in both Rawson’s and Lee’s past and unfortunately a brutal killer was set on her trail!
The novel, ‘L for Lawless‘ has great twists and turns, an easy weekend read, does not test the reader’s intelligence, a good time pass.
What didn’t work for me was the countless descriptions. Some of them are essential to move the plot but some just drag the pace. For eg, while Kinsey was in an airport, walking towards the convener belt, a dozen descriptions of what she observes is mentioned but that could be easily avoided as her observations in no way help her solve the case or move forward with it atleast.
I don’t know why, but when I was reading the book, I felt a nagging in my head that I was reading just an older version of Nancy Drew. Don’t get me wrong, it is not kiddish or a rosy book. It has its own set of blood and gore and definite shock and surprises.
The story is good but somehow does not click with me. I feel it is a bit amateurish. There are several other thrillers that are much more engaging and intelligent.
‘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.
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.
Sidney Sheldon’s books are famed for their super exciting pace. The novel, ‘The Sky Is Falling’ lives upto that fame. Its an awesome thriller which rapidly navigates through the book’s murder mystery.
In ‘The Sky Is Falling’, the protagonist is a famous TV reporter, Dana Evans, who has just come back from her stint on war coverage in Sarajevo. The Winthrop family’s last member, Gary Winthrop is murdered in his home by a couple of burglars. This gruesome act sends shock waves through the world as the whole family had been wiped out in less than a year in several accidents. Dana Evans strongly believes that the deaths of the Winthrop family were not coincidental and believes that they were all murdered. She is determined to find out and begins her investigation. It makes her travel to all possible places like Italy, France, Russia etc. Her mission gets more and more dangerous as she gets closer to the truth. Will she find out the cold-blooded killer or will she get eliminated in the process?
‘The Sky Is Falling’ is a thrilling read, a well written, rapid paced novel. A definite treat for all who love reading thrillers. All the innumerable twists and turns keeps us guessing wildly till the end and shocks us with its unpredictability and surprise!
I had heard that Lee Child was a good author in the thriller genre. So when I came across his books in my college library I quickly borrowed one. ‘Die Trying’ was the first Lee Child book I read and it totally lived upto my expectations. Its an explosive read, very gritty and fast paced.
The story is about a high profile kidnap of Holly Johnson,a FBI agent and the daughter of an American government hotshot, General Johnson, in which Lee Child’s popular protagonist, Jack Reacher inadvertently gets involved. Reacher easily surmises that the kidnappers want something from Holly and when they reach their hideout, they come face to face with a bunch of well organized , well armed militia that is bent on gaining independence from the US government. Meanwhile, the FBI, General Johnson do everything in their power to get Holly back safe and sound. The book is exciting for most parts and reaches its crescendo at the end with a brilliant chase scene.
‘Die Trying’ is a treat for all lovers of thriller and crime fiction. Its hard to keep the book down. The pace is upbeat, the story is action packed with guns, missiles, military, kidnaps, torture, brutality, violence etc. The writing is not like a masterpiece but rather contemporary, fast and comprehensible. However, Lee Child could have used less of military jargon which for a laywoman like me is hard to understand.
But all in all, I will give the book two thumbs up and rate it at 8 out of 10. ‘Die Trying’ is a really terrific thriller. A must for all who like and adore this genre.
‘The Lost Symbol’ is Dan Brown’s latest book and it is not surprising to see that it is a bestseller and has ruled the book charts in many countries including India. With two big bestsellers, ‘Da Vinci Code’ and ‘Angels and Demons’, along with other equally exciting novels, it is no wonder that my expectations for ‘The Lost Symbol’ were sky-high. Unfortunately, the book was not really up to my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, it is a fantastic book but just lacks the magic that made me love his other books!
The hero of this novel is once again the renowned Harvard symbologist, Robert Langdon. And once again, he is unwittingly trapped in a thrilling, dangerous ride, one that would hopefully save his friend Peter Solomon. Once again Robert relies on the profound knowledge of his subject to get through the mazes of Masonic mystery. Well, in detail, the story goes thus: one day, Peter Solomon’s executive assistant asks Robert to make a speech in the National Statuary Hall in Washington D.C. Turns out Robert was fooled. Instead he was being invited in a rather peculiar way to save Peter Solomon, who was kidnapped for reasons only known to Langdon. As Langdon delves deeper into the mystery, connections between Peter being a Mason and his abduction start making sense, helping Langdon to find Peter and unearth a shocking secret.
The exciting pace of ‘The Lost Symbol’, its brilliant shocks, twists and turns, the audacity of the narrative all combine to form an excellent read. It is no doubt an awesome thriller but definitely not Dan Brown’s best. Firstly because the structure of the novel is pretty much the same as previous novels and the way the plot is revealed and uncovered is reminiscent of his previous novels as well. In that sense, it becomes a bit predictable because the reader knows when to expect some new secret or some new twists . Even the fact that Langdon teams up with the victim’s sister, Katherine, to solve the mystery gets monotonous if you have read Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons where Langdon has a female to help him out.
Thus the negative point here is the sameness of the novel’s structure. Apart from that, ‘The Lost Symbol’ is a good as any thriller can get. A definite good read especially if this is your 1st Dan Brown book. Otherwise, if you have read his other books, then it is easy to spot the structural and plot similarities, There is nothing much refreshing in that.