bookspluslife

April 9, 2018

Book: Arms And the Women by Reginald Hill

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 7:55 pm

imageI have read many mystery British authors but this is my first Reginald Hill book.

 

Confusing beginning, and the first impressions were that this is going to be ‘Oh, not another run of the mill mystery author, please!’ kind of a book.

 

There is this cave where two people meet to exchange arms for drugs but try to kill each other after executing all their subordinates.

 

Then Sibyl nee Morgan, crippled and with a ‘taint in her blood’ brooding over computer profiles of many people.

 

And a policeman Pascoe who reaches the scene of an accident (truck vs taxi) where a beautiful woman implores him to take her to the airport in order not to miss a flight but both the specific airport and the amount of luggage she is carrying arouse his suspicions.

 

Ellie is writing a – rather interesting – story when two people come to her door claiming that her daughter, who was on a school trip, was sick and asking her to accompany them. She beats them hard and they run. She explains how she knew that they were fake to the Inspector who arrives. She seems to have been an ex spy.

 

When her friend Daphne notices a stranger lurking near Ellie’s house and foolishly tries to question him, she is left on the street with a broken nose and her car stolen as a result.

 

When Peter goes to inspect a suspect, he finds him in the bathtub, dying, with his wrists slashed.

 

Daphne and Ellie go with the female cop to Nosebleed, a cottage up at the mountains with the child to be anonymous and safe from attacks for a while.

 

Meanwhile, we learn that Dalziel deliberately messes up his prosecution of the female attacker with a view to letting her escape and watching where she goes, and the MI5 is so upset by this that they warn him to desist messing with the case.

 

We learn that the mad looking lady harbours Kelly (the female attacker) due to some past associations with her and her gang.  When Pascoe realizes that his wife is in the hands of the wrong people, it is late. Novello gets shot.

 

Then comes a complicated drug lord story and how the secret service wanted to trap her and inadvertently ran into Ellie. All because Ellie as charity work chose to correspond to one of the lynchpins of the gang who was in jail.  Yawn is your response to this ‘twist’.

 

There are tense moments where a group of gunmen take Feenie and others to the tottering place, precisely where we know Kelly Cornelius has been hidden. The dogs and the child of Ellie watch from a hidden tangle of bushes.

 

She gets reunited with dad and they all come to the remote place where Ellie, Daphne, Kelly and Feenie are all held hostage by the goons but stay out of site. They learn that Kelly is really Feenie’s child.

 

One of the goons tries to kill an Irishman known to Kelly on the orders of another and in turn is killed by an accomplice. They vanish and then Dalziel and Pascoe decide to go on a rescue against the wishes of Sempernel who then joins in reluctantly. They go in a truck that was expected. In the meanwhile Kelly is in danger of being sexually assaulted  by the deranged head of the thugs (Big Ajax) and Ellie tries to stop him and gets a broken nose for her pains. We

 

In the meanwhile as Big Ajax has disappeared with Kelly into another room, Little Ajax is tackled by both Feenie and the diminutive Wendy Woolley. They get ready to face Big Ajax when he comes back, after Feenie effortlessly kills Little Ajax with her bare hands.

 

They stage a scene to distract Big Ajax when he comes back – rape, attack, etc. The fun part is there, the literary references, the erudite conversations and reminiscences in the middle of a thriller all make for a fun reading experience but you have to let it grow on you before you appreciate it. Especially the contract between the crudeness of language of Andy Delziel against the manifold literary allusions from the mind of Ellie Pascoe.

 

Even the parallel story of Odysseys and Aeneas also has a nice twist at the end. Even though Odysseus speaks like a Brit (“Summat like that” he says for example) it is still gripping and nice.

 

Literary allusions, twists, turns and a satisfactory ending – contrary to what I thought, this is a pretty good book but you have to let it grow on you.

 

7/10

–  –  Krishna

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March 31, 2018

Book: Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:02 pm

imageI like puns and the title of this book is a fun pun. So, I really wanted to like this book, as the title predisposed me towards the book. But unfortunately, reading it is not like reading the title.  But, I will save the rant for a little later…

A lot of Montreal flavour. Like the author herself, Tempe divides her time between Canada and US. Hence the Canadian flavour in the story.

 

The forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennen is called to testify in a murder case but also called by the Montreal police to investigate bones found in a basement. She finds that the bones belonged to three very young girls and is disturbed. She does not like the police chief Claudet but likes his assistant Charbonneau.

 

She is attracted to Ryan who seems to be double dealing with her. A lot of techno mumbo jumbo about bones and when they fuse with each other that would delight any CSI series fan.

 

The bones, she feels are modern but Claudet is sure she is wasting her time and these are ancient bones and no murder has taken place. She sends the bones over for testing. She also discovers that one of the buttons found in that was not ‘ancient’ like the other two found there, but a fake. When they find a filling in the teeth of the third skeleton, the police is forced to investigate.

 

The story is a lot of daily life and local Montreal colour. The colour is nice to read at first but when all there is to read is that, and the love life of Tempe and the friendship of Anne, it gets very boring and you want to scream ‘Please get on with the story. We will catch up, if required, over coffee later to learn all the minutiae about your personal life!’

 

They identify a particular man who behaved suspiciously in the past, and go to interview him. Boring stuff.

 

The blurb on the back cover says that Kathy Reichs is a master in escalating tension but she does not seem to have used even a little of those skills in writing this book. It starts tame and stays down for most of the book. It is not the conflict between Brennan and the abrasive Claudet or her pining for Ryan who seems to ignore her that we are reading this book. It is for a murder mystery. If Dr Brennan treats that as something to do when all her other interests are exhausted (and don’t get me even started on the moody friend Anne whom she caters to in addition to all the above and of course, as a higher priority than her work) it just irritates readers like me.

 

She learns that who she thought was Medecai is an imposter. She also figures out the original murders. Again there is some surprise there but the main twist in the book is her overlooking a possibility in her analysis of the bones. Really?

 

The twists are insipid. The pace is very slow. Not a page turner, this. Right near the end, there is a twist that is really good, but you have to wait for almost the entire book to be over before you say ‘Ha, this is more like it!’.

 

But that is fleeting. The dilemma with Ryan and Anne are sorted out quickly but the whole story is a bit drab. Perhaps it is me and CSI type of books. Don’t know. But I can only rate based on how I feel so, this gets a ….

 

4 / 10

– – Krishna

September 17, 2016

Book: Death On Tour by Janice Hamrick

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:44 am

imageSuch a curious title, sounds like an old age mystery of the type Agatha Christie would dream up.

 

One of a group of tourists, Millie Owens is found dead, in broad daylight, in the middle of a trip to Egypt, in open space. A mystery if ever there was one. She climbed onto a pyramid and fell to her death and no one noticed the event?

 

Jocelyn Shore, with her cousin Kyla is there and is puzzled as to how the elderly woman climbed up the pyramid and how, given the short height, she died when she fell.

 

Alan Stratton an attractive fellow traveller flirts with Jocelyn but oddly does not want to have his picture taken. Then there is a big description of the tour and everything they saw (the Sphinx) and did (camel rides). You get the feeling that you are reading someone’s boring travel experiences rather than a mystery that you wanted to read.

 

When an Egyptian carpet seller tries to get fresh with Jocelyn, Alan rescues her. When she reaches the van alone, she finds Millie’s bag still in the bus and cannot resist a peek. She discovers right away that Millie was a full blown kleptomaniac.

 

The story continues to feel like it was written on a tour of Egypt. I am not talking about authenticity here but the boring details on whether you need one more ticket to visit the most famous part of the museum and the carpet salesman and the sequence of things you do on an organized trip etc.

 

In Millie’s bag she finds a clue that may indicate that she found that someone else had a big secret (smuggling) in the group. When she hears that Millie was murdered (stab to the neck) she thinks she knows the motive for the murder right away.

 

When a second salesman mistakes her for being from Utah, she smells that something is wrong. Alan makes mysterious remarks about Kyla which puzzles Jocelyn more.

 

The story gets a lot weirder when Ben and Lydia pass off another girl as their niece who was sick. Jocelyn caught this subterfuge and wondered why. Alan displays a surprising fluency is Arabic when she least expected it. The plot thickens? It was very watery to start with, so you think that it could do with a lot more thickening.

 

When they thrust an expensive necklace in her hands in a tent and send her out, she naively decides to keep it and thinks of it “as a gift”. Come on, even a six year old thinks better than that!

 

In the meanwhile, she teams up with Yvonne, a fellow passenger who had been a criminal lawyer (somewhat modeled on Miss Marple of the Agatha Christie books) and try to do some detective work.

 

The developments are insipid. Think about this. You are mistaken for a lady from Utah repeatedly. An expensive looking necklace is thrust into your hand saying specifically “It costs thousands of pounds” and a group tries to blackmail you for “more money” and then back off when an old man comes and gives it in your hand saying  “the agreed price is OK”. You of course have no clue on what this is all about. What do you do? You simply “assume” that they wanted to give it to you free because they had “frightened you”. And keep it. When you are subsequently attacked and your purse searched (in the middle of a tourist throng no less), you do not link this to anything else (until a ‘great detective’ points that possibility to you). What is more, you decide to wear it in public at the next open party and dance. If you told me that you are also trying to be a detective to find out who murdered Millie and, later, an Arab vendor, my reaction would be to burst out laughing!

Jocelyn, the heroine of this story, is subsequently attacked and knocked unconscious when she ‘ventures out alone’ from that party (with the necklace on) and has her necklace stolen and seems to be surprised that this happened. You are now thinking ‘Does Jocelyn have a mental deficiency?’

 

Also the book feels like it started as a personal diary entry about an Egypt trip and then suddenly Janice decided, ‘why don’t we put a couple of murders in it and turn it into a mystery book?’. The problem with that approach? The whole story reads like personal notes with spice added  and is very annoying.

 

She learns of Alan’s true identity after a quarrel with him. (For once, it is not what you would expect). Then comes the climax where the real identity of the culprit or culprits is revealed. It is a twist in the classical sense. All ends well finally.

 

The end is nicely explained. But the toll it takes in the meanwhile reduces the interest in the book.

 

4/10

 

  • –  Krishna

 

July 1, 2016

Book: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:02 pm

imageThis is the author’s second book in this name. The first one, Cuckoo Is Calling, introduces these characters.

 

The story is told in the inimitable style you have come to expect from Robert based on his (her? After all, this is JK Rowling, really) first novel The Cuckoo Is Calling. There is also the undercurrent of romance between Robin and Strike, which continues. Well done. You are left wondering, however, whether the author plans to keep Robin hanging a la Della Street in Perry Mason novels all those years ago. Let us see what the story is.

 

Strike is approached by Mrs Leanora Quinn. Her author husband Owen has disappeared and she is distraught. His agent Liz, after talking it up, rejected his latest book.

 

The publisher Christian Fisher wants to meet Strike. Strike learns that his latest book is about a real life personality thinly veiled and is explosive stuff. He also learns that the publisher did not know where Owen is, and what is more, despises him with a passion. He also reveals that the latest book has references – very thinly veiled – to real life people who are impugned. It is a slander lawsuit waiting to happen!

 

Leanora then directs him to Liz, his ex agent and he finds that they were friends but fell out. Leanora put her career in jeopardy by not reading the latest book (called Bombyx Mori, the Latin name for silkworm) because she was sick and sent it to two publishers before her assistant told her that it is totally inappropriate. When she told Owen that, he shouted at her, upturned the chair (they met at a restaurant) stormed out, and disappeared.

 

We learn that another publisher Kathryn Kent (a self published author of erotica who slams the door in Strike’s face) had an affair with Owen but now cannot stand him and does not know where he went.

 

Robin arranges for Matthew and Cormoran Strike to meet in a restaurant with disasterous results.

 

Strike manages to get himself invited to a party with a girl called Lillian and meets Jerry Weldegrove, who is drunk and is one of the people maligned by Owen. The other is the CEO, Daniel Chard. Michael Fancourt, a famous author, is also impugned. When his wife writes a bad novel, a vicious parody appears in a magazine and she kills herself. Everyone suspects Owen is behind it but in his book, he implies that Michael himself is the author.

 

When Strike goes to a house that Owen and Daniel owned, he discovers the house sprayed with acid and Own found disembowelled and gruesomely murdered. When Strike discovers that it is exactly the way described in his latest novel, things get a lot hotter.

 

Elizabeth Tassell meets him in a restaurant and reveals that the parody was indeed written by Own and she herself (in addition to the wife of Own who had the key, motive and opportunity) is under a cloud of suspicion from the police as she regularly loaned Owen money. Lots of it.

 

Daniel Chard meets Strike and also later, Fancourt. He figures out the killer three quarters of the way through the book but in true Agatha Christie fashion, the author does not reveal the answers to us.

 

His shots in the dark to recover evidence (a typewriter) his guess about where the removed body parts of Owen were disposed of and his brilliant cornering of the killer in a club party even though the police keep ignoring his leads are fabulously told. As good as the first one, by Robert (aka JK Rowling)

 

7/10

  • –  Krishna

November 15, 2015

Book: The Twisted Root by Anne Perry

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:24 am

imageWe have reviewed many of Anne Perry’s books earlier in this forum. You may remember that she writes mystery stories but set in Victorian era.

Let us look at the story.  In these kind of books, the only way to review is to look at the plot minus the ‘who did it?’ ending. That is what we will now do. This features one of her routine detectives, Monk.

Lucius Stourbridge comes to see Monk. Monk is back from a honeymoon with Hester.

In many of the earlier books, Hester was caught in a love triangle between Monk and Oliver Rathbone, a brilliant and compassionate lawyer, and finally, in a previous book, she chose Monk and agreed to marry him. Also as I have already pointed out, the stories move the life of Monk and other characters through a series of books, which is nice if you read them all, hopefully in sequence!

Lucius was betrothed to Miriam, the lovely lady (She was Mrs Gardiner, so you guess that she has been widowed before deciding to marry Lucius) and she has disappeared. Hester in the meanwhile is fighting to improve conditions in a hospital (she realizes that training of nurses is required to improve care and install sanitary procedures, but faces resistance at every turn). On top of everything, she finds that medicines are being stolen too. Callanda Divot, the rich aristocrat with a benevolent nature and is a friend of Hester and Monk,  is also with her there.

Monk  finds that the coachman, who also disappeared with Miriam,  was found murdered in a different police precinct and the coach and horses were not stolen. Why was he murdered if not for money? And where is Miriam?

Robb, the superintendent in that precinct is young but seems extremely able.

In his enquiries, Monk learns that Miriam was adopted as a child, wandering in the streets and that the adoptive mother lives close to where the coachman was murdered and Miriam disappeared.

He finally tracks Miriam down before Robb and learns nothing from her, except a statement that she cannot tell him anything. He also notices her visual great distress. Mariam is arrested by Robb.

In the meanwhile, Robb’s very sick dad and Hester form a bond.

Miriam refuses to help in her own defence and keeps a fierce silence, resigned to her fate.

When the case is closed, Lucius comes to Monk again to find the truth. When they discover that Mariam’s mother (who adopted Mariam) was dispensing medicines to the poor from the hospital (a kindly act but a crime) they conclude that the coachman was blackmailing her and then arrest the mother. Mariam is released into the custody of Stourbridges but seems strangely petrified to go with them.

Hester decides to continue the crime of smuggling drugs to patients who need them, even at a danger to her of going to jail, and one of them is Robb’s own father! She also confirms from Mariam’s adopted mother, who is now in jail for the murder, that the coachman was indeed blackmailing her. Seems an open and shut case, especially she is not interested even in defending herself against the charges or even explain what she knows.

But when Verona Stourbridge, the mother of Lucius is murdered in her own house by what seems to be a family member in exact same way as the coach driver while the nurse was still in prison, the case takes a bizarre turn and Robb invites Monk to help him.

When Miriam is also arrested, Monk and Hester reach out to Oliver Rathbone for legal help.

He tries to talk to both Miriam and her mother with no avail.

Monk and Robb are puzzled : How did the coachman know about the theft of the medicines to blackmail Miriam’s mother??

Finally, to save Miriam, Cora decides to tell how she found Miriam all those years ago, in court. She reveals the bombshell about Miriam, how she arrived and her precise condition of arrival.

When they claim that there was a woman murdered all those years ago by the killer, who is revealed at this point, Hester goes with Robb to find the body and does find it, based on the descriptions of the place given.

From there the mystery unravels quickly and the ending is a bit sudden in my view, where everything becomes known together and there is a sense of hurried completion but still a fairly good book to read.

6/10

– – Krishna

January 10, 2015

Book: Half Moon Street by Anne Perry

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:18 pm

ImageOne more book from Anne Perry featuring Thomas Pitt. We have reviewed some earlier book with the same detective earlier.

Thomas Pitt is called to investigate a bizarre crime, where a body is found in a boat, the victim of a murder. The body is that of a man and is manacled to the boat and dressed in a woman’s satin clothing and arranged in a suggestive sexual pose after death, which makes it a very unusual case.

Thomas Pitt is relieved that the corpse is not that of the French embassy official who was missing, thereby avoiding an international scandal. But who is he?

Also, as is her wont, the author comments on the social mores of the time through side strands of the story that makes it very effective and adds to the weight of the story. This time it is through a play that Pitt and Charlotte’s mother Caroline go to, where a woman shows her loneliness too plainly for everyone to notice (in the story) as she is not supposed to in ‘civilized society’.  Anne rails against the restrictions on woman who are not supposed to show so crass an emotion like sexual desire.

Pitt identifies the man as a high end photographer who takes pictures of people in their fancy costumes and brings out ‘the real soul’ in each of them with clever lighting, and other additions. Caroline’s mother is appalled at Edward being ‘shamelessly flirted with’ by her daughter.

A French Diplomat seems to be somehow involved. Unusually for Anne Perry’s stories, Oscar Wilde makes a cameo appearance in the story! And when the poet Yeats also makes an appearance, the story really goes off the usual path of Anne Perry stories. However, both are only appearing fleetingly and have nothing to do with the main strand of the story itself. There is a hint in the story that they also appeared in an earlier story by Anne Perry but I have not read that one, whatever that book is.

My complaint is that she got carried too far into the social message, which is definitely interesting (of free expression of passion by women and women’s right to be informed of the uglier facets of life instead of being protected by men) that the main story hardly moves at all from time to time.

Mariah, Caroline’s dead husband’s mother, who is staying with her now since Emily is away with her husband, disapproves of the unseemly friendship between Samuel Ellison and the twice married Caroline. Having failed to persuade Caroline’s actor husband Joshua to take the threat seriously, she decides on dishonesty and writes a letter filled with flirtatious intentions to Samuel in Caroline’s name and handwriting in desperation. Then when set up, she calls Joshua to ‘witness the wantonness’. When she is found out, she is contrite, and in a conversation she admits to the penchant of her husband for sodomy. (‘Unnatural acts’) which has deeply affected her.

Meanwhile, Pitt and Tellman find out that the money for the cameramen came from salacious pictures sold clandestinely of women, who may or may not have been aware of what is gong on. When one of the pictures of the famous actress Antrim is in the exact same pose as the murdered person, Pitt knows there is a strong connection.  Caroline finds out where the pictures were bought from – in an independent way from Pitt, who tracks it to another wholesaler. When he confronts Antrim with it, she reveals a whole new side to her.

Caroline proves she can stand up to Antrim (Cicily) even when she is pissed that her son, who is a newbie, upstaged her in Hamlet. She suspects that he has some evil torment in him in order to be able to portray Hamlet to near perfection.

Well, the ending has the requisite twist but has the feeling of an abrupt ending, with no clues about the murder – this is not a book where you can guess who did it by reading it because there seems to be no clues except a direct explanation at the end.

Anne Perry can do social commentary of the Victorian era with the mystery part well and gets it near perfect in some books (For one example, read our review of A Breach of Promise elsewhere in this blog) but in this book, the social commentary seems to take over the entire book with a murder put in there as an afterthought.

Also the initial confusion about whether the murdered man was the French ambassador or not is a bit confusing. You feel definitely that it holds an important clue, but you find out otherwise at the end, which gives you a feeling of being let down.

All in all, still a readable book, but by no means one of Anne’s best.

Let us say 6/10

  • – Krishna

November 28, 2014

Book: Killed At The Whim of A Hat by Colin Cotterill

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:55 am

imagesI don’t know what to make of this book, so let us go straight to the story and I will try to convey the tone and texture of the book in the process. The story is set in Thailand.

 

When Old Ben hires a hand to dig for well in his backyard, the man hits a metal and when he tries to open it, he falls through into what looks like a room!

 

Now a crime reporter with a transgender brother (currently female) and another sister comes home to find the home sold by dear mother Muir against the wishes of granddad and they are expected to move deep South, which is dangerous. Her job as a reporter abruptly ends due to the move.

 

Is it the tongue in cheek reference when you put George W. Bush’s worst quotes at the start of every chapter? (‘I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully” is a sample.)

 

When the skeletons are discovered, she sees her chance to do crime reporting again.

The story is told with humour too – the part about the skeletons collapsing due to inept police handling and her reaction to it are hilarious. The Major giving her lunch believing her to be from the big city Bangkok; the uncool things she lists about her new home are all funny. Also the storyline dates itself by sentences like “No telephone line so no Internet”.

 

Jim hears of an abbot being killed in the same city and life becomes interesting. The life in Thailand is cute. (No electronic records before 1992 but old paper records lost due to poor housekeeping – is an example. He must be called Armani because the label on his shirt says so is another.)

 

The killed abbot is a visiting one from a faraway monastery, it turns out. The current abbot and a nun are in a cloud of suspicion.

 

Because the author is British, even though Jim is Thai, she thinks and acts like a westerner (Bon Jovi and the like her tastes). Now I know a lot of Thais are into Western music but there are no references to local culture (there are references only to western culture or adopted western culture like Big Brother Thailand) and that is a bit jarring. Just setting the story in Thailand is not enough, if there is absolutely no local colour in the narration.

 

Get this logic: Internet scams are not real crimes because the companies you fool are net companies and have no ‘real’ brick and mortar presence. So the police should not even bother to look at them. This is at a point where we do not know if the author is even joking, so it comes across as weird.

 

Not just Jim but  everyone behaves like a Westerner. Wild Muir, the mother of Jim Juree may be crazy, but even she would not publish naked picture of herself with her professor everywhere in the college campus. I wish the author could read a local author in translation to see how South Asian minds are supposed to work. This is totally out of character with the locale he is trying to paint.

 

My God, is the author left wing or what? Every statement drips with social concern and anti corporation. As left wing as, for example, Tom Clancy is right wing.

 

Her taciturn grandpa Jeh, an ex policeman, gives her valuable hints. Why was the monk wearing a hat? What was “missing” since the bouganvilla plants were uprooted and an empty cigarette lighter was found there? What was “not in the scene”? Based on his hints, a camera is retrieved by Jim.

 

The title of the book itself comes from a blooper of George W Bush’s statement “People are being killed at the whim of a hat”. Some of the statements quoted by W are so outlandish that you wonder if the author made it up. But apparently not. He gives published newspaper references for each! Try this one for size “I understand small business growth. I was one”.  Or “… the storm clouds on the horizon were getting nearly directly overhead.”

 

The story meanders a bit. I understand that this is the starting of a whole series of books. The idea is to solve mysteries while treating the storyline as a comedy. It has been done better by so many authors. This one in fact is a lightweight mystery.

 

The ending has a deux ex machina feel to it – not blatant, but you go ‘what? where was this person all along?’. But the twists on the kidnapping of the politician and the way the real killer is implicated for the disbelieving Bangkok detective bigwigs are interesting.

 

Then a strange thing happens, the story begins to grow on you and towards the end you really think that this is a much better story than you thought. I love how the two corpses that were found first, starting the whole excitement off and the abbot murder story, which is accidentally found, are explained in relation to each other. Very clever.

 

Just because the book gets better towards the end, let us say a 5/10

 

  • – Krishna

October 2, 2014

Movie: Oldboy (2013)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:53 pm

imagesInspired by the Korean cult classic, this movie is different. It starts off very badly like a C grade movie. They want to depict Josh Doucette (Josh Brolin) as a devil may care playboy, hard smoking, hard drinking, skirt chasing, wife cheating bad man. Then one day, he gets kidnapped and wakes up in a prison cell with a creepy porter’s picture on the wall.

And the movie gets a lot more interesting after that. In fact initially, even the acting by Josh sucks and the dialogs suck more. Finally, after he wakes up, he starts seeing TV (and we with him, realize that many years have passed). He decides to quit smoking and bulk up. The television is his only mode of information. In it he sees everything – politics, cartoons,  discussions, his daughter Mia growing  up, his wife dying in a home invasion gone wrong; he watches Mia participate in competitions and win prizes and cries copiously. He gets food shoved through a hole in the door and his supplies given but never meets anyone. He is watched regularly through videos and when he turns unruly in the beginning, is gassed unconscious and subject to grooming against his will. He despairs of ever leaving and thinks he is going to die in that cell. So he starts pouring his heart out to his daughter Mia in a stack of letters that grow into a pile.

 

Then you get a shock. The man who is watching him is our own Samuel L Jackson. With a ridiculous looking blond Mohawk but really it is he! He is Chaney a gangster. But why is he holding Josh prisoner? What did Josh do to him? At this point there is no clue.

 

The movie really takes off now and you are dying of curiosity to find out who did this to him and why. He finally figures out a way to escape and even makes his escape through the roof but is captured and brought back. No punishment, nothing. Back in the room, with the escape avenue closed, and with no human contact except the TV again. He struggles to keep his sanity.

 

When twenty years is past, he is suddenly freed. As mysteriously as he was taken, he is let out. He is gassed and when he comes to, he finds himself on the streets, a free man. He vows to find who held him prisoner, and decides to find out. He is obsessed with finding out who did this to him. He is left with the stack of letters he wrote to Mia, and also a cell phone with his daughter’s picture and, ominously, a count down. He is desperate to find her.

 

He meets Marie (Elizabeth Olsen) who tries to help him. By sheer perseverance and some interesting detective work involving Chinese food, he manages to track down Chaney and tortures him, only to find that Chaney is a thug for hire and has a lot of people held prisoner in the facility where he was, for money. Before he can learn the identity of kidnapper, he is overwhelmed by Chaney’s bodyguards who manage to enter and gets badly beaten up and loses consciousness. He is mysteriously restored back to the place where he stays when he comes to.

 

Chaney finds him and now kidnaps both him and Marie, and they try to rape her and torture him when a phone call comes from someone named Adrian. Adrian asks that Chaney let them go and pays a ton of money to Chaney. You wonder why and the puzzle deepens.

How it all unravels and how you find out why he was kept a prisoner and why he was released is the rest of the story. A brilliant twist at the end makes you gasp. It is very unexpected.

 

There are a few things I found in the movie that I did not like at all. First, the acting, especially in the beginning, sucks. The first few scenes even feel amateurish. It gets better and better if you have the patience to continue watching.  Second, the whole plot is explained away fairly satisfactorily at the end, and you can buy that line of argument as logical. Not realistic, mind you, but at least plausible, given this is a Hollywood movie. How it ends is also very good. But it is all told suddenly at the end. No clues from the beginning, nothing to indicate what it could even be, but suddenly everything is sprung on you.

There are even childish scenes such as “If you can figure out why I did this to you within seven (was it?) days, I will pay you a fortune and kill myself in front of you” offer to him by the man responsible for it all. What?

 

But for all that, a very entertaining movie, and a very satisfying watch at the end.

 

I will award it a 7/10

 

  • – Krishna

July 13, 2014

Book: A Breach of Promise by Anne Perry

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 2:35 pm

imagesI considered this, when I read it years ago, as the best book written by Anne Perry in terms of the mystery and how it is revealed. I re-read it recently and have no reason to change my mind. This is simply a very good mystery, well told, and twists and turns that would make you sit up and take notice.

 

What makes it so good is that Anne likes to add a little social commentary on how wrong some of the accepted social norms of the day were, and usually it is a side script brought in via Hester Latterley’s work as a nurse or as views and comments from characters. Here it is fully integrated into the main story.

 

Let us follow the story.

 

Killian Melville an architect of genius. Barton Lambert, a wealthy man, recognizes his genius, and engages him, giving him the opportunity of a lifetime. When Zilla Lambert, his daughter, shows an interest in Killian and he spends a lot of time in her company, both Barton and his wife Delphine approve and encourage it.

 

Delphine does the next logical thing, and announces their engagement in The Times. Killian refuses to marry her and refuses to give a reason. Everyone is astounded and especially, Barton and Delphine take Killian to court. If they win, Killian will be professionally ruined and he will be unable to practice his profession that he truly loves and excels in.

 

Killian comes to Sir Oliver Rathbone for defence in desperation.  First Oliver refuses to do anything with it, as he agrees with the motives of the Lamberts in suing Killian. Then, Oliver meets the Lamberts in a party and then feels  that Kelvin is victimized by high expectations, and Delphine, the domineering mother of Zilla and agrees to represent the case against his own reservations.

 

Hester Latterley is serving to look after a soldier Gabriel Sheldon who got disfigured in the Sepoy Mutiny of India and is back in England. His whole family struggles to even talk to him! Hester begins to understand his predicament.  His brother Athol Sheldon is an insensitive boob who is stuck in his own ways and primitive notions. The wife Perdita struggles to find common topic to talk to the husband. Martha, the housekeeper too agrees quietly that Athol is a bumbling fool. (‘Muscular Christian Englishman’ as the book describes him)

 

The case begins and the prosecuting attorney Sachavarall  is clever and very good. He paints a picture of Kevin deceiving a girl for no reason at all and even Oliver struggles to see why his client would be innocent. Killian refuses to discuss any details even with his own lawyer Oliver in private, and seems resigned to whatever his fate may be.

 

The case is going against Oliver and Killian inexorably. Sachavarall, the prosecution lawyer, is savouring the possibility of an easy victory in this case. Barton Lambert and Delphine conduct themselves perfectly on the witness stand.

n the meanwhile, with no evidence and certain of being convicted, Killian kills himself, much to the shock of everyone in the courtroom.

 

Only when he is dead and a doctor is called to do the autopsy is the real reason for his reluctance to marry revealed. A very good twist. The twist moves further when Monk continues his investigation.

 

At one point, you wonder why the story continues when everything seems to have been revealed. It turns out that there is a very good reason and not one page is wasted in building up the story unnecessarily.

 

It turns out, in an even more bizarre fashion, that Killian’s attempts to kill himself started when he was in the courtroom, in the middle of all that crowd!

 

The investigation into how and why a central character committed an apparent suicide when she was with the others the whole time is fascinating.

 

And a sideline search of Monk searching for relatives of the maid Martha Jackson’s sister Dolly Jackson’s deformed children ties so neatly into the story. Makes you gasp when the twists come. Amazingly told tale. Fabulous!

 

A pleasure to read from beginning to end.

 

I will give it a 9/10

 

–        – Krishna

January 29, 2014

Book: 1st To Die by James Patterson

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 5:23 pm

imageJames Patterson has written a number of books that are in a series, like most others. This is one of them. Like Sue Grafton, who used letters of the alphabet to find titles, this particular series has numbers. ‘1 st to Die’ is the first book (duh!) in the series and the detective team is introduced and formed in this book and they go on to the books titles with other numerals later.

Very typical detective work. Lindsay Boxer is the superhero(ine) detective in this book but the book starts with her contemplating suicide. She wants to die when she has learnt from the doctor that she has a life threatening disease, with low blood cells.

The story shifts to the crime that starts  it all – David and Melanie Brandt are a newlywed couple, who have reached their hotel rooms right after the wedding, and a waiter brings a complimentary champagne bottle when Melanie has just gone into the bedroom to change out of her bridal dress. David opens the door and the waiter turns out to be a murderer in disguise, called Phillip Campbell. He kills them both and exits, and comes back with the crowd that forms to exult in his thoroughness and how neatly he got away with murder. A typical murderer who thinks he can outwit the police forever – a staple of so many thrillers.

Cindy Thomas is an aspiring reporter. She is new to her newspaper office, and is usually assigned society pages – the lowliest work in any organization, because it is the easiest and is usually assigned to rookies as a safe training ground. But the crime reporter is away and the hotel crime is big news, so Cindy gets to go temporarily. When she is denied entry into the hotel by the police, as they do with all other reporters, she shows remarkable ingenuity in getting in and getting an exclusive scoop.

The fly in the ointment is, of course, the organization. From the head office, they send Charles Raleigh, who is a highflying big shot. When this story threatens to become huge for the newspaper, he comes in to offer to “work with her” in a “partnership”. She suspects he is in to corner all the glory for himself.

Claire Washburn, chief medical examiner and buddy of Lindsay is another woman of extraordinary talent.

Claire, Cindy and Lindsay form the Women’s Murder Club, the theme of the whole series

While they are investigating the huge murder case, more bodies start to fall and they realize they have a serial killer in their midst.

Newlyweds Becky and Michael de George were lured into a limo by the killer and shot while making love. The investigations by Claire turn up the clue that the killer has a red beard

Kathy and James Voskuhl are next.  The Murder Club realizes that he is targeting newlyweds.

They pin the murder on Nicholas Jenks, the author. In the first murder, there are several items that link him to the murders. The champagne served in the first hotel was from a case he owned; he was in Saks the wedding shop where the bridal suits were tried by the second couple and also knew the third victim. Of course, in stories, you immediately say that ‘with this many arrows pointing to him openly, he cannot be the murderer!’

Lindsay in the meanwhile has constant sex with Chris, who she is in love with, despite her gloominess regarding cancer. Then it turns out that he is framed. They suspect his first (divorced) wife Joanna who is fit as a fiddle but she ends up murdered. She almost gets Nicholas. But Chris gets shot in the bargain and dies.

A terrible twist at the end when Jenks comes to visit Lindsay may surprise you. But I will not give it away.

I think this is a reasonable mystery yarn, if you like James Patterson style of writing. But nothing truly extraordinary. Entertaining? Surely, yes.

 

Let us say 6/10

 

— Krishna

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