bookspluslife

December 15, 2018

Book: Pharoah by Wilbur Smith

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:21 pm

imageI have a quibble about the dust jacket. It claims that Stephen King said that Wilber Smith is the best historical novelist. Period.

 

Really? Don’t get me wrong, I like Wilbur Smith books, and have reviewed many here, including Assegai, Elephant Song, or the earlier Taita stories starting from the first one, River God. But the best historical novelist? Come on! He can be perhaps the best living historical novelist with the initials WS. Because if you include dead ones, even there William Shakespeare will beat him hollow with Henry VIII or King Lear. He has some history but mostly it is fluff, with no depth in it.

 

Interesting to see the book dedicated to his wife. He has dedicated all his books to his wife, but the name changes from time to time. I think this is the third name I have seen?

 

The Taita stories, though interesting, are insufferable in the all excelling God-like qualities of that man and in the first person, it looks like Wilbur is fondly imagining himself as a demi-God through Taita. If you consider the insufferable Seventh Scroll where Wilbur Smith, instead of the surrogate Taita, is the all knowing, and famous historian of the Egyptian history, you understand Wilbur’s urge to continue self praise through Taita. The pity is that the story stands by itself and is interesting in its own right without the self praise running through all Taita books. I will now get off my soap box and look at the book itself.

 

This is the next instalment in the widely popular Taita series. Two things about the story immediately stand out. One : It has a greater tie in to the original story than all the sequels so far. This brings us back to the Hyskos defeat and Pharoah Tamose, and the subsequent revenge of the Hyskos. Second: The story takes off almost from the first sentence.

 

Egypt is staring at annihilation and Tamose is old. Hyskos are kicking their butt repeatedly (my phrasing) in battles. Tamose is dying and his eldest son, Utteric Toro is to inherit the throne, such as it was. He is jealous of Taita and after sending him to defeat Hyksos, he then arrests Taita as a traitor.  The brother of the kind releases him and escapes with him to the sea. He meets up with his erstwhile friends.

 

He meets Bekhata and Tehuti from his earlier book and Tehuti’s brilliantly beautiful daughter falls in love with the younger brother who came with Taita. When a surprise attack is waged by a weasel-like  representative of Utter, Taita tries to put him to death but Serena saves him.

 

When they go hunting for a boar, King Hurotas, whose horse was gored by the beast loses consciousness, Queen Tehuti suffers a broken wrist and it is Serena who kills the mighty beast, cementing her reputation among everyone.

 

When she is kidnapped with Bekhata’s son being the victim, the story takes off again. When Taita and Rameses go to rescue her, the story takes off again, Wilbur style. The way they rescue Serena and how they free the prisoners in the dungeon are good.

 

Then Serena tries to create a rebellion right from inside Egypt. They collect an army and have Hurotas also come with an army.  There is a great reunion. They thwart an enemy attack as well as take charge of Utteric’s horses in a night raid. However a fish tile intrigues him and Taita finds part of the answer in one of the four islands at the mouth of the river.

 

When she faces a demon enemy called Terramesh who comes in a chariot drawn by unicorns (yes, don’t laugh) and with its axle adorned by sharp blades that tears through enemy army (which in this case is Taita’s) and seemingly impervious to arrows, Taita is confused. His pet goddess Inana tells him of a way to kill Terramesh. That involves stories like you would find in Brothers Grimm tales, where they travel to a concealed cave where there is one specific weapon to kill. They find it through magic and Inana’s guidance and then find another hidden and secret cave, protected by magic as well (I said, stop laughing) to lure and destroy Terramesh with some lude and raunchy display by Serena involved in the honey trap.

 

Then Taita explores the hidden passway below and finds a way to overcome Utteric, who is hidden behind three formidable walls. Also one of the people captured is a ‘good’ one and can even tell between Utteric and his myriad doubles.

 

You get the feeling that this is too easy for Taita. The last few Taita books have been totally one sided and the feeling that these are hastily crafted books to cash in on the fame of Taita deepens.

 

“One of the best historical novelists”, says Stephen King. In my opinion, Wilbur writes very well, that is undeniable, and bases it on history of both Africa and, now, Egypt specifically. But they are simply very thin backdrops to adventure stories. The research is not deep, the history is not even slightly emphasized but serves as a backdrop for gory killing and womanizing.

 

Engrossing? Yes. Historical? Even for his prior books, no. For this particular book, “Hell, no.”

 

Anyway, Taita solves the mystery of the tunnels. They go right inside the camp of Utteric, bypassing the walls. Easy, peasy, when you have the help of Goddesses like Inana to help out.

 

Typical but less complex fare from Wilbur. Entertaining but lacks his usual complexity.

 

5 /10
– – Krishna

Advertisements

November 25, 2018

Book: Honour Among Thieves by Jeffrey Archer

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:40 am

imageJeffrey Archer is one of those authors whose books you can buy (almost blindly, without even reading the blurb) knowing two things – a) it will entertain  and b) it would be an easy read without taxing your brain too much – ideal for those plane rides where you want to be entertained but without too much education!

 

This one will reward you for those beliefs. It falls neatly into that pattern. Let us look at the story.

 

Antonio Cavalli meets Hamid Al Obaydi, a deputy ambassador from the Middle East. The latter promises to pay 10 million by next day for a 100 million job. Scott Bradley is a lecturer. He gets a special mission. Hannah, a model like beauty joins Mossad because her whole family was killed by Scud missiles.

 

Al Obaydi delivers the advance in a secret meeting.

 

A small girl who is the daughter of a famed plastic surgeon is kidnapped and used as a pawn for him to perform a surgery on someone to look exactly like someone else. However, after the surgery, the daughter is killed.

 

Bill, known as Dollar Bill, is a master forger and is commissioned to make a fake of something mysterious, and is given everything he is asked for.

 

The President’s duplicate successfully passes muster in a public show and in the meanwhile Hannah is asked to go undercover as an Arab secretary in Paris.

 

Meanwhile Saddam reveals the plan to steal the Declaration of Independence, and burn it publicly on a July 4. The movie shot plan to hoodwink the duplicate into the museum is proceeding, not without some glitches. (A drunk counterfeiter, traffic jams etc). At this point you know who Al Obaydi is working for and who the plastic surgeon is blackmailed to work on.

 

They manage to extract the document after feigning the fake President’s heart attack.

 

Al Obaydi in the meanwhile traps Cavelli with pictures, insuring against a betrayal or failure since he has already paid a million dollars out of the hundred million. Meanwhile Hannah falls in love with Simon Rosenthal as the professor calls himself. Then she poisons him suspecting him to be a spy for Iraq and is devastated to learn the truth just before he collapses. She now has only one purpose: to assassinate Saddam by herself, as a revenge for her lover being killed.

 

The White House discovers the theft by the late vigilance of the Archivist who was duped by the duplicate President. Meanwhile, Al Obaydi realizes that for all the work he did, all the credit went to Saddam’s brother and he has been totally ignored. In addition, the CIA has got hold of the safe and takes it to Iraq as if they are the installers, Scott among them.

 

Hannah finally gets to meet Al Obaydi, the first step towards meeting and killing Saddam. The forger is now recruited by the American government to create yet another perfect replica of the Declaration of Independence.

 

Cavelli and his father grow suspicious when Dollar Bill disappears before they can get to him to fix him for good. Al Obaydi is arrested upon his triumphant return and charged with treason. When the Americans reach Baghdad, their treachery has already been discovered and they seem to walk straight into a trap, totally unsuspicious.

 

The cat and mouse games of ‘real’ and ‘fake’ declarations going in and out is a nice sequence of twists. Of course, if you put the reality filter the whole thing is quite absurd but you do not view books like this from that perspective. You go along for the ride. Remember our first discussion above?

 

They manage to get out with the death of everyone but Scott and Hannah and finally figure out that the ‘original ‘ declaration that they saved is also a fake!

 

The ending is cute with snippets of what happens. Nice book. Unbelievable story as all the stories from Jeffrey Archer are, but enjoyable.

 

7/10

 

J   – – Krishna

November 3, 2018

Book: Rules of Prey by John Sandford

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 2:49 pm

imageI have been consistently reading the same authors, though from time to time try to find new authors (New for me). I was told to read John Sandford, and finally I got around to it. I am glad I did. I enjoyed the book. Let us look at the story.

 

Maddog (yes, that is right. No space between the two words you see in your mind) is a professional killer who is waiting for a lady artist who is illegally occupying a garage. He honed his killing skills by personal vendetta but now is a hired killer. He gets attacked with pepper spray but manages to escape, bruised, and since he was wearing a mask, also unidentified.

 

The detectives are watching Lucas in a parallel story. We learn that this is because there is a  link with one of maddog’s weapons to Lucas. But while they are watching him (and taking tips on a winning horse) maddog strikes and kills a real estate agent girl and then they know they are watching the wrong guy. They take him – he is a detective – and ask for help in catching the killer.

 

He talks to a victim who is Carla Ruis, and seems to have romantic interest with her. But he establishes a tenuous connection with the killer and the courthouse. They make out a link from the victims to a courthouse and suspect a gay clerk Smythe who works in that courthouse. They book him against Lucas Davenport’s best judgement.

 

When maddog himself calls anonymously and tells Lucas that they have got the wrong guy, they are forced to let Smythe go, much to the annoyance of the defence lawyer McGowan, who was hoping to make a career break with the wrongful confinement of a gay man called Smythe.

 

They release him quickly and Lucas plays with maddog’s emotion by feeding tidbits to Jennifer, a reporter to suggest variously that the maddog is gay, smelly, and a pig sty farmer.  The book is interesting with maddog choosing the victims carefully and each murder bringing some more clue about the unknown killer.

 

When Lucas sets up McGowan with fake news that is sure to provoke maddog, he keeps her under surveillance. Maddog instead murders a girl who is disabled. There he tries to find out where is the demarcation point where pain starts in her body.

 

He almost falls for the McGowan trap and just manages to escape. There is an exciting scene where he gets a bit mauled by dogs. The police chasing kill the dogs and the house owner kills a police officer. This is all due to an inexperienced cop squealing the tires before they get to maddog.

 

The chaos obliterates all clues and ideas on how to lure maddog back into the trap.

 

They find maddog by a signature on a document and put heavy surveillance on him but he realizes that he is watched and plans a daring attempt right under their noses. The way he fools them into thinking he is in an office when he goes and prepares for the next kill is lovely. Even more lovely is how he fools them into thinking that he has gone to bed and goes after his most daring attack. Whom he chooses is fascinating.

 

Nice book. I thought it starts slowly but it does pick up speed quickly. Nice. You will enjoy the thrill ride.

 

7/10

— Krishna

Book: Morning Noon and Night by Sydney Sheldon

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 2:27 pm

imageIf anyone has been following the reviews consistently, you would have surmised that I am now re-reading Sydney Sheldon books. Correctly, as it happens. I find him a bit simplistic for today’s times as novels seem to have evolved into complex plots even for thrillers. But it still holds your attention and is enjoyable.

 

See some of our earlier reviews of the books by the same author including Rage of Angels, Master of the Game or The Sky Is Falling.

 

This is another book along the same lines and of similar calibre. What is the story?

 

Harry Stanford, with a woman and his bodyguard Dmitri Kaminsky in a small town.  He is on the run.

When he goes back to US to settle an unspecified problem that is dogging him (which makes the international police in hot pursuit), he falls into the ocean and dies. His three children all hate him. He had a wife who was devoted to him but was unfaithful to her; he got the kids’ governess pregnant. She refuses to abort the child and leaves and the wife, overhearing him professing love to the governess, commits suicide. He seems to have been a very bad parent.

 

In spite of his father’s ridicule and insults, the eldest son Taylor becomes a strict judge. The middle one is a designer/ model who is self made (runs away from home). The youngest, Woody, marries an ugly waitress and then gets into an accident and drugs, which get him to change his personality completely and be cruel to the wife and family.

 

The children, Taylor, Katherine, Woody meet and find that the will has left everything to the children equally. It also mentions that an equal share should go to his child with the governess, should she ever turn up. On cue, the girl turns up. (Julia Stanford). It turns out that despite very convincing DNA evidence, she is a phony and Judge Tyler is the mastermind behind it. He also has the bodyguard of the dad Dmitri in his palm, once he finds that that man is a fugitive from both Russian police and Russian mafia. Dmitri has been feeding him information all along.

 

Tyler has finally managed to get his share and also convince others that Julia (his own person Margo whom he coached to impersonate Julia) has arrived. He gets a lion’s share and wants to share with Lee, a male hooker he is in love with but who is stringing him along.

 

The surprises keep coming, in true Sydney fashion. For example, Woody, the great polo player gets into drug habit after an accident and beats up his plain wife Penny. Jennifer is being blackmailed after an accident and against his boyfriend Marc Renault’s wish tries to give money whenever a letter arrives. Who sends the letter? A surprise.

 

Carefully laid plans of Tyler go to pieces when the real Jennifer turns up to meet him. She meets Steve, the attorney, who falls in love with her but considers her unreachable due to her billionaire status.

 

 

The twist in the will itself is a final bombshell.

 

Lovely book, 8/10

– – Krishna

October 1, 2018

Book: The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:01 pm

imageOne of the better books from the master of suspense of yesteryears, Sidney Sheldon. Ranks up there with Rage of Angels  and The Master of the Game

 

Armand Gautier the famous director, Dr Israel Katz the famous neurosurgeon all go to see the trial of Noelle Page. Also Philippe Sorel an actor, Auguste Launchon a weasel of a man and William Fraser hating her guts.

 

The story shifts focus to the other lady in the story, Catherine Alexander, wanting to be a model from a young age, and wondering if she is beautiful enough. She is considered cold or a lesbian because she does not encourage men and she did not even realize it. She has her eyes on the football star in her college and he does not even seem to know that she exists.

 

Noelle Page was the daughter of the owner of a fishing company in M         arseilles. Her parents were ordinary looking, ugly even, but she was an exquisite beauty – blond to boot. Daddy wants to set her up with a rich man as a mistress and is thrilled when he hears that she wants to be a model. He sets her up with Auguste Launchon , who owns a shop in Marseilles – as a shop assistant. Once she understands that she is to be a whore for him, she runs away to Paris, with money given by him to find an apartment in Marseilles and set herself up, ready for him whenever he needed her.

 

She meets Larry Douglas an American soldier fighting for Britain in World War II and falls in love with him heavily. She is led up the garden path until he suddenly disappears. Interesting how in all Sydney Sheldon novels the girls fall for a great man and are totally disappointed. (Remember the Rage of the Angels?). She falls sick and is taken to the hospital where she meets Dr Israel Katz.  She discovers she is pregnant and waits until the last moment and kills the child with great pleasure through a quack and nearly gets killed in the process.

 

She then climbs the ladder through series of liaisons, first to Pierre, a talented but not handsome actor and then moves on to a famous director , Armand Gautier, sleeping her way to the top. Since she is in Paris, and the story unfolds in the forties, there is the Nazi occupation in the backdrop. She meets ‘the cockroach’ who is Israel Katz. After saving him and getting into trouble with the German commandant who admires her, she still decides to evade her followers and help him.

 

Catherine in the meanwhile has fallen for Bill Fraser, her employer in Washington DC but finds the sex disappointing. She meets Bill’s parents but finds herself not fully engaged. She meets the selfsame Larry and marries him!

 

Exhilarating scenes where Noelle uses the German general to smuggle Israel Katz right under the noses of the Nazis.

 

The Larry who comes back to Katherine after WW II is not the same man she married – temperamentally. Not interested in work, fighting all the time, a savage thrust whenever he wants to make love, Katherine is confused. Fraser stays a true friend through all this.

 

Larry goes into a jealous rage whenever Fraser is mentioned and loses his job due to an anger issue. He loses many jobs mysteriously but goes to Greece to work for Demetris. Noelle is the puppet master in all this. She keeps insulting him. He has completely forgotten her and she wonders why.

 

When she pushes him too far, he violently beds her and she falls in love all over again with him and hides her affair from the mighty Demetris. When Larry asks for divorce, Katherine says ‘never’ and so Larry and Noelle plot to kill her. Larry is now remorseful and wants to take her to an island for a “vacation”. After several attempts, Catherine tries to escape him and Noelle by boat and drowns. The police arrest both and Demetris hires the best lawyer in town to save Noelle if she promises to get back to him and she does. The trial is fantastic and the final twist is breathtaking.

 

Another of Sheldon’s great books!

 

This is one of the top 3 early books from Sidney Sheldon as we said in the beginning  and I think it deserves a 8/10

– – Krishna

Movie: Searching (2018)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:44 pm

imageWhat an interesting movie! There are multiple things to tell you about this movie before we even get into the story. First, the hero : There seems to be a trend of all sitcom and comedy movie stars to move to serious roles.

First it was Bryan Cranston who made the switch memorably in Breaking Bad. Yes, before that Jim Carey tried to do the same switch with miserable results – maybe he was ahead of his time? No, because, in British Television, Patricia Routledge made the switch from the hilarious Hyacinth in Keeping Up Appearances to the equally appreciated serious detective role in Hetty Wainthrop Investigates. Not to mention  Ed O’Neill who successfully made the move to Law & Order, and later, to the West Wing. And yes, Bryan himself he made the transformation  through a small role in X files that showcased his serious side. Then recently, we mentioned John Krasinski making the move in a prominent fashion in A Quiet Place.

Now John Cho has made a similar transformation from the comedy film series of Harold and Kumar.  He too made the change via the role of Sulu in Star Trek but still the performance in this is impressive.

 

The second surprise is that this movie takes place completely on either a laptop, or a tablet or a cell phone. There is not a single scene that is shown outside of the frame. Which is a phenomenal feature. And everything is shown in detail. You know how they use all the social media, including how they recover a lost password, how to send money through Venmo etc. Nice. Except that the computers and other gadgets perform flawlessly and instantly, unlike mine which often buffers and behaves unpredictably.

Also in this movie is Debra Messing, of the Will and Grace fame. But the story is all about John Cho’s character, David Kim. He finds his daughter has gone missing and when he digs deep he finds that he did not know his daughter. A sympathetic investigator who comes to help him suggests that youngsters sometimes run away and he is devastated, saying ‘I don’t know my daughter’. Ever since his wife died of lymphoma, his daughter has withdrawn into a shell and he is surprised to find that she had no friends and struggled to fit in.

 

The anguish of the father comes through very well and there are touching and kind of funny moments where her friends shun her until she becomes a news item when they turn to be ‘her best friends’. There are also lots of twists and turns and how he slowly unravels the mystery is phenomenal. It is also real where he initially writes a flame email to his daughter when he ‘learns’ that she had gone camping without telling him and then reconsiders and rewrites it.

The fact that he never gives up and also the fact about his week smoking brother all come together in a nice way.

What happened to his daughter? It is an amazing twist and I do not want to reveal it. How he recognizes small clues about his brothers shirt, about the detective herself and how he gets to the bottom of it all are fantastic.

 

I know I am not saying much but the story is interesting and very well presented in a fashion that keeps the tension alive all the way through.

Worth seeing, for sure.

 

8/10

–  –  Krishna

September 9, 2018

Book: 11/23/63 by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 7:50 pm

imageMy God, is there no end to the varied stories Stephen King can write and make interesting? ­­We have reviewed many of the author’s books here. See Under The Dome and Revival for but just two examples. This one is about time travel and is fascinating to read.

 

The narrator Jake Epping, a teacher, does not feel emotion enough to cry for anything and his wife Christy leaves him citing that reason. He reads a heartrending assignment from an ESL student called Hoptoad Harry or Harry Dunnings really, who limps (hence the nickname) and was a victim of a mass violence in his young age. He meets Harry’s graduation.

 

There is subtle humour, as in some of his best books, like the bar owner Al Templeton considering himself a good “Catlick” When Al Templeton uncharacteristically calls him to come and see him immediately, Jake does not know what he is getting into. Al is thinner and older than he should be, given that Jake had just seen him the previous day.

 

He goes into a corner room that seems to be too small for him to stand straight but when he goes in, he feels steps that are not there. After several disorienting moments, he climbs down the stairs, and finds himself in the past. He is outside in sunshine and the whole world has changed.

 

He goes and comes back dazed and finds that every time he goes, he goes to the same time, and no one else out there has any memory of him and the same events happen again and again like Groundhog Day (the movie) and that the only way he can change the dialog is if he asks something else the next time.

 

Al says that you can go and change things, and given the time he goes in, the best is to attempt to thwart the assassination of JFK.  Al talks about meeting Oswald close up where he tormented his absolutely gorgeous wife and was generally a bully.

 

He explains how he saved a girl from an existence in wheelchair by averting the shooting accident and also it is interesting to see how, every time you go down the portal, it is a total reset.

 

Jake wants to try to save Hoptoad Harry from the accident that befell his family as an experiment before he agrees to go change history. He goes down the portal with fake ID and cards and cash.

 

The description of the difference between 2005 America and 1958 America are really interesting. The storytelling power of Stephen King, which never ceases to amaze me, really shows here.

 

He goes and tracks the father Dunning, whom he finds with difficulty, befriending two youngsters dancing. He goes to the supermarket and finds that Frank is a charming man and a butcher. He follows him to his rented apartment.

 

When he tries to plan his attack on Frank and bivouacs outside the Dunning house on Halloween, he is surprised by Duffy who, it turns out, had his sister married to Frank and suspects him of having murdered her and covered it up. He manages to outwit him and due to this, is late to the rescue and sees the wife’s hand crushed and one of the kids dead. He manages to save the others but gets scalped in the process and rescued by Duffy.

 

He returns and checks the altered history. No Hoptoad Harry in the school as a janitor anymore. But when he reaches her sister after a long search, he learns that Harry was killed in Vietnam after enlisting in the army. Back he goes again, and this time takes care of Dunning by shooting him before he even gets a chance to go to his family to kill. Then he goes to save a crippled girl from accidental shooting.

 

He does it by having the husband teach him a card game. And then he goes to Dallas. Here, for a bit, the story sags. He gets involved in a school play and brings out the best in kids.

 

He falls in love with Sadie, a new teacher who is still finalizing her divorce with a bad man. When the man disfigures Sadie and is killed by him, he misses seeing Lee take a potshot at General Walker and miss. He then tells partially the truth to Sadie and takes her to a boxing match to prove his predictions. The story sags with details of who did what before Kennedy assassination but if you are bored, plough through it. It is only a small but and even there you have interesting bits like the the parallel story of Sadie, and the relationship between her and Jake. It gets better and better and towards the end, it is truly gripping.

 

His betting habits catch up with him when he is caught at his home alone by thugs hired by the betting Mafia. He loses his memory and as Kennedy visit nears, the tension ratchets up with his struggle to even remember what he had to do. Nice. His car breaks down and he narrowly avoids getting killed. Then a big accident in a bus and he survives.

 

They hijack an old car and proceed. He just manages to thwart Oswald but in the melee Sadie gets hit and dies. He goes back to reset everything when he meets the ‘green card man’.  That explanation is just amazing. That part makes up partly for all the saggy bits of the story. In fact you realize that the story is not about Kennedy at all.

 

From there the entire story and his struggle to do the ‘right thing’ and the sacrifice he has to make for it, and the ending are all top class. Just for the saggy bits, I am going to reduce the rating to a 7/10

 

  – – Krishna

September 2, 2018

Book: Santorini by Alistair MacLean

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:14 pm

imageAlistair MacLean writes well, has a penchant for aristocratic language which nevertheless did not seem odd even in the eighties when he was at his peak. In addition, the twists and turns keep coming and keep you turning the pages. Normally.

 

He himself is an interesting person. He is the son of a Scottish minister. English was learnt as a second language (after Gaelic, his mother tongue). He worked as a teacher in England. He also, suddenly, decided to stop writing and run a hotel business in England. Three years later, he returned to his writing.

 

Alistair can also be unpredictable. Some of his books are excellent – The Guns of Navarone or Force 10 from Navarone , for example, or Where Eagles Dare and some can be downright boring and I am not even talking about his last novels like The Way To Dusty Death which was a disaster. Even things like Ice Station Zebra seemed to drone on and on.  Where does this book stand? Let us see.

 

First, I will keep an open mind and will not judge it by when it was written. (This was the last book published by him).

 

The story starts interestingly enough.

 

A ship is in flames and sinking and a plane, which could be a military plane (Did it attack the ship?) or civilian, also is sinking. A British naval ship goes to investigate with O’Rourke, aristocratic Lieutenant McCafferty (who is an electronics genius), Van Gelden and the boss Talbot. They realize that the downed plane was a US plane on a secret mission.

 

The cat and mouse game begins with the survivors in the submarine and a mysterious death of chef and engineer in the engine room.

 

Experts come in a hurry from Washington and we learn that the plane that drowned was American, carrying nuclear weapons (including a Hydrogen bomb inside). I will give this much to Alistair. He knows his facts. He makes a character correctly mention that the hydrogen weapon’s fusion is started off by the fission of a normal atom bomb within it.

 

Lots of blather about how seismic activity can trigger a mega explosion. Then comes suspicions about the oh so clean skipper of the vessel, which is interesting. But too much conversation about technical mechanical things that get boring after a while, despite his characteristic light veined, aristocratic humour running through it.

 

The President of USA promises to help. Lots of fresh blather about how brave and knowledgeable and reliable everyone is and how mysterious Andropoulos is. It is funny how when Van Gelder is asked to use his charms to learn secrets from the pretty woman on board, he behaves. Unbelievably corny and unnatural in the context of the modern world.

 

They all learn the Andropoulos is perhaps involved in arms smuggling as well as drug smuggling.

 

I tried to keep an open mind but all those excruciating details about pulling up a plane by a pulley and careful measurements and markings and moves etc.. No, this is not a great story to read

 

The ending is full of twists, vintage Alistair McLean. However, it is too much of a travel to reach there. Thank God it is a small book.

3/ 10

–  – Krishna

 

August 26, 2018

Book: The Mistress of The Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 5:32 pm

imageInitially, I thought it was a disjointed, rambling, book. If you do too, have patience. It all comes together beautifully shortly and you will be rewarded with a great story for your perseverance.

 

It also turns out that this is the start of a series by the same name.

 

What it does well is mingle modern forensic concepts with a historical tale and does it very well.

 

Prior Gregory in a procession. He and the prioress do not see eye to eye. This is England in the Eighteenth century.

Scene change.

 

Henry II is livid with the collections from his realm not being enough. In the meanwhile infants are being murdered in his palace by someone.  Henry II asks the Jewish administrator Aaron to find out who is killing the babies in the palace – failure to do so would result in expulsion of all Jews from England (which is one of the only safe havens for them in the world).

Scene change.

Gordinus, the African medicine man is met by Moredecai, the principal secretary of the King of Spain. Moredecai is furious when he learns that the worst possible escort is sent with Simon Menham of Naples when he was sent to England.

Scene Change. Prior Gregory is dying. Adelia, a medicine woman, is nearby. She decided to save the prior even if failure would mean their deaths with the antagonistic disciples.

 

It is enough to make your head spin. Finally, when Adelia tries unconventional remedy for prior who cannot pee and is in agony, the story really takes off. A bit.

 

They have come to investigate the child murders. She is an expert in biopsy to figure out how they died. When Sir Rowley turns nosey, she keeps him there helping her! Finally they realize that the killer must have seen them and then moved the bodies from where he had buried them, which is the limestone covered hill that they trekked through.

 

The additional background of a woman doctor masquerading as an assistant to a “doctor” who is really her assistant, due to the chauvinistic nature of England, the primitive beliefs of the local people which causes frustration to Adelia, her passion for medicine – all add considerable colour to an already interesting story.

 

She learns that the first boy was left on Chaim’s lawn – and they decided to get rid of it in the sewers out of fear that the Jews will be blamed – and got hanged for his pains. Question is : Why his house, which was well lit and was in the midst of a party, while several Jewish houses were in darkness and also more accessible?

 

She goes to a party decked up and resplendent. When she learns that Simon has been killed, the whole thing strikes close to home. She realizes that he has been murdered by being pushed underwater and held there until he drowned.

 

Rowley Picot reveals that he is also after the same killer, who had killed in Arab lands and was called Rakshasa as a nickname. Rowley is almost killed defending Simon’s grave from the zealous Christians and wins the love of Adelia. The story of Picot, how he left two hostages and found one on the tree and the other used in despicable ways by Rakshasa are fantastic. How he traces him to Cambridgeshire (the mynah’s accent!) is fabulous. Great book. Absorbing.

 

When Ulf goes missing, Adelia crumbles. Picot is injured in a melee and is saved by the dedication of Adelia and he realizes that he loves her.

 

Fabulous descriptions, amazing twist near the end when Adelia discovers the den of the Rakshasa where her beloved Ulf has been kidnapped and kept only to be knocked unconscious and wakes up chained to the wall. What follows is an encounter with a masked Rakshasa that is very creepy. She barely escaped and uncovers another treachery.

 

Even after Rakshasa was unmasked and killed, her battle to prove the guilt of the accomplice continues. When all else seems lost, Henry of Plantaganet makes a dramatic appearance. She refuses the hand of Rowley, the only man she loved, to continue tending to the sick but Gyltha solves that problem for Rowley by an ingenious piece of advice.

 

Very well written a fine yarn that includes strands of love, mystery all served up in a medieval background. Superb.

 

9/10

 

– – Krishna

July 8, 2018

Book: Absolute Power by David Baldacci

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:02 pm

imageThis is my first book of the author. I did go in knowing that he writes thrillers, and it is likely to be a pure entertainer at its best and all fluff. So, at the end, I was happy and got what I wanted. This is not for the thinking man or for those who are after education with entertainment. But entertain it does, and well. Let us look at the plot.

Luther Whiteley is a high end crook who burgles rich people’s houses. He is getting ready for another job.  But just as he reaches into the house there are unexpected visitors and he is forced to hide inside the safe he had opened. The force being an one way mirror, he realizes that the lady of the house has brought a stranger who is violent to her and when she tries to attack him, the stranger’s aids come in and kill her.  The stranger turns out to be the President of USA.

 

In the meanwhile, Jack Graham dated Kate Whitney but is now with the beautiful and brainy heiress Jennifer. He is a lawyer and Kate walked out as he defended criminals and adding insult to injury, he liked her estranged father.

 

As Luther watches from the hiding place, they try to cover up the murder. But not before the secretary has sex with a President out like a light in a drunken stupor, right with the lady’s corpse lying nearby.  Hearing a regular patrol car, they clear out but not before Russell, the lady assistant, pockets the knife with the President’s fingerprints all over it.

 

But Luther gathers it and runs away with them in hot pursuit. Lovely stuff, this.

 

Jack, a lawyer, is preparing to go to a Presidential dinner. He shakes hand with the President and hates every moment of being with his fiancee who is all about power and money. He contrives to ‘bump’ into Rebecca again. In the meanwhile, the fleeing Luther is enraged that he let the President get away with murder, literally.

 

Seth Frank is assigned as a detective when a routine security patrol notices the dangling rope from the window, calls the police and they discover the body of the woman.  Seth is puzzled by many things : the alarm disabled but still the rope dangling down the window, the fact that there were two attackers, the fact that she was kneeling or lying down when she was shot, the fact that the second bullet was carefully removed, the fact that the place was professionally cleaned.

 

The grieving husband hires a professional assassin cum investigator McCarthy to find and kill the person who killed his wife.

 

While Seth tries hard to piece the evidence, seeing the President hug Walter Sullivan and ‘promising’ to get the killer who killed his wife, an enraged Luther returns. Meanwhile, the assistant lures one of the guards – Collins –  with sex but he blurts out the whole truth to the senior aide, Burton.

 

Burton befriends Seth and when he gets a fingerprint by the superb forensic expert from the police, identifies Luther. He stakes out the house and sees the daughter Kate visit the house.

 

He persuades Kate to lure his father to a rendezvous to be handed over to the police and she agrees. The plan by Burton is to ‘accidentally’ kill him so that the President is never implicated, which Frank does not suspect, nor does Kate.  When the husband hires a professional killer, the plan fails and Luther is arrested. Jack learns of Kate’s treachery from Kate herself.

 

Luther clams up and Seth, disturbed by what he finds in Luther, decides to confide in Jack who is representing Luther against the will of both his law firm and his fiancee Jennifer.  Jack is unsuccessful in getting Luther to open up and he realizes that Luther fears for Kate’s safety if he opens up.

 

With reason, it would seem. Right in plain sight of the police and agents, Luther is killed from afar by two bullets to his head. Jack is astounded – he was escorting Luther to the courthouse.

 

Walter Sullivan tries to call the President from his hideout to tell him that he knows about the President and his wife but is killed by Burton who had followed him over. Seth creates trouble for the President by refusing to let go of the case.

 

Jack realizes that he needs to break up with Jennifer and does. ‘There goes his career in flames’.

When Jack finds that a package has been deposited in his office, he goes in the middle of the night and gets it, Walter Sullivan is there with a mistress. He narrowly escapes the assassins, who kill Sullivan and the girl, destroying the career of the high and mighty lawyer in his office.

 

When Jack is framed for this, he goes to a private place to give the letter opener to Seth and he then is again confronted by the assassins. He escapes again but loses the evidence.

 

How he outwits the agents and the President is the rest of the story. Beautifully told. This story is like James Bond or Jason Bourne. You just do not question it but take it as it comes. Then you are sure to enjoy the ride.

 

I enjoyed reading this, even if this is pure fluff. I would say a 7/10

–  –  Krishna

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: