Tag Archives: fiction

Sleeping on Jupiter

A novel that promises much but delivers little. Anuradha Roy’s “Sleeping on Jupiter” tugs at your heart all the time, there is a lingering suspense throughout the story, the ending disappoints.

The story starts with three late aged women going on a train journey to Jarmuli a temple town by the sea. In their compartment they meet up with a young bohemian type girl who is engrossed in her music. The train stops at a station, the girl gets off never to be seen again.

As the story progresses, you feel there is a connection between the girl Nomi and the three women, Latika, Vidya & Gouri and you sort of long for it, but it is the girl’s story that takes center stage. Her early life with her parents & brother, the violent upheaval, her subsequent life in an ashram with all its nefarious goings on, and that sort of breaks you apart.

Nomi is on a mission to find her roots and her long lost friend Piku from the Ashram days. There is a tour guide Badal quite desperate to get the attention of Raghu, a hulk with the tea seller, both of them have their own untold stories of angst and despair. There is lot of noir in the story, and you want some light in the story in the form of recognition amongst the characters, a bonding, love, but everything is left dangling in the end. Goodreads 2/5

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Miracle Cure

Harlan Coben races fast with this fast paced medical thriller “Miracle Cure”.

It has all the hallmarks of a potboiler with suspense at every twist and turn. Dr. Harvey Riker has found a miracle cure for AIDS which will change many lives racked with that illness. His co Dr. Bruce Grey has some suspicions and ends up with a thud from the 11th floor hotel.

Bodies start piling up one after another and all from the gay community. A senator’s son also ends up in that pile. A basketball star Michael Silverman has some abdomen pain and lands up in hospital and is soon diagnosed with AIDS. His celebrity TV news anchor Sara Lowell pitches it up with a news conference.

Max Bernstein, the NYPD cop gets involved because of the multiple murders attributed to a Gay Slasher. Things take time to unravel in the Coben plot, but when it does its a race down the line with so many twists and turns happening all the time. Good pulsating book to end the 2021 with. There were some unrealistic elements to the plot, hence Goodreads 4/5

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Tears of the Giraffe

Another highly entertaining novel by Alexander McCall Smith, he of the Mma. Precious Ramotswe of Botswana’s no. 1 ladies detective agency fame.

Languid, slow moving, engaging, simple language – the hallmark of McCall Smith’s writings. This time he has to factor in a case of a missing son of an American expat, her own impending marriage to Mr. J.L.B Matekoni the best ever mechanic of Gaborone. Add to that the ambitions of her secretary, Mma. Makutsi, who got 97% marks from the Botswana Secretarial College and the additions to their family even before their marriage in the form of who orphan children to take care of.

I like the way Ramotswe goes about solving the case as well looking after all other affairs including her own office with no hurry in the world. The Bostwanian pace of solving detective cases obviously hinges on kindness and empathy rather than the whole truth. Goodreads 5/5

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The Innocent Bystanders

Spy thriller from James Munro a.k.a. James William Mitchell.

John Craig is a tough hard as nails British spy set out to find a missing Russian scientist who has the knowledge to convert desert into life. Impracticable as it sounds, Craig is on a mission and in the process he travels to Turkey, America, Cyprus with Department K following him with two young recruits, and Force Three also on his trail. KGB is also interested in the missing scientist.

The scientist Aaron Kaplan is one of the ten men who broke out of a deadly prison in Siberia of whom apart from him, only two survived the escape. Force Three sends in Miriam Loman as the all in one help of Marcus Kaplan, brother of Aaron, who has not seen his brother for 25 years. Joanna and Royce are sent in by the Department.

There are plenty of thrills and spills and action in this fast paced adventure thriller from James Munro. The action moves from one location to another pretty fast. My first one of James Munro, and its good. Goodreads 3/5

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The Vulture is a Patient Bird

Another one of those fast moving thrillers from James Hadley Chase, my favorite author of all time and my go to author when i am bored of other books.

He writes of a fixer/ arranger Shalik’s quest for recovering a 400 year old Cesar Borgia diamond encrusted ring which has poison embedded into it, for a client. He arranges four people to do the job to recover the same from the estate of Kahlenburg, an invalid South African magnate owning a vast house and an underground museum somewhere off Johannesburg. He is surrounded by Zulu warriors who move silently and stealthily at night and are accurate with their weapons.

Garry is recruited along with Ken and Fennel, the last one for his expertise in picking any lock in the world. He brings in a beautiful, sensational model Gaye who is the poison pill to take apart Kahlenburg.

How they reach his estate and how they escape forms the rest of the book, which in typical Chase fashion is fast paced and thrilling, to say the least. James Hadley Chase does’nt disappoint with this one. Goodreads 5/5

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The Gold Coast

A 622 page turner from the master story teller Nelson De Mille in “The Gold Coast”.

John Sutter is a pompous New York attorney specialising in family matters, with a beautiful wife Susan and living in her family mansion in Gold Coast. One of the last remaining mafia dons Frank Bellarosa buys their next door mansion and their lives change inexorably thereafter.

Both John and Susan are drawn to the magnetism and the charm of the Italian mafia don and they become like pawns in his world of things. There is a pending murder investigation against Frank for which John agrees to become the attorney for the day to secure bail on the same day as the arrest, in fact before lunch time. John being not a criminal lawyer had to agree because Frank helped him in an IRS investigation into John’s financial affairs.

Large pages are devoted to the interplay between John and Frank and the irretrievable break down of the marriage between John and Susan. Nelson has built up the story very well and carried it through and through admirably for 622 pages, because with a long book like this, invariably the reader tends to start yawning, half way through. Nelson’s writing is magnificent, its throbbing with excitement and pulsating with the joy of bringing somebody’s story to life. Goodreads 5/5

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The Devil’s Feather

SPOILER ALERT: This is one incoherent rambling by the narrator who is a war correspondent with Reuters and suspects serial killings by a British contractor MacKenzie on women in Sierra Leone. She encounters the same person with another name in Baghdad and there were a couple or more of such killings of women in Iraq.

Connie Burns digs deep into this man’s antecedents and lands in trouble, she is abducted and held captive for 3 days but we are told about it in bits and pieces. Connie then retreats back to England, does not give the mandatory press conference, goes into hiding using her mother’s name and rents a house somewhere in rural England.

There she encounters like a crazy neighbour hood with Jess Derbyshire and a doctor and there is like a very complex web of stories around them. It goes back to three generations involving the landlord of the house, her daughter Madeleine, her painter husband. The narrative is terrible, it just goes on and on at odds and ends, half of which the reader does not understand.

The Baghdad / Sierra Leone serial killer comes back to her rural England house and again holds all three of them captive, he gets injured in the ensuing fight and disappears. Then the police keeps on questioning Connie on the whereabouts of MacKenzie suspecting her to have killed him and buried his body somewhere. Finally the misery ends. My first one by Minnette Walters and i am deeply disappointed. Goodreads 1/5

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The Devil’s Alternative

Another masterpiece from the master story teller, Frederick Forsyth.

This time lot of nations are involved. USSR is facing a grim famine and urgently needs grains to feed its people. There are Ukranian nationalists who are hell bent on wrecking havoc on the USSR with their call for freedom and independence. There is a massive super tanker of 1 million tons, first of its kind in the world built by a Swedish millionaire and commandeered by a Norwegian seaman.

US is interested in what’s going on in Soviet Union, UK is sending its spy network for the same purpose. There are terrorists on the board Freya, the super tanker and then the Soviet leader is facing a huge crisis from its detractors in the Politburo.

Forsyth has beautifully constructed the plot, bit by bit, out of nothing and sustained interest in it throughout. There is an element of suspense throughout the plot Adam Munro is a British Russian expert and he has a love interest in Soviet Union, who is made to spy for the west. Slowly but surely, Forsyth has unraveled the plot to its climax. Goodreads 5/5

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Hornett Flight

Outstanding fast paced world war II espionage/ spy thriller from Ken Follett.

Eighteen year old Harald Olufson a bright kid with a lot of potential and likes to tinker with machines and engines. One day while returning home he does a short cut through an army camp of Nazis in the island of Sande to find some unusual kind of disc like equipment.

Meanwhile there is an underground Danish resistance movement against the Nazis a secret group called Nighwatchmen involving a group of Danish men and women. The British were losing a lot of their fighters due to German technical air superiority and a radar system which the British did not have at that time. Hermia Mount is the British officer directly involved in this espionage activity. She has a Danish boyfriend and speaks Danish language well, having lived there for many years.

Their main goal is to take photograph of the radar system of the Germans so that British can work on it to prevent their losses. Paul Kirke is the Danish air force commander who gives Harald his first flying lesson in a Tiger Moth airplane. Karen Duchwitz is a ballet student and her parents are Jewish and own a property in Sande, which includes an old disused Hornet Moth.

How Harald and Karen risk their lives to fly the photographs across 600 miles into Britain against some unrelenting Nazi fire is the rest of the story. Goodreads 5/5

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Tell No One

A fast paced suspense thriller from Harlan Coben “Tell No One”

Dr. David Beck, a pediatrician who is mourning his wife Elizabeth who was murdered 8 years ago. He starts getting mysterious e-mails with coded messages, suggesting his wife is still alive.

Apparently, his house and phones are all bugged by somebody who is interested in Elizabeth coming back. There is a background and a motive to it. Meanwhile his wife’s close friend Rebecca Shayles a famous fashion photographer in New York is killed at close range. Dr. Beck goes on the run against the police and assaults a police officer.

Dr. Beck is helped by his client Tyrese who is from the underworld and knows a thing or two. The plot swings like a yo-yo from one end to another. Its a convoluted story with lots of twists and turns and lots of suspense to it. The rich Scope family is somehow involved in all these things.

There is mystery to Dr. Beck’s father’s death 12 years ago and even his father in law a retired cop has a few aces up his sleeve. Everybody has a story to tell. Goodreads 4/5

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Under the Sweetwater Rim

Another bustling fast moving Western from the master of the Western genre Louis L’Amour.

A wagon train carrying passengers including women, children and senior people and gold for the payroll is attacked by renegades and the wagons runs off the track and falls into a gorge, killing all the people on board. But one coach carrying the money, ambulance and two women were not among the wreckages.

One of the women is the daughter of Major Mark Devereaux, Mary Devereaux and her companion Belle Renick, wife of a captain. They are out in the wild with Lieutenant Tenadore Brian a fine officer as can be with rich international experience as well as cunning of the frontier west, where he grew up. Mary and Brian have something going on between themselves, which her father is not happy about.

So they have the women and the gold and Major Devereaux is on their trail with his contingent of officers and bad man Reuben Kelsey also on his back for the gold. Kelsey is Brian’s good friend from his younger days gone rogue and eyeing money and women now.

Louis L’Amour has presented a beautiful picture of the rugged frontier west with its mountains, caves, hills, slopes, hard country and kept an absorbing narrative to the end. Plenty of action throughout the book. Goodreads 5/5

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Whispering Wind

An unusual tale from the master story teller Frederick Forsyth, this time from frontier west from Cheyenne territory.

The story begins in or around 1876, when Ben Craig, who is a frontier scout is recruited by the army to locate Indians scattered in and around the territory in order to evacuate them from their lands. Ben Craig himself is a Cheyenne Indian and knows more about their ways than the badly equipped army. He saves a girl Whispering Wind from the bad intentions of the army folks of doing rape and murder of the girl by allowing her to escape on a horse.

Upon coming to know of his misdeeds, the army General Custer orders his hanging the next day after a summary trial. In the meanwhile the Army is routed by the Indians and Ben Craig escapes with his horse and takes refuge in a cave to escape the blinding cold.

Indians take him into their fold and he starts loving Whispering Wind. But the traditions of Indians will not allow them to be together so they escape again. They are pursued by the Indians and also the army folks who are seeking revenge for what he did to their troops. Whispering Wind leaves him to take approval of her folks and return to him.

Fast forward to another hundred years when the cave is a kind of retreat for city folks to come and experience how the frontiersperson used to live hundreds of years ago. Whispering Wind comes back as Linda Pickett a school teacher with her wards to visit the cave. Ben Craig is still unaware of the time travel and falls in love once.

Forsyth has seamlessly merged centuries in this beautiful story of love, danger, bravery, all told in his inimitable style of writing. Goodreads 5/5

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The Watchman

A breezy fast paced thriller from Chris Ryan “The Watchman” is a about an SAS operative being recruited to take down an MI-5 agent who had infiltrated into IRA and who had gone rogue.

Alex Temple is described as a daring commander with guts and intelligence aplenty to first lead an ambush into Sierra Leone to rescue two British TV news agents who were captured by rebels in that country. Immediately after that mission, he is called back urgently to tackle another menace – that is somebody was brutally murdering MI-5 officers one by one and it was feared that Joe Meehan who was the British agent who had been infiltrated into IRA was the man behind it.

A deadly game of cat and mouse, more deadly murders, some intelligence work, some deception, some sex, later it all goes down the wire. Of course there is a suspense at the end, as it has to be, to explain these dastardly killings.

Chris Ryan has written well with a fast paced narrative like an unputdownable novel. Goodreads 5/5

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Dogs of War

Brilliant book by Frederick Forsyth “Dogs of War” set in the murky world of mercenaries being used to topple governments where mineral stakes are high, very high.

Zangaro, a fictional African country is in the middle of it, some platinum reserves having been discovered there, with a corrupt president at the helm, ethnic clashes, broken down army, no economy to speak of. In comes Sir James Mansion a wealthy mining businessman smelling riches aplenty and his two handpicked assistants, Endean and Thorpe to do the dirty job for him. Endean tasked with finding mercenaries who will carry arms to the country, do an ambush and kill the president and ransack the place to tithers.

Forsyth does a detailed narrative of the reconnaissance part of the operation from recruiting friends to the mission, to procuring the necessary arms, equipment, boats, arranging everything legally, well almost all of them. Most of the narrative is dwelt on the preparation part of the operation.

And when you expect the operation will run to plan, Forsyth springs a surprise at the end. Cat Shannon, the English mercenary is in the thick of the things, does a meticulous job of planning the operation down to the last hour, minute with precision. This one is cult classic for the ages.

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The Day of the Jackal

Re-read “The Day of the Jackal” the brilliant cult classic book by Frederick Forsyth. I had read this way back in college days, and re-reading it bought back memories.

Jackal aka Chacal aka Charles Calthrop was a professional assassin hired by OAS to kill Charles de Gaulle, the then French President. This had Forsyth brilliance written all over it. Jackal is a thorough professional in all the preparations he makes and the back up plans he has in hand and his quickness and ruthlessness in executing a job were all brilliant. Claude Lebel the detective on the French side charged with the task of bringing Jackal to boot while there was a leak in his ministries.

Forsyth has not mentioned what happened to Jacqueline the mistress of one of the French government officials after her leak was discovered. Nor of the three OAS men who brought Jackal into the picture. So in the end nobody knows, not even the British establishment what was the real identity of Jackal. Goodreads 5/5

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