Tag Archives: fiction

Caravan to Vaccares

Another bustling, throbbing, edge of the seat thriller from the master story writer Alistair Maclean. My favorite writer, Maclean never disappoints. Maclean is probably the most comprehensive story writer that i have found. Each of his stories dwell on a different topic in a different country/ continent and he is masterful each time.

This time it is a story of the annual pilgrimage of the gypsies from all over Europe who descend upon Saintes-Maries for a week of fun, frolic and religion. Except that woven into that gypsy tale is something deceitful going on. Some of the gypsies are doing something illegal, there is a murder of one Alexandre and a sinister plot is brewing. Neill Bowman, an Englishman and Duc de Croytor a.k.a Charles the distinguished folklorist are in the midst of the intrigue. There are two English girls as well Cecille and Lila, come for the party. There is one Chinese couple also, but more Eurasians who seem to be keenly curious on the goings on and few bad gypsies Czerda, Searl, El Brocador, Pierre Lacabre, Ferenc and then there innocent, hurt gypsies Tina, Sara and their parents and in laws. Plenty of action up the mountains, down the river, in the bull ring, around the caravans. Maclean has kept the suspense in tact until the very end and with his flowing, beautiful narrative, this is one beautiful book to read. Goodreads 5/5

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A Cold Heart

A psycho thriller from Jonathan Kellerman, my first one of him. A not so noted blues guitarist is killed in the alley behind the studio just after his performance. Soon there are other killings of up and coming artists in and around Hollywood like a painter, a singer. Alex Delaware, the psychologist is bought in by the homicide detective Milo. Soon they form a team with Petra Connor investigating the guitarist killing and then joined by ex-army man Alex Stahl. The psychologist is able to put a lot more sense to the killings than the detectives but initially their suspect is a 24 year old Kevin Drummond, but further investigation on his family tree leads them to another suspect, his college counselor Gordon Shull. The way the mystery of the killer is unraveled is quite good. Exciting page turner from Kellerman, a nice narrative as well. Goodreads 5/5

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The Rig

The Rig by John Collee, exciting novel set in an oil rig in Madagascar. Canadian oil company Norco Oil has shut down an oil well in Madagascar due to no oil find, but the plane carrying the returning oil drillers goes down in flames immediately on take off. That plane carried the best friend of Spence, an experienced oilman who is now retired and divorced and drinking his times away, when he is called upon to investigate. He runs into an assortment of characters in Madagascar including the minister, a padre, half French, half African Perpetude who wants to migrate to France. There are sinister machinations in force including the dubiousness of the Madagascar minister, who wants to buy the oil rig at a discounted price. Spence sets about ferreting information from one and all and goes about trying to resurrect the oil rig to find out whether there is actually oil, or a fake report was sent of non oil prospect. Interesting page turner. Goodreads 5/5

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The Way Through the Woods

Just finished reading “The Way Through the Woods” by Colin Dexter, my first one of him. It is an Inspector Morse mystery. It is a mystery about a sudden disappearance of a Swedish maiden in England but the case comes to life fully one year after her exit for whatever reasons. Dexter has a different style of writing compared to others such as Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle etc. in the sense that he keeps on dropping some hints here and there by weaving in and out of the story by juxtaposing with riddles etc. The plot keeps the reader in suspense and I like his interplay with relevant quotes at the beginning of each chapter. I would say that Dexter is a “dexterous” writer in that sense. ¬†Goodreads 3/5

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Havana Bay

Martin Cruz Smith is a first timer for me and I did not realise that he had written Gorky Park which was made into a movie a few years ago. Arcady Renko is a humourless Russian investigator sent to Havana to investigate the death of another little known Russian spy in a water accident. The book begins very slowly and takes even more slowness to get into the characters of the plot. There are few police people and a Cuban female investigator Ofelia all of whom don’t want to investigate the Russian’s death. There is a liberal sprinkling of the mistrust between Cuba and Russia in the book a kind of Cuban hate of Russia for leaving them in a lurch and sort of leaving them as holding the last communist post in the world. The plot gets bogged down repeatedly in the Cuban Russian interplay of emotions which is not dispelled despite a few more murders taking place. Smith has done a good job in slowly unfolding the plot to its conclusion in the Havana Bay but I thought the ending was a bit too abrupt. He should have allowed the emotions between Arcady and Ofelia to be taken to a logical conclusion. This was supposedly Arcady’s fourth book in the series, it would be interesting to read his earlier works on Arcady and also his later works.¬†Goodreads 4/5

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The Unquiet Sleep

The Unquiet Sleep by William Haggard is a British novel about a miracle drug gone wrong or potentially wrong. It is a drug manufactured by a pharma company in which the Junior Minister of Social Welfare or Parliamentary Secretary as he was called in the novel was working previous to his political career. The drug has some powers but not tested fully so is sent to the laboratory for full check. Meanwhile Greek Cypriot gangsters are interested in the drug to black market it and earn some money. The kingpin of the drug lords one Dick Asher ingratiates himself with the wife of this minister who is philandering. The junior minister’s boss the senior minister Robert Seneschal is in trouble with the Prime Minister for the handling of this affair. Meanwhile Colonel Charles Russell heading a fictional Security Executive a kind of non official dirty works department and his lieutenant one Rachel Borrodaile who has previous experience in the French Resistance get into the act and try to sort things out. William Haggard a.k.a. Richard Henry Michael Clayton has written a lot of fictional thrillers set in the 1960s tto 1980s. His narrative in this novel becomes ponderous at times, when he goes on describing the procedures at Whitehall or when the characters go on a silent dialogue with their thoughts. Goodreads 3/5¬†

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The Genial Stranger

The Genial Stranger by Canadian born writer Donald MacKenzie is a robust crime fiction novel. Paul Seargent and Gordon Russell are two confidence tricksters much like Michael Caine and Steve Martin in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Their forte is relieving people of their hard earned money. Paul’s long lost daughter Lucy is coming from California to visit him and he needs to do something big to keep up the appearances and also because he has come to know that his wife which is Lucy’s mother is ailing in the US and needs urgent medical treatment. They cheat a retired pilot Slan Slezak but the guy proves to be a tough nut and comes after them. Enters into the plot a rich American industrialist who happens to be seated next to Lucy during her flight from California to Paris. The plot moves fast from there onwards and Donald has excelled in his narrative in taking the novel to an exciting climax.

Apparently Donald MacKenzie has been to prison several times and for several years so a lot of prison life is explained in the novel, in not so necessary detail, i thought. There is not much info about him except for this article in this link https://www.existentialennui.com/2015/10/author-donald-mackenzies-crime-and-spy.html

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The Liberators

The Liberators by James Pattinson, is a story of a revolution gone wrong. Harvey London is famous for doing odd jobs which require much skill and daring. In one such job, he is left bloodies and penniless when he is offered a job to transport a revolutionary leader to the coast of Anagua, a fictional country in Latin America bordering the Caribbean. He is a accompanied by Pete, a tough young man. They have to face hurricane winds and rains while on the way, lose their boat, get into a dinghy which also capsizes, but miraculously survive to find themselves on the shore of Anagua but in hostile territory. There one girl Anita helps them to navigate through rough country with hunger, starvation, deprivation, fight with enemies pulling them through in a city Oxaca which unfortunately is denuded by a volcano and earthquake. The conquistadors move to another town but spies within their network wreck their supplies of arms & ammunition which was essential to their hopes of winning the war. After untold misery and fight, these three people find themselves at the gate of the revolution, when the unexpected happens. The narrative by James Pattinson is nice, it is quite fast flowing, though some words used are quite archaic. Goodreads 4/5

James Pattinson (1915-2009) was a prolific British author with more than 100 thrillers to his name.

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The High and the Mighty

The High and the Mighty by Ernest K. Gann is an aviation thriller much on the likes of Airport by Arthur Hailey. Everything that could possibly go wrong on a commercial aircraft going out of Honlulu to San Francisco did go wrong in this flight. There were 21 passengers on board, so it was a much smaller aircraft and the story is much before the booming & large commercial airliners the size of dinosaurs. Co Pilot Dan Roman has had a previous escapade in another flight when he was a captain and that ended in a tragedy. So it was a comeback of sorts for him to be a co pilot at his age. The weatherman actually predicted grave weather to the pilot but he paid scant respect. Things start to go wrong during the flight, when one of the engine fails and fuel leaks. That plus the lousy weather conditions going into San Francisco makes for a courageous landing. All elements of emotion, drama, fiction here in this book.

This novel was made into a movie in 1954 starring John Wayne as Dan Roman. Goodreads 4/5

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East Side General

East Side General by Frank G. Slaughter a medical thriller. The novel depicts 24 hours life in a hospital when couple of patients are brought in with atomic radiation. There are a whole lot of complications in a hospital with a lot of tensions thrown in besides this case of atomic radiation, another patient is brought in with near similar injuries. Meanwhile FBI is on the hunt for the suspected killer or bomber. The story goes back to the Nazi days, when a Nazi escapee successfully entrenches himself in the American establishment, yet not left his roots with his Nazi past. One intern knows something about his past, which he tries to use to his advantage. Meanwhile one doctor is romantically involved with a nurse, one other nurse commits suicide, whole lot of things happening in the life of a hospital. Nothing much by way of story so Goodreads 2/5

Frank G. Slaughter (1908-2001) has written a lot of books and has been a successful writer. Several of his novels have been made into movies (source: wikipedia)

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Kiss the Boss Goodbye

Kiss the Boss Goodbye by Robert Crawford a.k.a. Hugh C Rae, a Scottish writer (1935 – 2014). He had several pseudonyms like Jessica Stirling, James Albany, Robert Crawford, R.B. Houston, Stuart Stern etc. This is a typical crime book in the same mould as those written in the style of James Hadley Chase novels, whose favorite characters are the underdregs of the world. Arthur Salisbury and Frank Shearer are past masters at solving problems of the crime kind. They have been given a job by the gambling syndicate of London led by Forsyth to stop Webber, an American from setting up shop in London. Apparently the dope is that Webber is funded by rich pals from the US. But as Shearer and Salisbury discover there are more to it than a simple stop job. Webber’s family connections comes into picture as are the internecine rivalries amongst the London syndicate itself. Drawn together with some female interests, the plot moves fast paced from one intrigue to another. There is a desperate fight to the end with lot of stakes involved. The narrative is quite good. Crawford is quite good because he has several genres to his credit under his various nom de guerres – romance fiction to historical fiction.

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Steady, Boys, Steady

Steady, Boys, Steady written by James Mitchell (no image of book cover found) is an outrageously funny book written of war time exploits and escapades of an unit under Royal Navy Commando, called as “Suicide Unit”. Geordie Willis has come from a family of war men, his father and grandfather were both in the navy. He wanted to get into the air force, but one blunder pushed him into the Navy unit where fortunately he had some daring young friends with immense skill of getting into and escaping from hell. Written in a first person account this is a delightfully different book about the war, an irreverent look at the comedy of war itself. The narrative is brilliant in a typical Brit fashion. Young Geordie and his unit travel to North Africa, Sicily, Dieppe and Reggio, and escape each time due to their chutzpah.

James Mitchell (1926-2002) was a prolific writer having written many books and TV series as well, including the famous “When the Boat Comes in” (BBC) and “Callan” (Thames Television). He has also written under the pseudonym “James Munro” and “Patrick O’MacGuire”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Mitchell_(writer)

Goodreads 5/5

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McCabe

McCabe by Edmund Naughton (no image found anywhere) is a western fiction book. McCabe is a larger than life hero, having moved to a small nondescript town called Presbyterian Church. The town had this church, one main street, couple of dining bars and that’s about all. When McCabe moved from Bearpaw to Presbyterian Church, there was one dining bar owned by Sheehan. McCabe damaged that monopoly by building his own dining bar with gambling tables. Out comes Mrs. Miller a whore looking to establish herself in Presbyterian Church. She had also come from Bearpaw, where she apparently learned that this town had some zinc, so good prospects for business. McCabe slowly falls for her. He is also a ace gunshot by the way. So when the mining company tries to buy out the entire town, problem starts. They send somebody to negotiate, it fails, then they send gunmen to finish it off. Not much of a story in the book. Apparently this book was made into a movie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmFMpg_fgIg directed by Robert Altman and it became a huge hit in 1971. The book was published in 1959 by the way. Edmund Naughton (1926-2013) was an American writer and McCabe was his first book. He wrote 5 more books, “The Pardner” in 1971, “A Case in Madrid” in 1973 and “The Maximum Game” in 1975. Two more books were directly translated into French only.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Naughton

Goodreads 2/5

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The Ivy Tree

stewart

Anabel Winslow was supposed to have died sometime back after she went abroad and that is after a tiff over something that is discovered later. So when a woman resembling Anabel Winslow comes back to her hometown claiming not to be Anabel but Mary Grey, the plot starts thickening. Her half cousin Connor and half sister Lisa hatch a plot to integrate Mary into the Winslow household in England assuming the nom de guerre of Anabel. Her grandfather is old and ailing and he has to bequeth his properties to his two grand daughters Anabel and Julie. This is where Connor and Lisa machinations come in. The story goes on, one thing leads to another, there is a murder attempt, some old love interest comes back. Goodreads 3/5

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Of Good and Evil

ernest

Of Good and Evil by Ernest K. Gann, a kind of panoramic view in a day of a city police force. The book is written from the police point of view, the kind of struggles they go through every day, their own emotions, the kind of subterfuge and cunning they have to use in order to get confessions from criminals, so it travels on several sub plots. There is a judge who has to give orders and several times he has to give out of box judgments. Then there is a guy who have climbed on top of a bridge and threatens to jump down, there is a rape case, which the police has to solve. Friendships between police personnel, their own family lives, their imperfections, their bureacracy and what not. There is no single overarching plot in the book to follow but several sub plots. Goodreads 3/5

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