Book Review : The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Blurb:

Tonight, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed … Again

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.


But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

Review (*spoiler-free):

As it appears in the image, I read ‘The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’ by Stuart Turton and not ‘The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’ apparently. It seems that I read the British edition, hence the difference in titles. Nonetheless, it doesn’t matter much as long as Evelyn Hardcastle dies more than seven times! This is the author’s debut novel and it turned out to be a mighty impressive one, winning the Costa book awards in 2018! It took him more than two years to write the book and I think that’s pretty justified, given the complex plot and characters. You have to render your utmost attention while reading every chapter as they depict the same day over again but from eight different perspectives. 

The story is about solving Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder, in a mansion near to a forest in Britain, amidst a party, set around 1920s. As the blurb says, Aiden Bishop wakes up in the body of eight different guests and relives the same day over. His task is to find out who wants to murder Evelyn Hardcastle in lieu of his freedom from Blackheath, the mansion. There’s Aiden, the mysterious Anna, Evelyn and eight other hosts – a corsage of peculiar characters with secrets of their own. There’s love, murder, plots, lords, a potential marriage, a not-so-forgotten death and deceit. There’s also this fantastical phenomenon of time loop – reliving the same day, and body swapping (well, not exactly). It’s a whirlwind, really. 

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Book Review : Who Killed The Murderer?

Blurb: 

When TV actress Shagun Seth mysteriously dies in a beauty parlour in Mumbai, her mother slams murder charges on Shagun’s banker husband Chetan Seth. Chetan’s family suspects that he is being framed and requests private detective Mili Ray to investigate. As Mili and her lawyer-associate Gatha start work, Chetan is released on bail. Soon after, Shagun’s mother is killed! Is Chetan responsible for these murders? Mili probes deeper and unravels shocking secrets buried beneath Shagun’s world of glitz that leave her baffled. An insecure boyfriend, an estranged husband, an opportunist colleague, a cunning TV producer – Shagun was surrounded by Haters. Even her twelve-year-old son didn’t want to see her alive. Why did everyone hate Shagun? While meandering through dysfunctional family upheavals and dark showbiz sagas, ex-super cop Mili Ray also struggles to tame her own internal demons. Will she be able to solve her second case as private detective or succumb to pressure and hang up her boots? “Who killed the murderer?” is a gripping psychological thriller that will hook you right from the first page.

Review:

Generally, murder mysteries are about one-two-three killings around the idea of whodunnit or whydunnit. In this story though, there’s a super clue in the title of the book and there are numerous murders. The protagonist, Shagun Mehra is murdered and later her mother and TV producer friend are killed too. Is there a serial killer on the loose? Or did Shagun’s husband Chetan Seth kill her and shut all evidences as suspected?

Who doesn’t love a well-plotted, juicy murder mystery that entails complex brainstorming and Moitrayee Bhaduri doesn’t disappoint. The story germinates in Shagun’s childhood, how a school trauma affects her entire life ahead and changes her as a person. Revealing more would be doling out spoilers, so I’ll refrain from that. But, as a reader, you should read the early chapters carefully for clues later. Shagun grows up to be an obnoxious person whom most people hate, including her son. It’s an extraordinary characterisation of a beautiful, successful woman living in an empty shell otherwise. Readers can guess why and how Shagun behaves, but the characters obviously don’t. And yet, positioned at this advantageous state, you can’t predict who murdered Shagun.

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Book Review : Newcomer by Keigo Higashino

Blurb View:

Detective Kyoichiro Kaga of the Tokyo Police Department has just been transferred to a new precinct in the Nihonbashi area of Tokyo. Newly arrived, but with a great deal of experience, Kaga is promptly assigned to the team investigating the murder of a woman. But the more he investigates, the greater number of potential suspects emerges. It isn’t long before it seems nearly all the people living and working in the business district of Nihonbashi have a motive for murder. To prevent the murderer from eluding justice, Kaga must unravel all the secrets surrounding a complicated life. Buried somewhere in the woman’s past, in her family history, and the last few days of her life is the clue that will lead to the murderer.

This is the second appearance in English of Police detective Kyochiro Kaga, the protagonist of the critically acclaimed Malice.

Review :

I have read three books written by Keigo Higashino now and I’ve mixed feelings about them. It’s bizarre that I’m not sure if I like them much and why not. For the records, I had loved reading The Devotion of Suspect X. Hadn’t liked Salvation of a Saint, and now, I kind of liked Newcomer. Weird, is it? This is one problem that I face while reading translated literature is that it is not consistent. The first two books of Higashino that I’d read were by a different translator than the one who did this latest book. It is futile to form an opinion about the literary aspects of a translated book as it is often said that the flavour of the original language evaporates in translation. While that is a much debatable topic, I’d focus on the other aspects that are more important in Higashino books.

What I like the most about his books are – they always begin with a murder. There’s no dilly-dallying on the fact that the books are murder mysteries, so the entree is served right at the beginning. All you can do is ruminate through the book and unravel the mystery layer by layer. It’s all about whodunit and whydunit more often than howdunit. If you start finding a pattern in a certain author’s style of writing and expect a similar one in their latest book, life gets easier. Newcomer begins with a murder too, as I had expected. But there were more surprises in the book.

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Book Review : The Conspiracy At Meru

Blurb View:

Victory is Temporary the Battle is Eternal’.

Vikramaditya and his Council of Nine have fought valiantly to repel the rampaging hordes from Devaloka and Patala – but Avanti has been brought to its knees. Ujjayini lies battered; its citizens are scared and morale is badly shaken. Meanwhile, the barbaric Hunas and Sakas are gathering on the horizon and cracks are emerging between the allied kingdoms of Sindhuvarta…

The only silver lining is that the deadly Halahala is safe. For now.

Bent on vengeance, Indra is already scheming to destroy Vikramaditya, while Shukracharya has a plan that can spell the doom for the Guardians of the Halahala. How long can the human army hold out against the ferocity and cunning of the devas and asuras? And will Vikramaditya’s love for his queen come in the way of his promise to Shiva?

Review: 

For those who are familiar with my reviews, you already know that Mythology is not my forte. And it is a fact that I had liked the #1 in Vikramaditya series – Guardians of the Halahala. These two facts combine into a solution that I’ve implemented while reading this series – treat it is a thriller. I didn’t get boggled by the fact that I’m dealing with King Vikramaditya and the devas, asuras and super powers. Instead, I tried to ingest the story as a racy over the edge action-packed thriller. And it is safe to infer that the book met all the expectations.

The plot begins exactly where we’d left it in the previous book. The city is in shambles and the king tries to pick up the pieces with the help of his councillors. Each of them has their own story, Kalidasa has strange visions that want to convey some secret to him, Shanku realises her secret super power, and the Acharya has his own issues to resolve. With consistent attacks from the Devas and Asuras, Ujjaini is battered and bruised, struggling to even exist before considering survival. Will they be able to decipher what Shukracharya ‘The Healer’ has in store for them? Will Queen Vishakha regain her health and memories? Will the kingdom of Avanti resurrect gathering all its pieces together?

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KiKiRa The Great

I’ve been fortunate enough to be nestled into the world of Bangla Literature in my formative years. I had begun reading magazines and novels for children even before I turned ten. The joy of holding a freshly printed periodical magazine at least once a month and glancing through the pages to skim the content before rushing off to school was incomparable. Calcutta has carried a rich tradition of interesting magazines for children, young adults as well as adults. The ones, especially for pre-teens were a huge treasure of informative articles, short stories, poems, comics and sports. Anandamela, Shuktara, Kishore Bharati, Kishore Gyan Bigyan, Sandesh – there were so many to choose from each fortnight! The most popular among these, Anandamela was from the ABP house of publications – it was bourgeoisie, glamorous, rich in content and had great print quality priced at Rs 10 for each issue.

kikira

The annual pujabarshiki Anandamela 1996 and the Kikira novel published in it (on right)

The fortnightly and annual Pujabarshiki issues of Anandamela introduced me to Kikira The Great by Bimal Kar. No, he isn’t Japanese and is almost not a detective. KiKiRa stands for Kinkar Kishore Ray, a brilliantly crafted pseudo-acronym to enhance his identity. He is a self-proclaimed magician who had a target of at least a hundred magic shows in his lifetime but was stopped short at only thirty six of them due to an illness. A sudden bout of disease disabled one of his hands and made it impossible for him to perform on stage again. He called himself ‘Kikira The Magician’, ‘Kikira The Wonder,’ ‘Kikira the Great,’ and still had a few tricks up his sleeve that effervesce in all of his cases. Kikira has two assistants, a young clerical fellow named Tarapada and a doctor of medicine, Chandan. The evolution of this apparently lopsided friendship between the three occurred during a case for the first time. The first story in the Kikira series – Kapalik-ra Ekhono Achhe (Tantrics Still Do Exist) – began with Tarapada and Chandan as the main protagonists, Kikira only making an entry later with a burly introduction! I think the author wanted to experiment, improvise and give a trial with the readers to see if they accept such an offbeat character.

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Book Review : 03:02

0302Blurb View:

At 03:02 on a Sunday morning, the world as we knew it came to an end. Mumbai suddenly went black — no electricity, no phones, no internet and no working cars. It was as if someone had turned off the master switch of our civilization, turning us back hundreds of years overnight. We learned that it was not just Mumbai, but much of the world that had been impacted. We also learned that it was no accident. A deadly enemy was behind it. An enemy that was now in our midst, seeking to conquer us and destroy our way of life. This is how our war for freedom began. A war that was to be waged not on the borders or by the Army, but in our homes and streets, with us as the soldiers. This is our story. ’03:02 celebrates fictional heroes who fight for our freedom, but to give back to the real heroes who do so every day, for every copy sold, a contribution from author royalties will be made to the National Defence Fund, which takes voluntary contributions to help armed forces service members and their families.’

Review: 

Mainak Dhar’s previous book Chronicler of the Undead is the only dystopian novel I had read in a long time. His latest offering 03:02 seemed a tad different, moving to the thriller and mystery genre. That was reason enough to pick it up for review as I’ve been a fan of Mainak’s writing. It’s always perspicuous and pleasing to read. From what I’ve read by him so far, I surely can’t complain about the form of writing. It might be the content that varies from each book to the other and creates a difference in quality.

03:02 is an interesting take on a thriller, blended with mystery and most importantly, terrorism. The protagonist, Aditya, is on the verge of turning into a corporate robot and deserves the promotion he receives. There’s a party in the evening and he crashes onto his bed later that night. Something happens at 03:02 in the morning and there’s a blackout. Aditya is oblivious of the situation and wakes up to realise something serious has happened. He goes out, scrutinises his neighbourhood and learns that nothing is working – phone, car, electricity – all dead. His neighbours are as baffled as he is. The scenario unfolds gradually, the horrors are peeled off in layers and people face the stark reality of living a life without modern facilities. Aditya takes control of the situation for the lack of a leader and starts restoring life.

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Book Review : Finders, Keepers

Image Courtesy: Amazon

Image Courtesy: Amazon

Blurb View:

Finders, Keepers. Losers, Weepers Two men are murdered in settings which speak volumes of involvement of some sacred cynicism. A psycho-killer on the loose? Or is this the beginning of something much more grave and dangerous? This is the tale of how Deputy Director, I.B., Shoumik Haldar and celebrated author Ishan Vajpayee exercise all their tools of conventional and unconventional deduction to solve the puzzles thrown across by the enemy, yet unrevealed. Intertwined intensely with the opulent mythological tales and specimens attributing to the rich cultural heritage of this country, the story depicts the resurgence of a dormant historical sect, which attacks the very foundations of one of the most powerful and secreted organizations of all times. Spread across the length and breadth of the entire Indian subcontinent, read the mystery as it unravels with the duo travelling from one corner of the country to another searching for the signs.

Review: 

Before you attempt to read this book, I must advise that you gather enough patience in your kitty. Finders, Keepers is a huge novel, almost an epic with a heavy dose of Indian Mythology. I haven’t read a longer one by any Indian Writer in English yet. And in my opinion, you should read the entire novel only if you have the time to. The story and plot is sprawled all over India with references to Mythology that’s millions of years old. It would be a shame if someone doesn’t read the entire turn of events.

The basic premise of the book dates back to King Ashoka and his devise of creating a clique of Nine Unknown Men with all the knowledge in the world. They gather their respective departmental gems into a book each that will be protected by guardians for centuries. The book begins with two murders and enter IB officer Shoumik Haldar to investigate them by special request from an eminent personality. Anticipating a connect of Mythology in the murders, Shoumik decides to confide and take assistance in a very able author, Ishan Vajpayee. A few murders follow and they unravel the immensely complicated mystery that has been protecting and progressing our country since long. Do the Nine Unknown Men still exist? What knowledge do they guard in each book? Why are they murdered one at a time? Who is behind all the murders and what is their motive? These and many more questions spring up in the first two chapters itself. With a whopping total of 624 pages, the book traverses at a gradual speed to solve the case with the help of two efficient men.

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Book Review : The Honest Season

the honest seasonBlurb View: 

Sikander Bansi, an unlikely political heir in Delhi, secretly records politicians in Parliament as they haggle to become cabinet ministers, bag defense contracts, dodge criminal charges and collect corporate largesse. Among them is a rising leader of the People’s Party, Nalan Malik, whose success has come through unscrupulous means. When Sikander suddenly disappears, Mira Mouli, a newspaper journalist with an unusual gift of knowing people’s thoughts, receives the controversial Parliament tapes along with clues to find him. She is attracted to Sikander’s principles and is wary of Nalan’s deceit. But her powers of knowing tell her a different story, one that she can unravel only at the cost of her life. From the bestselling author of Shoes of the Dead, this is disturbing political fiction that reveals why Parliament functions behind gates closed to the public.

Review:

It gives me immense pleasure to let you know that I’ve read one of the finest books by an Indian writer in 2016. Yes, it’s a political fiction and I’m quite wary of politics in India. Yet it is the apprehension that egged me to pick up this book. A Twitter chat with the author prior to start reading the book confirmed that her novel is worth every minute. In this month of Assembly elections in four crucial Indian states, the book comes as a necessity. It aims at exposing what happens inside the ominous white Assembly buildings – the shady dealings, the breach of trust, the whispers that never escape those marble pillars into commonality.

The story begins with a glimpse of the protagonist Mira’s super powers. She can read thoughts while listening to a person and knows what they’re thinking. So she’s a know-journalist. The book is based on utilizing her powers, but never misusing them. Mira is involved into a dangerous game of hide and seek by politician Sikander Bansi that spills the secrets of the Parliament. She can’t escape without solving the clues and in the process only gets hurt. The author has made great efforts to build the character of Mira, word by word, and we are let into her dark and gloomy world. There are other politicians like Nalan Malik who is hard to gauge, Sikander Bansi in his various avatars, Mira’s boss and editor Bidur Munshi, her colleague Salat Vasudev, and the rain. I think it’s the rain that drives the story forward and gives it such a poetic aura.

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Book Review : Lead Tin Yellow

Blurb View:

Image Courtesy: Amazon

Image Courtesy: Amazon

Robin was stunned! Why should his father chuck a bag of old newspapers over a bridge moments before he was shot? He was just a retired small-town engineer, so what secret was he hiding? He had lived all his life in a small Midwestern town and led a dull, gray-flannel life. The police were curious too. There was a ghastly murder on their hands. When Robin found a key with a tag in his raincoat he knew his father had deliberately secreted it for him. Now he had a clue, but where would this take him? There was something his father wanted him to know, and he had to get there before the police. It was now between him, his father, and his killers. The secret lay in Robin’s discovery of how lead and tin were combined by sixteenth-century artists to make a brilliant yellow. In his pursuit of his father’s killers, Robin puts his journalistic career on hold to enter a world of corporate thugs, unrequited love, and medieval art. He pursued his quarry, just as his quarry pursued him, from the East Coast to the Midwest to Quebec and back. His partner, a high-end fashion designer, and his quarrelsome but astute half-brother step up to fill in the blanks that help Robin get closer to his target. Events build up to a dramatic climax at which point Robin and the police have identical interests. The showdown is on the same bridge on which Robin’s father was shot. In his lifetime, Robin hardly knew his reticent father. But after his death, as he unpeeled his father’s life, he got to know of the courage and affection this man was capable of. A grave tragedy helps a near-dysfunctional family to rekindle an absent affection that should have always been there.

Review: 

The book mentions an interesting factoid in the inside back cover – that the author is a renowned sociologist. Few pages into the story, and I have a glaring suspicion that his intentions in writing this book might be a sociological experiment. The premises seem to be exciting, there’s an anticipation of a taut thriller, a glaring mystery that compels anyone to pick up the book.

The story is about a journalist, Robin Miller, who is grappled with a sudden situation of his father’s death. As the blurb tells you, Robin unravels a mystery that leads him to his father’s secrets through a big maze of events. There are guns, paintings, a little war history, dysfunctional families, love affairs. It’s a mishmash of stuff the author wanted to fit into his story. The story is credible at times, but at other times, it would seem a bit loose. There’s a definite plot and thankfully not-too-many subplots to make things more complicated.

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Book Review : Operation Jai Mata Di

jai mata di

Image Courtesy: Amazon

Blurb View: 

In a daring midnight operation by armed men, over 10,000 pilgrims are taken hostage en route to the holy shrine of Vaishno Devi, a popular Himalayan religious-tourist destination in the troubled state of Jammu & Kashmir in Northern India. The hostage-takers threaten to shoot pilgrims every day, unless the incumbent Government accedes to their demands. With the Hindu festival of Diwali just around the corner and elections less than six months away, the Government at the center is under immense pressure to act. What will the Government do? The army? The intelligence agencies? The common man? No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Who are these men? Is there a larger plot? Faced with such unprecedented events, will the country descend into unimaginable anarchy or will it rise above the issues of collective apathy and greed that have plagued it since Independence?

Review: 

There are issues plaguing our country that we read about in the newspapers everyday. Few of them make our blood boil, others create disgust and delirium inside our psyche. We keep wishing they’d come to an end somehow, but they don’t. We keep searching for ways to end corruption, but it doesn’t. Then Pratik Shah comes up with this book showing his own way. It might not be social, legal or foolproof, but it works in the book.

In the contoured terrains of the beautiful and pious land of Vaishno Devi temples, things get dismal. You’d spot Vijay, Prakash, Raghuvir and others with fake identity and intense plots. The strategies and intentions are gradually revealed in each chapter. There is much technology involved, some of it is pretty complex for laymen like us. Though Pratik tries to explain them in detail, few parts still escape us.

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