Saturday, August 20, 2016

Book Review :: ‘Vikram Rana Investigates’ by Sharmishtha Shenoy

Genre: Mystery and suspense

Blurb:

Vikram Rana Murder Mysteries set in Hyderabad…… 

The Mysterious Affair of the Lohia Mansion

When the glamourous socialite Richa Lohia is poisoned in her mansion in Jubilee Hills, her brother-in-law hires his mate, ex-cop Vikram Rana, to solve this murder. This is Vikram’s first case and he, along with Inspector Gopi Reddy, must solve the case even if they face opposition from the richest and powerful family in Hyderabad, who would stop at nothing to defend themselves. 

The Sonia Sinha Case 

When property developer Krishna Dhavala is stabbed to death in Necklace Road, everyone suspects Mrs. Dhavala to be the murderer of her alcoholic and abusive husband. But is that really the case? Vikram Rana and Inspector Reddy have a tough time uncovering the murderer and Vikram himself almost dies trying to solve this case. Experience the mystery along with the duo as they fight their way through the maze of lies, deceit and greed. 

My Review:

‘Vikram Rana Investigates’ consists of two murder cases set in the city of Hyderabad, which are investigated and solved by Vikram Rana, a private investigator.

‘The Mysterious Affair at the Lohia Mansion’ takes us to Rich Lohia, daughter of a powerful man and wife of renowned industrialist, who dies under mysterious circumstances in her locked bedroom. Rana is hired by Rohan Lohia, his friend and Richa’s bother-in-law, to investigate the untimely death.

The story starts pulling you in, with many characters coming into the ambit of suspicion— the husband, Kinshuk Richa’s drug-addict son, Juhi - the governess, and Rohan himself. The story keeps one invested till the end.

‘The Sonia Sinha Case’ is about murder of a dubious property developer, Krishna Mohan Dhavala, who is brutally murdered in his car. As Rana comes in to investigate there are many characters who slowly come into his list of suspects. The villain’s character is well etched as the story progresses. The author gives us the information piece by piece maintaining the suspense till the end.

Of the two I liked the second one better as it is more convincing. Coming up with murder mysteries which do not have a loophole is difficult. Kudos to the author for not one but two well thought-out stories.

Both the stories are well told, however they could have been made into full separate novels by flushing out the characters and detailing the situations. Secondly in the Lohia case too many characters are introduced in quick succession leading to confusion. I had to read first few pages again to get the names right.

Pace of both the stories is good. Language is simple and narration maintains the suspense till the end. The interactions between Vikram Rana and his wife Veena bring much needed light-hearted moments in tense situations.

A great effort for a debut.










Read an excerpt...



From "The Mysterious Affair of the Lohia Mansion"

"Kinshuk sprang out of bed and followed his uncle, Rohan along the passage to his mother Richa’s bedroom.

Rohan’s wife, Kiara joined them along with Richa’s personal maid Lakshmi and two more servants. Everyone seemed to be in a state of awestricken fear.

Kinshuk turned to his uncle, ‘What should we do? Father is not here.’

Never had Kinshuk’s weak nature been more apparent, Rohan thought in distaste. Rohan rattled the handle of his sister-in-law Richa’s door violently, but with no effect. The whole household was aroused by now. The most alarming sounds were audible from the interior of the locked bedroom. Clearly something must be done."

What could have been going on the room? What triggered it?

Mrs Lohia was lying in her bed having seizures. In her agony she must have overturned the bedside table. As they entered, her limbs relaxed and she fell back on her pillow.

"I cannot see properly" she complained. Rohan and Kinshuk looked at each other helplessly. A strangled cry from the bed startled them. A fresh bout of pain had seized Richa. The seizures were terrible to behold. At that moment dr Agnihotri pushed his way into the room authoritatively. At the same instant, Richa cried "Rohan.... Rohan" then she fell back on the pillows motionless. 

Why was Richa killed? Why did she take Rohan's name?

From the Sonia Sinha case:

"He reached the meeting place at 8 pm sharp. The headlights of his car revealed a woman in a burqa waiting by the roadside. She waved her hand. Krishna stopped the car and she got in. As she removed her veil, Krishna started in surprise. At the same time another man got into the back of his car. Confused, Krishna looked at the man. Then his eyes widened in fear."

Whom did Krishna see? Who was the woman in burqa?








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About the author


Sharmishtha Shenoy

Sharmishtha Shenoy loves writing murder mysteries, the kind of books that she herself likes to read. Her favorite authors are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. She also likes the work of Satyajit Ray – especially the Feluda Series. She was born in Calcutta and has done her post-graduation from University of Reading, Great Britain. She lives in Hyderabad.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Book Review:: ‘Shamsuddin’s Grave’ by Paromita Goswami


Genre: Literary
Publisher: Partridge

Blurb:
Latika's wrecked personal front leaves her completely shattered. So when her ailing father reveals his desire to go back home, she doesn't think twice and moves to her hometown. She joins an NGO and comes across a teenager rape victim. Much against her TL, Debjyoti's wish she sets out to trace the girl with Shamsuddin's help. Will she succeed or end up in big trouble?

Shamsuddin, a daily labourer, somehow manages to thrive in the city. Meanwhile, flood devastates his house in the village. His family takes refuge in a relative's place where his wife has a tough time resisting to the advances of her brother-in-law. Can Shamsuddin arrange for an accommodation before it is too late? 

Set in Guwahati amid the backdrop of flood and ethnic turmoil, "Shamsuddin's Grave", is the story of migration towards big cities for a better life.

My Review:
‘Shamsuddin’s Grave’ deals with the plight and fate of homeless people in the north-eastern state Assam and forces one to think about the social makeup of our society. The story revolves around Shamsuddin’s need to own a home and social activist Latika, and how their lives are intertwined as they help bust a human trafficking ring. 

Having lost everything in the floods, Shamsuddin, a farmer, comes to Guwahati to try his luck in the city. Struggling to make ends meet he loses the trust of his family too. Battling her own setbacks Latika is carving out a new life working for an NGO. She comes across Shamsuddin, who lives in a barn of her aunt’s residence premises. They bond together and help each other during the difficult times of their lives. Shamsuddin's only dream is to own a house and get united with his family.

I simply loved the plot and its execution. Deprived of basic necessities of life, ’Shamsuddin’s Grave’ is a touching story of homeless, poor people who are treated as refugees in their own homeland. Shamsuddin’s plight touches a chord in one’s heart. Latika’s ambitious and emotional journey and the other sub-plots are seamlessly integrated with the main theme. The twist in the end leaves one amused as well poignant, dwelling on the social malady.

The characters of Shamsuddin and Latika are well etched with all their human frailty. Shamsuddin reflects the illiterate, oppressed class, who don’t have the simple understanding of owning an identification document to open a bank account. Latika stands for today’s modern woman who voices her opinion and is not afraid to get what she wants. The two opposite sides of human nature add spice to the story. 

Coming to narration, language though simple, needed another round of editing to cut down endless narration. The story could have been leaner for stronger impact of the issues. At times the words used are not appropriate in the context.

All said ‘Shamsuddin’s Grave’ is fabulous story with a delightful yet disturbing end.






Thursday, July 14, 2016

Book Review :: ‘Dancing With Demons’ by Nidhie Sharma


Genre: Romance
Publisher: Harlequin

Blurb
Karan Pratap Singh is on the brink of winning the Amateur Boxing Championship, when in a moment, he loses it all. His fall from glory seems fuelled by ruthless arrogance and an out-of-control anger management problem. That, however is just symptomatic of a deeper issue. Buried under layers of his fractured subconscious lies a childhood secret he cannot come to terms with.

Sonia Kapoor is a beautiful, volatile young woman with a secret that torments her at night but a secret that she feels no guilt for.


When fate throws Karan and Sonia together in Mumbai, their personal demons and pasts collide and stir up trouble in their fragile and uncertain present. But, is redemption possible without forgiveness?


Dancing with Demons is a fast-paced action drama of love, loss and resurrection.


My Review

Don’t we all love a bit of glamour, a muscled, brooding hero and a fiery kick-ass heroine. ‘Dancing With Demons’ has all this and much more. Set in the back-drop of boxing sport, the author churns out an emotional tale with interesting backstories and sprinkling of romance.

Karan loses everything when in a moment of anger, he forgets all the rules and injures his opponent during the final of Amateur Boxing championship. He is banned for four years and spurned by his own coach, Jerry, who was his biggest support. 

The story then moves four years ahead. Having no means for a living he takes up Sonia as PG and sets her up in the spare bedroom of his apartment. Sonia is also fighting her own demons from the past and prefers the arrangement with Karan, except that she has an obsession with cleanliness. Despite their resolve to remain indifferent they are drawn to each other and fall in love.

Now that his ban was over, Karan wanted to go back to boxing and redeem himself. ’Dancing With Demons’ is journey of Karan Pratap Singh to reclaim his dominance in the boxing ring against all odds. Sonia’s story is revealed bit by bit, which keeps a reader hooked. 

The main characters are well developed; while Karan has an anger management problem, Sonia is daring and courageous. Amongst the supporting characters I loved the characterization of Madan, who was both shady as well as endearing. He had his own way of showing affection for Karan.

Coming to romance between our two protagonists. I felt that part of relationship needed more attention. Absence of adequate interaction and communication between them left a void in the narrative. My heart went out for Karan when he was dealing with the childhood trauma, but the romance between Karan and Sonia failed to touch my heart.

Language and narration is fantastic. The author has researched the world of boxing very well and the knowledge expertly woven into the narrative gives the story great authenticity. The novel is fast-paced packed with action and drama. An entertaining read.




Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Book Blitz :: 'TALES OF SUNSHINE' by Sundari Venkatram

Blurb
TALES OF SUNSHINE is a collection of ten short stories that bring hope. 

“A Ray of Sunshine” is about young Raj who’s terribly upset when many people in his team lose their jobs. But is he able to do anything about it?

“A Promise Given” is about Sachin, the poor, rich, young man; and the pregnant Aparna.

“Life Goes out of Control” is the story where Preeti, an only child, is a bone of contention between her parents. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Book Review:: ‘False Ceilings’ by Amit Sharma

Disclaimer: I received an author-signed paperback of this book via The Book Club in return for my honest review.
Publisher: LiFi Publications
Blurb
Born in the lush mountains of Dalhousie in 1930, Shakuntala is a pampered child of a wealthy builder. On her wedding night she is gifted a secret to use wisely when the time comes. 

From the green valleys of Dalhousie to a village in Punjab reeling under the communal violence of 1947; from the Delhi of 1950s with its intoxicating smell of freedom to the Delhi of 1970s soaked in the hippie culture; from the Delhi of 1984 smelling of burnt tyres to the Delhi of 90s raising its Frankenstein of urbanization, the cancerous secret breathes with her, infects her. It is accidentally passed down, hidden under insecurities and jealousies, locked in its meaninglessness and leaving a trail of ruin. 


When her great- grandson accidentally discovers the secret in 2065, he is perplexed by the malice that flowed in his family's blood. Was it just the secret or his family would have destroyed itself even in its absence? Why was their love never greater than their unsaid expectations from each other? 


My Review:

‘False Ceilings’ is a family saga spanning five generations, set from Dalhousie to Delhi, from yesteryears to our future. Yes, it also gives a glimpse of how the future world would be; complete with sensors and gadgets operating with voice commands. The story is centered around Shakuntala and her love and dedication for her father. Author has packed quite a number of years, events, families and characters in 256 pages. Everything is bound by a secret which key member of the family harbors. 

The novel starts with an intriguing event when a character Aaryan is writing a software algorithm in 2001, it moves to old Lipi in 2060 and then moves to Shankuntala’s birth. After that it jumps to other characters; one in each chapter. The stories are narrated like standalone biographies of characters with no connection with each other. Each of these are in separate time zones with focus on the main character’s emotions, problems, effect of events on their lives integrated with culture and era of those years.


Author has good grasp on scenic descriptions and the picturesque Dalhousie and Delhi invite right kind of images, maintaining the interest of the readers.


Characterization of each protagonists is deftly dealt with, and is the best part of the book. Though most of the characters and emotions are negative—bordering on hatred, anger and depression, it does keep the reader interested. Each characters life, behavior and emotions are expertly intertwined with subsequent era’s culture, happenings and events, even the political events. Full marks to the author for research.


The non-linear narration going back and forth in time, creates a bit of a confusion in the middle. The transition between the timelines is abrupt and towards the end one has to read a few things again to get the family tree straight. The only thing which keeps one going is to know the secret wrapped in the yellow cloth.


Coming to the secret which kept me hooked, but it kind of fell flat after such a prolong non-sequential narration. It left me a bit dissatisfied. The author has used complex vocabulary, at times usage is incorrect in the context, needing a good round of editing.


A good debut attempt.