Number of episodes: 4
Have you ever felt a nagging sadness, a frustrating anger while watching a show? Little Boy Blue makes you feel that. This show forces you to feel the pain and frustration the Jones family goes through. To be honest, I never really went through the plot of the show before I started watching it. I thought the show was about a little boy and may be his struggles in school or sports. But no!
This show is based on actual events which happened in 2007. This shocked me even more. Rhys Jones, a 11 year old boy, full of life, is shot dead brutally during his football practice. Detective Dave Kelly is assigned the case, to investigate the shooting and bring the killer to justice. With CCTV footage and information collected from the neighbors, it’s found that a gang lead by Mercer is responsible for the shooting. It was really astonishing to see how much evidence has to be gathered, how much work has to be put to make the case tight, get the statements right, the alibis recorded so that, at court, the suspects don’t get away. Dave gets help from one of Mercer’s associates who turns an approver. In this way, the killers are finally brought to justice.
But, the show is just not about the case. It’s about what everyone involved goes through. Looking at Steve and Melanie Jones, the pain they go through at the loss of their son, is heartbreaking. Melanie is open with her feelings while Steve silently takes it. At the end, their common loss breaks their relationship, temporarily. Sinead Keenan as Melanie was mind blowing. Dave Kelly, the detective in-charge, feels the pressure mounting from all sides to solve the case. Sometimes, I think we forget that the police officers involved also feel the agony especially when they interact with the family of the deceased. It’s really tough especially when it is a kid who is killed. Everyone in the neighborhood played their part well. We have the guilt ridden Claire, who knows her son is involved, who wants to save her son, yet want to help gain justice for the Jones.
The scenes where the entire city comes in to mourn Rhys was fantastic. Let me confess, I feel very disturbed writing this review mainly because the usual adjectives of Interesting, fabulous, amazing, wonderful…seems very inappropriate to describe this show. Don’t get me wrong. It is all of those adjectives, but it is more of frustration and suffering. I know many might not prefer to watch shows which are depressing- why to depress ourselves more, right? But, in a way, it opens our eyes to what is happening in the society and how many families are left in mourning for the rest of their lives due to violent and uncouth acts like this.
The writing and screenplay were really crisp. There were no unnecessary drama. All the actors were fabulous. The background score really moved me at many places.
It has been only in recent times I have started exploring various genres and just not crime fiction. I have also developed a growing interest in consuming Classics. Traveling through Shakespeare and Dickens, I recently landed on Wilde. Before I read this work of Oscar Wilde, all I knew about his work was some popular quotes. However, this play – The Importance of being Earnest made me realize why there is a huge following for this brilliant author.
Reading a play might be easy and interesting but writing one? I consider it very difficult. In a novel, the author gets to set the scene taking all the time, describing even the smallest of the things in the scene by its size, quality and color. But in a play, that’s not possible (Unless presented on screen). The author gets very few lines to set the scene, those few words should be so effective to enable the reader the visualize the scene. I believe being able to visualize the story is the key to the success of every literary work. If you are able to use fewer words to achieve the same, the work is undoubtedly going to be a remarkable one.
This play – The Importance of being Earnest strikes at the very early with its tagline. ‘A Trivial Comedy for Serious People’. There are three acts in the play. The first act introduces most of the characters. Ernest, friend of Algernon Moncrieff, is a fine young man who is in love with Algernon’s cousin Gwendolen, who plans to propose to her the very same day. Algernon demands an explanation from Ernest when he finds Ernest’s cigarette case with the inscription, ‘From little Cecily, with her fondest love to Uncle Jack’. Ernest confesses that he leads a double life- John or Jack Worthing in the country, where he takes care of his ward Cecily, to whom Ernest is her Uncle’s brother and Ernest in the London city. Algernon then confesses to his own double identity, the name of his alter being Bunbury. Jack later proposes to Gwendolen, who accepts and admits that she loves him mainly because his name is Ernest. Algernon acquires the address where Cecily lives, and impersonates as Ernest, her Uncle’s brother. Cecily immediately falls in love with Algernon primarily because his name is Ernest! Follow me? Both the ladies love Ernest and Ernest doesn’t exist at all. Now this confusion is the plot of the story. What follows is confusions, misunderstandings and misidentities. The whole getting ready to be christened again was so funny. The ending was really unpredictable, a route which I never expected the author to take.
As a whole, I completely enjoyed reading the story. But when I sit down to dissect and look into the characters in detail- I feel a strange amusement. As long as this story is considered to be a comedy, something of a satirical nature, it could be accepted as fine. But the female characters in the story- Gwendolen and Cecily – the reasons for their love being just the name is a mere joke. Don’t get me wrong here. I understand the story is based on this- the confusion with the name and the ladies’ obsession with the name Ernest. Yet, I couldn’t stop wondering if someone could have been so naive?! Somewhere, this fact of the story troubled me at the end. The women did raise questions on how both the men lied about their identities, but they were so quick to accept their explanation?! May be I am taking this story a little too seriously than needed. May be!
Ultimately, this play is an easy, quick and an entertaining read. Very pleasant and enjoyable. Very clever and witty of the author.
Don’t miss it!
I have no qualms in admitting that I am a hardcore Agatha Christie, specially a huge Hercule Poirot fan. One of my main reading goals is to complete reading every Agatha Christie work and I am slowly working my way through it too. One of the mind blocks I am facing is to enter the Miss Marple series of the author. I faced huge disappointment reading The Caribbean Mystery, as the lead detective Miss Marple was neither as clever nor as interesting as Poirot. I had heard a lot of good things about this book, The Murder at the Vicarage. Since I had replenished all the Agatha Christie books I had on my shelf, I picked this one up. I wasn’t disappointed.
The Murder at the Vicarage, like all Christie’s books, has a murder, a list of suspects, clues and timelines, and Miss Marple successfully solving it with her deduction and theories. The premise was no different or extremely interesting when compared to the author’s best works. Yet, this book works because of its setting and few of the characters.
Colonel Lucius Prothoroe, a strict disciplinarian, not liked by many in the town, slightly hearing impaired, is found dead it the study of the Vicar- Leonard Clement. A list of suspects is immediately drawn.
1. Lawrence Redding- a young artist having an affair with Mrs Prothoroe.
2. Mrs Prothoroe- wife of Colonel Prothoroe, wanting to break from the shackles of her husband.
3. Lettice Prothoroe- daughter of the Colonel Prothoroe, a sad young girl wanting to lead a life of her own without her father’s interference
4. Mrs Lestrange – new in the neighbourhood, a strange woman with a secret history unknown to anyone
5. An outsider
Clement meets an agitated and confused Redding on his way to his study before he finds the dead Colonel. Even before he could lay his doubts on Redding, Redding himself surrenders to the police for committing the murder, only that he couldn’t have killed the Colonel. Dr Haydock’s findings and Redding’s own movements and alibi prove he couldn’t have committed the crime. Then who did it? Why did Redding surrender himself?
If you had seen the premise, there is no Miss Marple around. In a way, Miss Marple’s presence in the book is too few and that might be one of the reasons why this book worked for me. Most of the investigation is carried out by the Vicar Clement, Inspector Slack and Redding himself. Miss Marple, who is a part of the neighborhood, offers her theories and observations in between. We have statements gathered from everyone in the neighborhood to fix the timeline of both the deceased and all the suspects. We know someone is lying, and as a reader I was conducting my own investigation with all the clues presented. The character psychology was established so well I was trying to get into each one’s head, to measure each one’s need to see the Colonel dead. The victory for the author was I couldn’t get into her head. I could feel Clement’s frustration when the statements and the actual happenings don’t add up. Having read so many works of Christie’s, adding to that the numerous other crime fictions, I had a list of options for the culprit and the reasons for the murder. The actual ending did manage to be one of them making me feel a little proud but that doesn’t take away the intelligence of the author.
I loved how every character did have a motive to kill the Colonel. It’s a matter of weighing every motive. There was a point where I even suspected the Vicar, (Can’t forget The Murder of Roger Ackroyd). The plan maps of the Vicarage and the neighborhood helped in visualizing the physical premise of the story. The only problem I had with this book was Miss Marple. Alright, I accept Jane Marple can’t be another Hercule Poirot but I expected a little bit of more extraordinaire from her, just to make her stand out from normal human beings. I felt this book could have been a fantastic standalone if they had made Clement solve the entire case. It would have made no difference. I am not sure if I would pick another Miss Marple anytime soon. But that’s just the character.
The case and the book as a whole was excellent. Enjoyed reading Agatha Christie after a long time.
A lot of interest has been generated around political thrillers after the immense success of House of Cards. It’s not like political thrillers are new to the television arena. There have been several shows like West Wing and Spooks which have dealt with diverse political conditions, national crisis and security issues with equal amount of fact and dramatized fiction. House of Cards just rekindled that interest, gave it a little nudge. I haven’t watched House of Cards but I do intent to watch it. I am just weary of how much I need to catch up. That would require binge watching at the highest level. When I searched for similar shows in this genre, the first popular result and the show which I am about to review was – Designated Survivor.
Who is a Designated Survivor? According to the show, a Designated Survivor is someone who is in line to become the President of the United States of America in case of the demise of the sitting President and all his cabinet ministers. Now that situation seems highly unlikely, isn’t? Yet, when the Capitol building is tragically bombed killing the President and the cabinet ministers, Tom Kirkman- the Designated Survivor, becomes the next President. Now Kirkman, or for that matter anyone in his position, could have never anticipated such a turnaround. He is a very simple and modest man, a Professor in Architecture, the Secretary of Housing and Development- and who was just fired from his position the very same morning. Immediately taking oath after the bombing, Kirkman faces the mountain task of bringing some stability to the currently nonexistent government. With absolutely no political experience, Kirkman struggles to keep his mind focused and put a strong demeanor forward. He receives advice from several fronts but isn’t certain whom to trust and whom not to. Media makes things worse as they correctly doubt the capability of Kirkman as President. How does Kirkman make a stance for himself and how he restores the country back to normalcy while he faces problems from different fronts- cyber crime, terrorism, foreign relations and mainly the investigation into the Capitol bombing is the plot of the show.
The Capitol Bombing investigation storyline runs throughout the season with other problems being mostly episodic. I think that was a very clever move. Agent Hannah Wells is assigned with the investigative task and she uncovers several disconnected pieces which she tries to piece it into one. 90% of the time, this storyline captured my attention. The rest- it was too forced. The number of times Wells gets abducted or gets injured/into trouble is numerous. And her working alone most of the time just got a little irritating. The entire track of Vice President Mackliesh was nicely written. Just at the time when I felt it was being dragged, the track was brought to an end which was smart.
Another part which I loved about the show was bringing Ex-President Cornelius Moss into the picture. Not only did Moss bring with him a vast load of experience, he understood the humongous task Kirkman was facing and offered valuable advice at the right time. He didn’t overstep the line. Rightly, Kirkman appointed him as the Secretary of State and all the scenes involving both of them beautifully showed how much thinking goes behind every decision and how many factors have to be considered to avoid repercussions.
The support staff- Emily, Aaron and Seth- depicted how much of the ground work is carried out by them, making things easy for the President. Without them, the President would just be disabled. It’s good they didn’t drag the Emily-Aaron relationship. I loved the scenes between Seth and Moss. They were a huge comic relief.
The role of media and their power was strongly represented in the show. The government has to decide when and how much the public needs to know. But many a times, the media gets a step forward, due to leaks within the office, and gets secure details into the open, forcing the government to either clarify or deny those information.
Running a government isn’t easy and the President is as much a human being as everyone else. This show beautifully portrays that. There were various instances when Kirkman just couldn’t stop himself being emotional especially when he had to his soldiers into war or when Wells got abducted. He felt responsible for those lives. Also- the changes his position brings into his family- his wife and two children and the adaptations they have to make- just only shows the amount of sacrifices one has to make for the country- not just the President but everyone working along, and not just the President of the USA but every other country.
Coming back to the various tracks- I really wish they had completely ended the Capitol Bombing investigation in the finale, especially when they had identified the traitor in the White House (That track was very good). Taking the same track into the next season too would just only drag the storyline and restrict for further creative tracks.
The writing was tight for the most part. Little drags here and there- but it really held my attention most of the time. The entire atmosphere of the White House was set effectively. The actors did their parts really well- but none of them completely stood out. Kiefer Sutherland was very good as Kirkman- but the majesty and charisma for the stature of a President was missing. May be that’s because he is still on the learning curve and would gain more confidence in due course.
Designated Survivor is an excellent watch especially for those who love political thrillers and conspiracy theories. It’s just one season down and hence very easy to catch up too.
After reading The Palace of Illusions, I greatly wanted to read more works, if not all works of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. There is something about her writing that clearly and instantly connects with the readers, at least me. As we say, touches heart. There is no high tech flowery language used. It’s simple and there is a lot of emotions in the words. Before We Visit the Goddess is a soulful tale of three generation of determined mothers and daughters- Sabitri, Bela and Tara, their aspirations, struggles, failures and ultimately finding light at the end. What makes this tale compelling is the reality etched in the problems narrated- the family crisis, the societal pressure, the difference in status, the need for education, financial issues, love- everything that could happen to each one of us.
Sabitri is a young, ambitious and resolute girl. Coming from a poor family, she craves for education. Leelamoyi, an arrogant rich woman decides to sponsor Sabitri’s education. She lets her to stay in her house as neither servant nor guest. Sabitri is happy with this golden opportunity but a huge blunder results in her being thrown out by Leelamoyi and shooting a full-stop to her dream education. Filled with revenge, she makes some very tough decisions to just prove a point, to herself. She gets married to Bijan, her teacher and mothers Bela. She loves her family a lot but somewhere she is a very unhappy woman. When her past catches up, it leads to her family getting broken. A down is always followed by an up. After the death of her husband, Sabitri with the excellent culinary skills she inherited from her mother, opens her own sweet shop and earns name and fame for her integrity and her quality of sweets. All is well except her relationship with her daughter, Bela. The book begins with Bela requesting her mother to write to her daughter, Tara, who has decided to drop out of college.
Bela is a rebel from the beginning. As much as she lived with her parents, she lived a lonely life. An unexpected incident permanently damages her relationship with her mother. Probably to prove that her decisions are way better than her mother’s, she elopes with her boyfriend to the United States and begins a family there. Loneliness never ceases to exist in her life. She is never comfortable with her new life. She loves her husband and her daughter, but there is regret and guilt which forces its way to the front. She compels herself to believe her life is good. But is it? The birth of her daughter Tara doesn’t repair any of the damages. At the end, she gets divorced and turns a drunkard.
Tara is the unfortunate soul of the three. She grew up always knowing something was wrong between her mother and father. When her father decides to break the news of the divorce something flips inside her. She wants to break away from everything and everyone, run away from everything, far far away. She drops out of college, has some casual flings, no steady job, no one to turn to in her misery. She turns her life around after an accident, meets the love of her life, gets married and brings some meaning back into her life. She decides to meet her mother, take care of her during her last days. That’s when she finds her grandmother’s letter, still sealed.
What was so good about this book was the sense of optimism and courage brought in my sudden strangers- men, in each of the three women’s lives. They are the benefactors. They don’t stay in their lives for a long time, but they bring in the feeling of life in them. It’s wonderful to see how Sabitri, Bela and Tara fight their problems and emerge successful at the end. It’s also satisfying to see how the achievement takes years of determination and hardwork instead of just few months as shown in movies. Sabitri, Bela and Tara lived almost all their lives away from each other and yet there was a strong bonding between them, an invisible love and concern. Probably it’s their need for approval from each other that caused them to become estranged.
The jumping of timelines was definitely tedious as a reader. Just when I am really getting interested in Tara’s life- Bela’s section is brought in and all I cared was to get back to Tara. Out of the three- I absolutely loved reading Tara’s life. The author has written how parents’ relationship is very vital for the sane growth of the children. Off the three, I couldn’t really connect to Bela much. She never found herself attached to Sabitri and the reason wasn’t strong enough for me. May be it is just expectations. Just like parents have expectations from children, children too expect their parents to be in a certain way. Sabitri’s life laid the foundation, but we don’t really get much more into her life after Bela left.
As a whole, this book is an absolutely fantastic ride filled with determination, courage and motivation. There are really nice tender moments, endearing friendships and moments of truth which we all would have come across.
Must read! Unputdownable!
Number of episodes: 3
For any Agatha Christie fan, her work And Then There Were None would hold a very special place. In this review, I am going to stick to the series rather than babble my never ending amusement on the brains behind this story. This novel is creepy (It’s specialty!) and keeps you guessing right till the end. I felt chills while reading the book and I geared myself to view one of my favorite thrillers on screen. Did it live up to the book? Let’s find out.
First the premise. And Then There Were None is about ten unrelated people, invited by a Mr and Mrs Owen to their bungalow at a deserted island called Soldier Island. These ten people are from various fields and professions. We have a police in Blor, a doctor in Dr. Armstrong, a judge- Judge Wargrave, a teacher Miss Claythorne, a party boy Marston, a social activist Miss Brent, an army veteran General McArthur, playboy Lombard and the keepers of the house Mr and Mrs Rogers. There is one curious question in everyone’s mind- Where is Mr and Mrs Owen, their employers/owners? As time progresses, one by one, people begin to die, or say murdered in gruesome ways. But by whom? Mr and Mrs Owen, who are probably hiding? Or is it one of the ten? Each one of them has committed a crime in their life which they are guilty off, which keeps haunting them. Who could possibly know about their past? Their crimes are their only connection. One of the highlights of this story is the old poem- Ten Little Soldiers went out to dine- which is framed and hung in almost everyone’s room and after every death (which happens according to the poem), one of the ten showpieces on the dining table goes missing! Phew!! Add to this, the frightening weather of lightning, rain and thunder. At the end, there is no one alive in the island. And Then There Were None. How?
The BBC adaptation of this marvelous story doesn’t score a perfect 5 but it’s not very bad either. The show captures the mood of the story accurately and the suspense and nervousness did grow on me while viewing, even though I knew the story. Most of the details were captured and used appropriately. The best part was, they didn’t try anything new but stuck to the original. I felt a little impatient at the beginning. A little more time than needed was taken to set the story. The flashbacks of every character was nicely done yet at some places the timing didn’t really work. Like, Blor having his flashback at the very end stuttered the pace. Also- I wish the ending could have been more powerful, a little more into how exactly the murders happened would have been nice. We have the confrontation but much is left for us to be understood. How did the killer make it happen? Wish it had been visually explained too. Too much time was given to Miss Claythorne’s backstory while we didn’t see much for the other important characters. The doubts and feuds between the characters could have been dealt with more clarity. There were lot of loose ends which I felt should have been tied up especially with how the killer timed every murder. I can’t reveal much here as that would give away the main plot. I know it’s not like the book is new or the show is- still I don’t like giving out spoilers (would make my post lengthy too LOL).
The actors were absolutely fantastic. General McArthur would always be my Alan Grant (Jurassic Park) and Judge Wargrave would be Tywin Lannister (GoT). Background music plays its role well. Costumes and the setting were apt.
Having read the book, I knew the ending. I think that kind of definitely influenced my watching?? May be I didn’t feel the needed suspense at certain points because I knew it was a bluff? Adapting a thriller, as a matter of fact, any book is difficult. It would definitely stand good for those who haven’t read the book. But for those who have read it- it becomes a mere comparison of how much effective the show stands to the book and if the show writers have done complete justice to the original author’s work. I would really appreciate this BBC adaptation for not trying too much with And Then There Were None. And Then…is more or less like a cult and is considered as one of Agatha Christie’s finest work if not the best. Even though, I am slightly disappointed with the impact of the ending- this series is still makes a great viewing.
Season 8 Episode 1
For those who have read my previous review of Inspector George Gently, you would be aware of how much I love this show. The magnificent 1960s setting, old school policing (No technology or high tech forensics) and highly dynamic and flawed characters made this show one of its kind. There are no heavy action sequences or car chases. The investigation is simple and mind kindling. I never really had the hope that the series would come back after Season 7 ended. But here it is, at last, for its final season.
If you want to watch an honest and self-righteous cop, George Gently is the one. He is a moral cop with a terrific understanding of the police system and how the society and its people change according to the times. A war veteran and in the brink of retirement, Gently is about to complete his circle. Having lost his wife, and having no one else to consider as family, he in a way decided to mentor his Sergeant, John Bachchus into a better cop and a person. But the difference of perception and the unavoidable generation gap between Gently and Bachchus was and is the core of the show. Their arguments are a treat especially when Gently wins it. Just having both of them back on screen is such a pleasure. Apart from these two central characters, the specialty of the show is its focus on a lot of the social issues that prevailed in those times. The first episode of this season focused on violence against women.
The episode, set in 1970 now, rightly begins with the uncertainty over Gently’s career. It is time for him to hang his boots- a thought running in his mind too. Looking at Gently in this episode, I could see him ready to end his professional journey. He still wants to fight for justice and serve his city and country, but there is fatigue etched in him. I couldn’t stop wondering what happened to Gently suffering from MS track last season? He is cured now is it? Anyway- John is John and it is so good to see Rachel still present in the team. The case. A body is found in a hazardous dump and is identified as Alister Liddle who was killed by his wife in 1962, whose body was never found. The wife, Eve Liddle was convicted for the murder and was imprisoned. John was part of the case in 1962 and Gently immediately senses nervousness in John. We know how John was when the show began- ready to tamper evidence to close the cases, forcing false statements from witnesses- anything for victory. After reading the reports, it is inevitable that the case was conveniently closed after getting a confession, a forced confession off Eve and the evidences were never substantiated. Gently reopens the case and along with Rachel’s support finds the loopholes and digs up what actually happened. The downside- his relationship with John is tested. From here on, sensitive issues on domestic abuse, rape and abortion are involved and the writers treat it with high sensitivity.
Women weren’t trusted back then (and perhaps even now). If they encounter domestic abuse and violence of any sort, no one believed them. Hence, they never voiced it out. They were scared for their lives and their societal reputation. They didn’t want to harm their kids’ lives and endured all the pain silently. The character of Eve Liddle is written magnificently here. She portrays the sad state of the women back then so beautifully. The actor playing the role is fantastic. It’s sometimes difficult to understand why she and others like her put up with it, but it’s not that difficult to understand either, is it? Eve and her daughter uniting at the end was really emotional. I was also glad that they didn’t make it the clichéd story of Eve taking the blame of murder to save her daughter.
Two other storylines were super impressive in this episode. Rachel and Gently’s relationship. I have always admired Gently for believing women could be police too and bringing in Rachel and supporting her to become a detective. Rachel faces workplace harassment from a top officer which she handles with firmness yet with embarrassment and fear. It was wonderful to see Rachel standing up for Gently and declaring how he is a mentor and a father figure to her. Rachel is a very strong and evolving character. I have always loved her from the time she entered the show, probably in Season 6. I wish we could have seen more of her.
Gently and John! When these two are on the screen, there are fireworks for sure. Gently always tried hard not to push the line when it comes to John’s personal life. He knows John lives away from his daughter. He could see that John is a mess- drinking and being imperfect in his work. When he questions John’s motives behind the case after finding out that it was John who forced Eve to confess, we see a huge argument breaking between them. It’s sad to see them fall out. John has worked under the pressure of Gently, to become someone like him. He just couldn’t. It’s never easy for Gently when words on his wife is brought up. John’s way of work is different. He fights for justice too but is impatient for results. He is ambitious with an unclear mind. Gently had seen potential in John and made him his reason to stay back in the police force after his wife’s death. John takes liberty to hit at Gently but understands Gently’s intentions at the end. But him being unaware that Gently is leaving the force, retiring, is the catch here. What would be his reaction? Waiting eagerly to watch that. How much ever John detest Gently now, Gently has been an integral part of his life for the last 6 years (Just 6 years?!). They have grown close to each other without their knowledge. I love their bonding and friendship- one of the strong points of the show- the strong point of the show.
I am sad that the show is ending, but I also feel it’s the right time. For one, the lead actor Martin Shaw has aged well beyond the normal police. He is in his 70s now and his age is visible onscreen, none his fault though. It doesn’t matter as I absolutely love his acting. Hence, I am waiting to see him in a different character now.
No idea when the last episode of the show is airing. This series will always be remembered for its amazing writing, brilliant acting and its marvelous locations. Huge thanks for the team behind this show for entertaining the viewers for nearly a decade.
Don’t miss it!