Tell No One [Book Review]

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Rating: 4/5

Tell No One

This phrase appears so many times in the book but at the most appropriate places. Written by Harlan Coben, this story is so intriguing, so thrilling that this is the definition of unputdownable. 

Dr David Beck is still mourning the loss of his wife, Elizabeth. It’s been 8 years. Childhood friends turned lovers turned husband-wife, they were inseparable. One night at their cabin by a lake, their anniversary turns into horror when both of them are attacked with Elizabeth abducted. After 5 days, she is found killed, killed by a serial killer- Killroy. Case is closed but Beck never overcomes the grief. After 8 years, Beck receives an email which cites everything personal to him and Elizabeth making him wonder if Elizabeth was alive. With more emails, he is convinced his wife is alive. Two more bodies are found near the cabin which reopens the case. Beck questions Elizabeth’s father, a cop, about the body he identified and when he stammers, Beck is sure Elizabeth is alive and sets out to find her. Griffin Scope, father of Brandon Scope, sends his hitmen to close all loose ends connecting to the night at the cabin. Why? He wants to avenge his son’s death. Why? During Beck’s quest to find Elizabeth, he nearly gets arrested and later abducted only to be saved by his friends. Who wants to kill him? Same people who attacked him on that night? Why? And why has Elizabeth taken 8 years to contact her husband when she was alive? Elizabeth’s father- he has all the answers. 

This story has to be one of the best I have ever read, story-wise. Seriously. It is filled with mystery, thrill, suspicion and keeps you spinning theories. It’s fast and doesn’t waver from the plot. It has the occasional unnecessary description which I skipped as the story was too intense to waste time on descriptions. Sorry, author. The characters are simple and easy to connect to. You don’t have to turn back pages to understand who is who. The 2nd half of the book is the best. One of the best thrillers I have read in recent times. 

My first Harlan Coben wasn’t impressive, but this one compensates for that. A must read. 

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Bosch [Season 1 Review]

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Rating: 2.5/5

Network: Amazon Original

Episodes: 10

There have been numerous TV series with the leading character in the title- Inspector George Gently, Inspector Lewis, Morse, Rebus- and mostly every one of those shows were based on novels. Bosch isn’t any different. Created by author Michael Connelly, the novels and the TV series follow the life of Detective Harry Bosch. An Amazon Original, this series scores high in certain areas and fails poorly in others. 

Just like most of the main TV cop leads, Harry Bosch is a middle-aged, serious, no-smile guy. Investigated for a shooting/encounter, all eyes are on his every move. When the owner of a dog calls to report finding human bones in the woods, Bosch and his team begin their investigation. The bones belong to a 12 year old boy (Arthur Delacroix) who went missing 20 years ago. A group of suspects is lined up, including Arthur’s father and the timeline is established for the cold case. On the other hand, patrol sidelines a truck for a search and finds a dead body. The truck owner- Raynard Waits is arrested and questioned. The story takes a shocking turn when Waits confesses to murdering Arthur and many others whom he has hidden in the woods. He later escapes from police custody and commits more murders. It becomes a game for him between him and Bosch. But why Bosch? What’s the connection between them? 

The cases are one of the most interesting, thrilling and grittiest cases I have ever seen. They are perfectly set in the first 4 episodes. But then happens the fall. The next 4 episodes practically has nothing to offer to the story. Yes, Waits murders more people and speaks to Bosch over the phone, challenging him. We get to see Bosch’s family and his equation with his ex-wife and daughter. There is internal politics, competition for promotion, elections and lot more. But with such a brilliant case hovering helplessly over the head, its impossible to focus on the rest of the things. 

Titus Welliver, as Harry Bosch, makes things even worse. I haven’t seen any of his works before but he just makes Bosch so dull and boring. He is so wooden in his dialogue delivery. Don’t get me started on his weird white bracelet (May be some backstory there? I don’t know) I understand the character is meant to be serious but still the actor could bring some life to the character. As a viewer, I didn’t feel for Bosch at any point of time. I didn’t route for him, or had confidence in him, that he would solve the case. I missed energy in the character. I didn’t care what happened to Bosch and that’s epic failure on the actor’s part. Hopefully, he does something different in the other seasons. 

Coming back to the case, I loved the profiler’s angle to the case, some historical significance to the name “Raynard Waits” and digging up Arthur’s past. The connection between the cases was well established. I wondered why no one recorded Bosch and Waits’ conversations? I mean- no outside perspective on that? As much as both the cases ended convincingly with no open ends, it didn’t end on a high note. It was a complete fizzle at the end. 

I don’t know if I would watch the rest of the series- 2 more seasons have aired- but I did love the cases. So may be I might give another season a try. Fingers crossed.

Crooked House [Book Review]

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Rating: 3.5/5

It’s getting increasingly difficult to review Agatha Christie’s works for me nowadays. Not that I am not enjoying reading her book. There is no doubt, she is still one of my favorite authors, and perhaps my all time favorite in the genre of crime. The Queen of Crime. At the same time, I have read so much of her, understood her writing so much that she has become kind of predictable. I felt the same when I used to read Sidney Sheldon. Christie’s works always involve a bunch of people; I should say suspects; a very interesting victim, and an investigator- Poirot, Marple or someone else, having lengthy, multiple but interesting conversations and deducing the killer at the end. 

Inspite of the predictability, I still look forward to read her books. One- it’s always a quick read. Two- her characters are very intriguing. The same applies to Crooked House. This book is one of Christie’s many stand-alone works. Aristride Leonide, the head of the Leonides, gets murdered through poisoning. Naturally, every member of the family becomes a suspect. Charles, who is in love with the granddaughter of Aristride, Sophia, is urged by her to solve the case. What follows is Charles having conversations with various members of the family, putting together a timeline, analysing if there is a motive for anyone to kill Aristride. And like any murder mystery, another murder takes place and the pieces are put together pointing at the killer. I think I should admit, the ending was very poignant. 

I liked certain parts very much. Aristride mentioning at the family meeting that injecting his eyedrops instead of insulin can kill him, and he gets killed the very same way. Josephine, Sophia’s little sister, playing Sherlock Holmes and always being ahead of Charles and the police in the investigation. Doubts falling on almost everyone, including Sophia. The mystery behind the will. All these things got me through the book. But, yes, this wouldn’t fall into my Top 10 Agatha Christie’s books. 

One step closer to reading all AC’s works. That’s all that matters. 

 

Origin [Book Review]

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Rating: 4/5

Dan Brown is back with another one of his signature history meets science thriller with his prominent central character, Robert Langdon. To be honest, I wasn’t mad about his last work, Inferno, and definitely was hugely disappointed with The Lost Symbol. Yet, I love the way he sets his story, the locations and the treasure hunt kind of plot. Origin is no different. To my relief, I enjoyed the book very much and felt Brown clicked all the boxes with this. 

Origin begins with Edmond Kirch, a prominent computer scientist, in meeting with three important religious leaders, sharing findings of his recent research. The end of the meeting leaves the leaders baffled. To their surprise and fear, Kirch announces to the world that he was about to present certain findings that will change the entire living system. Lavishly planned in an extravagant museum in Spain, Kirch invites several popular dignitaries, including Langdon, and makes full use of technology to reach every corner of the world. With specialized automated guide to every invitee, Robert meets Winston. You just can’t stop loving Winston. I wish I could have one in my life! A disastrous incident at the presentation puts Langdon, and Ambra Vidal, head of the museum in a treasure hunt to find the location of Kirch’s presentation with minimal clues. (Guess what happens to Kirch!) What is Kirch’s findings? Who wanted to sabotage the event and make sure the findings aren’t made public? Does Langdon and Vidal escape safely from the problems at the end? 

Brown’s first sixer is bringing in the most argued topic in the world – Theists Vs Agnostics Vs Atheists. I jumped in joy when this topic was touched. I was highly excited knowing Kirch’s findings revolved on this. But at the end? I was left frustrated and disappointed. For one, the findings were too scientific for my understanding. I didn’t see the point why Kirch didn’t want the leaders to completely know his findings. 

I have always loved Langdon especially when he goes into his historical mode. He is a genius. His interaction with Winston and Vidal were very nicely written. His adventures are getting interesting and dangerous over the years. I wish we could get more into his character. I feel a lot more depth, a personal case, would do great things for the book. 

One of the main reasons I loved this book more than the last two is its pace. The narration was crisper and the story moved at a good speed throughout. The historical description were really interesting and up to the point. It didn’t go beyond unnecessary. I didn’t feel like skipping pages like I did for The Lost Symbol. The number of characters were limited as well which helped in keeping track of every parallel story. But, I wasn’t greatly impressed with the parallel stories. Didn’t make any contribution to the actual story. I liked the mystery behind the anonymous tipper but nothing more.

Looking at Inferno and now Origin, Brown seems to have delved into science more than symbols and history. I really missed Langdon’s decoding and the connections with historical monuments and religion. There were no great revelation moments either. The ending was quite predictable as there weren’t many suspects to look at. I know the review might sound a lot more complaining than appreciating, especially looking at the high rating, but these are just small disappointments of mine which I wish were better executed. 

Origin is a good read- very adventurous. It has very good suspenseful moments and the connection with history and science makes it even more worth reading.

 

W1A (Season 3 Review)

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Rating: 5/5

You may like it. You may not like it. You may understand or you may not. But the fact is, this show is a brilliant piece of writing. I haven’t reviewed the first two seasons but I remember thoroughly enjoying it. I read this season, Season 3, is the final one. Sad. So here goes my thoughts.

W1A- I still don’t know what it stands for- is a mockumentary, a satire, a parody of BBC and the insider happenings. The show follows a team of people, their meetings, discussions and outcomes on various popular incidents in the entertainment world. The show is narrated by David Tennant in a documentary tone, and the narration is as funny and hilarious as the show itself. The heart of this show is to present how ridiculous and nonsensical a corporate set up can get. There are way too many meaningless teams and a Head for each one. I mean- Head of Values, Head of Better, Head of Inclusivity, Head of Diversity- and each one wondering what their exact roles are.

I love Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville), Head of Values. He is the only sane guy in this dynamic and interesting group of insanity. He is mostly unheard but the one to solve the issue at the end. Siobhan, Head of Brand from Perfect Curve and later Fun Media, has to be the most exciting character ever. She is sharp and pointless. Her ideas are bizarre in the name of creativity. I still remember her and her team’s idea to change the BBC logo to mere 3 lines and they gave a very serious explanation to support this strange idea. The competition between Anna and Lucy just gets better everytime. Neil is the underdog in the group but the one with the best one-liners. Will with his, “Yeah…cool…yeah” is adorable.

The show’s pulse is its writing. Just the way the meetings take place with everyone just muttering, “Right”, “Brilliant”, “Hurrah”, “Fabulous” without listening to a word- is probably how conferences are conducted nowadays. Just lines like the one by Anna, “This is about identifying what we do most of the best and finding fewer ways of doing more of it less.” I mean what is that! But if you actually sit and dissect the lines, it does hold some deep meaning. Initiatives like Renewal Team, More of Less, BBC Me- It’s about You- each one of the storylines better the other.

I wait for crisis in the show and how the team sits for a Damage Limitation Meeting. In Season 3, the best crisis has to be with how the new automatic subtitle software mispronounced Jules as Jews and the subsequent media roar. I couldn’t stop laughing when the software named Maggie Smith as Baggy Smith. Naming current shows like Strictly, and the stars involved makes the show even more interesting. And the Forecast App! Wonderful!

The silent discos, On my bike, uproar over cutting down BBC orchestra, the plot on the cross dressed football analyser, new roles like Head of Empowerment and Head of Purpose- each one of them has excellent moments involved. Comparing Ben and Jerry to Ant and Dec was hilarious.

Few more lines to quote.

“No one watches Television anymore, like no one. Get over it. It’s over. It’s not an overstatement. It’s an Uber statement.” -Siobhan. Reaction from others is same as yours-“WHAT?”

“Given the strong reactions provoked by Ryan’s Match of the Day appearance, and given the complex and sensitive issues involved, the problem for BBC is they don’t know what to do.” – Narrator.

“What are we actually going to do when we actually run out of time?” – Tracy

Siobhan: “We need to prioritize Plan B”.

Neil: We don’t have a Plan A, stupid.

Siobhan: “That’s why we need to focus on Plan B.”

The show also showcases on the huge number of things that had to be concentrated on for the running of the network. It’s interesting to see how brand and marketing works. The location being the actual BBC office, it adds a lot of credibility. I mean those chairs! The actors are absolutely marvelous. It’s difficult to perform in a show like this where the lines have absolutely no meaning, yet you need to deliver them with utter seriousness.

Many people might not get this show. Also, I wouldn’t say it’s a hilarious show either. It’s just BRILLIANT! I couldn’t stop admiring and being astonished by the writing by John Morton. I really wish for more seasons.

This show is a joy to watch. Don’t miss it!

Standing in Another Man’s Grave [Book Review]

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Rating: 3/5

This book is a usual police procedural. I remember having liked the TV version of this series. John Rebus, the central character, is the driving force. What I like the most is that the plot is both character driven and story driven. Standing in Another Man’s Grave works for me because it involves cold cases. I love cold cases as it’s the most difficult ones to solve. The cases would have transferred hands many times, facts distorted and the actual story blurred. 

John Rebus, now retired, haggard as ever, is part of a cold case unit. When he meets Nina Hazzlit, a mother in search of her missing daughter for 15 odd years, someone who brings to notice that few recent missing persons case could be connected to her daughter’s disappearance, Rebus contacts DI Siobhan, his ex colleague and puts forward his theories. Siobhan is initially skeptical as Rebus is someone known for his off the book handling of cases and she is ambitious to climb the career ladder. But considering the seriousness of the cases, both of them get down to working together, Rebus in a civilian consultant capacity. 

The case in itself has a very interesting background especially the fact that a photo was sent from two of the missing girl’s phone to her friends, identical photo. The best part of a police procedural is the gradual progress in solving the cases, overcoming the random obstacles thrown their way. The supporting characters are interesting, but lacked depth. Rebus being friendly with the “bad” guys, his motive behind was a little confusing. May be because I haven’t read any of the previous books, I didn’t get his character then. The Compliance committee being behind Rebus started off interesting but fizzled out at the end. 

I loved 3/4th of the book especially the part where the case gets transferred to another team and bodies being found in a field, etc. I also liked how Nina’s daughter’s case ended. But the last few chapters weren’t gritty enough. The revelation of the kidnapper/murderer wasn’t impressive, and the ending was absolutely bad. There were no big wow moments. This case deserved a better ending. On the whole, it was an engaging read but disappointing at the end.

I have the next Ian Rankin’s book ready on my TBR. I remember watching Resurrection Man and loving it. I hope the next book lives up to my expectation. 

 

Shadow Princess [Book Review]

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Rating: 5/5

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Honest to God, I felt a sad prick on my heart when this book ended. I have always been intrigued by the Mughal era for their flamboyance, architecture and trade and to read how this magnificent era ended was distressing. The first thing that comes to anyone’s mind when uttered “Mughals” is THE Taj Mahal, hands down. This epic monument has over the years become the epitome of love and a popular stature for India. This book, Shadow Princess, the third book in the series, narrates the story of Taj Mahal on one hand, and a beautiful story of Jahanaara, daughter of Mumtaz, who isn’t often remembered for her timely contributions to the running of the governance then, on the other hand.

I was taken by surprise when the author decided to skip a generation and focus on Jahanaara instead of Mumtaz. I felt it was a very risky decision as Jahanaara isn’t very well known. I didn’t know who she was, honestly. But that was what made this book really exciting. The story begins with the death of Mumtaz forcing Jahanaara, the eldest daughter, to take charge of the kingdom from behind the screens. Shah Jahan, consumed by grief is beyond any action. Jahanaara steps into her father’s shoes making important decisions and keeping her siblings under control. Dara and Aurangzeb, at 16 and 12, are already plagued by their dream to succeed their father. Jahanaara sensing this, puts an end to it by nursing her father back to normality. But the thirst to succeed endures for both the brothers.

Even though, essentially, the book is about the succession, the story is primarily focused on Jahanaara’s part in the succession. Her wish is for Dara to succeed, him being the legal heir to the Kingdom. At the same time she could see his inability to get the ministers behind him and also his frequent immature and playful actions. Aurangzeb, on the other hand, has proved his metal as a courageous young man on the battlefield. But his arrogance and impatience scares Jahanaara to support him. Meanwhile, while all her brothers are getting married and having their own family and life, Shah Jahan keeps Jahanaara close to him curbing her from having her own family life. Jahanaara secretly has an affair with one of the Amirs, producing a son at the end, a son whom she couldn’t recognise as her own publicly. The book revolves around Jahanaara’s interesting relationships with her father, sister, and her brothers. I absolutely loved her interaction with Mehrunissa. I almost forgot that Nur Jahan was alive when Shah Jahan took over the rein. I definitely felt Mehrunissa had a stronger personality than Jahanaara’s in those conversations.

We also get a glimpse into how Aurangzeb took over the kingdom, as a result of several ignores and insults, killing his own brothers, just like his father, to capture the throne. But this entire capturing the throne was covered in a matter of few pages which was a little disappointing. It was interesting to read how Jahanaara and Shah Jahan spent nearly 9 years in Aurangzeb’s captivity and those years being one of the best days for them. Even though the first half of the book was running in a continuous timeline, the second half had 8 or 10 years being skipping in between which affected the continuity of the story. I still couldn’t get why Jahanaara hated Aurangzeb in spite of him caring for her illegitimate son. Also, Roshanaara had so little to do in the story. I felt she had a very interesting personality.

Another parallel story running is the construction of the Taj Mahal. The idea behind, the immense amount of hardwork behind and Shah Jahan’s only motivating factor to live. I loved the point made how despite great achievements by Akbar and even Jahangir, Shah Jahan is the most popular Mughal king because of this magnificent monument. The same goes to Mumtaz. Even though, she didn’t live for long and had been the Queen for only a few years, she is the most popular Mughal queen.

I loved the fact that this book was both plot driven and character driven. There were moments I was lost in the world of Mughal architecture wanting to be a part of it. I wish the story hadn’t stopped with Shah Jahan’s death. Jahanaara, after Aurangzeb’s insistence for several years, becomes the head of his zenena after her father’s death. I longed to read her role during Aurangzeb’s rein, her feelings towards her new King. Hence, I felt the ending to be a little weak, left me wanting more. Also, only by reading the Afterword, you seriously get to know the parts that were facts and those that were fiction.

On the whole, it was an amazing experience to read this trilogy. A must read for all the historical fiction fans. And finally, a great book to read after a long time.