Finders Keepers

Title: Finders Keepers
Writers : Stephen King
Published: 2015
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 3 on 5

Finders Keepers is the name of the detective agency run by Bill Hodges, who is a retired policeman. This is the second book in the Bill Hodges trilogy, something I did not know when I read the book. I read it as an independent book in itself and I really didn’t miss the background story of the first book.

The story has a book lover, Morris Bellamy, at the center who is obsessed with Jimmy Gold, a fictitious character brought to life by the author Rothstein. Morris loves the first book in the Gold trilogy, but is upset about how the author turns Jimmy’s character in the next two books. When he learns that Rothstein has been writing for more than a decade without publishing anything, he has a sliver of hope that Jimmy’s character has been redeemed in the unpublished books. Morris stages a burglary in which he steals all of Rothestein’s unpublished work and cash and ends up murdering the author. He buries his loot at a deserted place near his house but before he can reap the benefits of his theft, he is sentenced to prison for life for another unrelated crime which he commits under the influence of alcohol.

While Morris is living out his life in prison with Rothestein’s books being the light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel, we also follow Pete’s life whose family ends up living in the same house which was Morris’s house once. Pete discovers the buried treasure by accident and he puts it to good use. He uses the money to bring his family out of financial and emotional pit and he devours Routhstein’s books.

Our detective Hodges enters the scene just when these two stories meet. Hodges plays a not so crucial role in tying the loose ends together. We also get a glimpse of Brady, who is the evil protagonist from the first book in the trilogy. Brady steals a car and runs over a few people at a job fair and one of the people affected is Pete’s father. That is how this book is connected to the first book, but this connection is insignificant.

I loved the book’s plot – to have character/book obsession at the center of the plot is something new. I was shocked to find myself relating so well to Morris – am I borderline obsessed too? There definitely are weak points – Pete and Morris ending up at the same house, both sharing the same love (read obsession) for the same character, Pete ending up finding the treasure – too many coincidences, but, well, that’s what makes the story interesting.

The weakest point is the climax. There is so much of build up to the story’s peak point when Pete meets Morris (even the chapter has an ominous name – boy and the wolf or some such thing) and the actual moment falls like a thud. The end is predictable but King could have made it more plausible.

This is unlike the other crime thrillers where the reader also does not know who the culprit is and the reader is in the same phase as the detective, trying to decipher the clues and figuring out who the culprit is. With this book, the reader knows all along who it is and how the stories are connected. Despite this, there is an element of curiosity – more about what happens next rather than whodunnit. What should have been the icing on the cakeĀ  – the climax – is disappointing, thus it leaves a bitter aftertaste.

I am not a big fan of Stephen King – I stay away from his supernatural thrillers, so I don’t know how his other books are. Compared to the other crime thrillers I have read – this not the best, but an average read.

 

 

I Let You Go

Title: I Let You Go
Writer: Clare Mackintosh
Published: 2014
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 2 on 5

I decided to read this book after reading the rave reviews on Goodreads. Reviewers called this a psychological thriller and compared it to Gone Girl. I have read the latter and loved it so much that I blindly decided to read this one. I naturally had high expectations from this book and what an anti-climax this was. On every page of the book I was asking myself if I was reading the same book others are singing praises about.

Jenna Gray finds her life turned upside down after a tragic accident in which a 6 year old boy gets killed. She runs away from her past and just when she is settling down, her past comes haunting her. There are quite a few twists and turns in the story, which I cannot mention here without labeling this review as a spoiler. The ‘Big Twist’ which everybody is talking about is very well executed. I had to reread these pages to convince myself I was not misinterpreting it.

Characters are not well developed and Jenna hardly evokes any emotion. There are quite a few handful characters including Ray and Kate, who are the CID investigators, lack depth and their relationships with characters around them looks forced upon. The story starts with a bang and holds your interest for a few pages and then it slows down, never to pick up the pace again. What could have been a wonderful start to an interesting story just fizzles out. Writing is so poor at time I found myself shaking my head and going tut-tut. Shifting POVs (from first person in some chapters to third person in some) is really taxing and the voice/tone doesn’t change to show the difference.

I don’t know why this is labeled as ‘psychological thriller’ because it neither a thriller nor anything psychological about it. And the praising reviews and 5 stars on goodreads is still a mystery to me.

 

 

 

The Girl on the Train

Title: The Girl on the Train
Writers : Paula Hawkins
Published: 2015
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 3 on 5

Girl on the Train refers to Rachel, who is a 30-something woman, divorced, alcoholic who commutes by train everyday for work. As she commutes in the same train and the familiar route everyday, she tends to develop an attachment with the dwellers of the house which line the railway track. She gives them names and concocts her own story about how happy/sad they are in their lives. She can also spot her own house, or at least which used to be hers before her divorce, where her ex-husband and his mistress-who-is-now-his-wife also live. The book is about Rachel, her reluctance to admit her divorce, her addiction to alcohol and the characters that she sees on her train journey. The story takes an interesting turn when one of the characters, one of Rachel’s favorite, disappears and Rachel may be involved in this.

When Rachel gets drunk, she ends up with a gaping hole in her memory and she can’t recall what happened. She happens to be present at the scene of disappearance, but she can’t remember whether she saw that girl as she was drunk. All she knows is she woke up the next day with a nasty blow on her head with blood streaming down her face. With the disappearance at the center of the plot, the other major characters get entangled in this story with Rachel being the most invested. She is emotionally invested as the disappeared girl is her “Jess” who she imagines to be very happy with her husband “Jason”.

The story is passe in terms of the mystery quotient. Some things are obvious and one can guess who the culprit is long before Rachel arrives at it. I liked the characters more than the story. Crime thrillers usually don’t spend time on characterization, but Paula breaks that trend. Rachel comes across as the depressed alcoholic who has lost all hopes and is desperately trying to find a meaning, a purpose to her life. Megan/Jess is another troubled soul who tugged at my heart. I wonder what it is that I can relate to these characters! Scott also has depth, but I wish Tom was etched better.

This book is a quick read with a decent mystery plot and interesting characters. Many people/websites recommended this book to me as I liked ‘Gone Girl’. The latter had psychological element to it and the characters brought the story to life, but the former doesn’t have these qualities. This book is an average one on its own, but not comparable to ‘Gone Girl’.

The Troubled Man

Title: The Troubled Man
Writers : Henning Mankell
Published: 2009
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 3 on 5

When I reviewed and discussed about the Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson on book forums, I heard many recommendations about crime fiction by Swedish authors. Among the many names that were recommended, Henning Mankell was repeated many times. I have read a few books by Mankell already and like them enough to read more books by the author. The Troubled Man is another crime thriller by Mankell, featuring his troubled inspector Kurt Wallander.

This book deals with the mystery of a man going missing, soon followed by his wife’s disappearance. Though Wallander is not assigned to the case, he is sucked into it as the disappeared man happens to be his daughter’s father-in-law. Hakan von Enke, a retired naval officer, goes on his morning walk as usual, but on the fateful day, never returns home from his walk. While the police and Wallander are playing with theories of kidnap and suicide, von Enke’s wife goes missing too. As the case is unraveled, we realize the roots go way back in time when von Enke was in the navy. Many secrets are revealed and many skeletons come tumbling out of the closet.

On a parallel line, we see Wallander’s health deteriorating with age. He notices incidents of memory loss suggesting the onset of Alzheimer’s. While Wallander is fighting his own battles, he is also fighting external forces as he reveals secrets which might shake his daughter’s and his own world.

As a crime thriller, this book is like any other Mankell book, with its strong plot and interesting twists. What makes this book special is the fact that this is the last book in the Wallander series. As Wallander’s mind deteriorates, it is clear that he cannot continue in this profession and that means the end of Wallander stories for the reader.

I have read many crime fiction books and there are many memorable lead characters. What makes Wallander memorable and stand out from the crowd is that he appears very human and readers can relate to him easily. Poirot and Holmes are in a different class altogether – by their place in society and their intelligence. Wallander is like any other common man, fighting the usual battles and working hard to earn his livelihood. He is not very happy in his life – divorced and guilt ridden for not giving his daughter a good upbringing. But, in the end, as his granddaughter arrives, he relives his daughter’s childhood and has many happy moments before Alzheimer’s completely engulfs him.

I am sad to see Wallander go, but I admire Mankell for giving this series a “natural” end rather than anything dramatic like him being killed or gone missing. It is a logical end to a great series and like Wallander, one which readers can relate to.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Writers : Alan Bradley
Published: 2010
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 3.5 on 5

I love reading mystery novels and have had my fair share so far. When you see a protagonist or a series being recommended by multiple people, you are inclined to try it out to see what the hype is all about. That is how I picked up The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, which is the first book in the Flavia de Luce series written by Alan Bradley. This series is very different from the ones I have read in that the protagonist, our detective, is a 11-year old girl who is precocious and has a love for chemistry.

The book is about a murder that is committed at BuckShaw, the residence of the de Luces, and Flavia’s father Colonel de Luce is the primary suspect. It is up to Flavia to prove her father’s innocence and find the real culprit. The murder plot, motive and the way the mystery is solved – all these are very interesting. Bradley weaves in many interesting twists and turns to make the plot riveting. I liked the book, but I had a problem with our amatuer sleuth.

Don’t get me wrong, there is something very endearing about having a 11-year old girl as your detective who reaches the crime scenes before the police does and notices many things which they don’t. But the fact that she is privy to everything happening around the crime and she sneaks through the crime scenes under the inspector’s nose and more importantly, tampers with the evidence recklessly is hard to digest.

Flavia being the narrator of the book causes the book to jump from the murder to the little happenings in Flavia and her sister’s life. While Flavia comes across as intelligent and observant when she is onto the murder, we also see a glimpse of the vulnerable, innocent girl – the way most 11-year olds are when she describes her life with her sisters.

As a murder mystery novel, this book is interesting and worth a read, but if you are expecting a Shrelock Holmes or Poirot in our Flavia de Luce, then you might be disappointed. I know there are many Flavia de Luce fans out there, but she is somewhat unbelievable to me.

 

 

The Giver

Title: The Giver
Writers : Lois Lowry
Published: 1993
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 3.5 on 5

After having thoroughly enjoyed The Hunger Games series and craving for more, I turned to Goodreads and other book forums for suggestions for similar books. The very first and most often mentioned was The Giver series. The blurb sounded interesting so off it went on my TBR list.

The Giver reveals a world where people are constantly watched and are expected to obey the rules set out for them. They areĀ supplied with measured quantity of food and their lives are measured by how obedient they are. Jonas, a twelve year old, lives with his parents, Father and Mother, who are not his biological parents and his sister, Lily, with whom he does not share any blood relation. The children attend school, eat what is handed to them, volunteer at various places because that is the rule and at the end of their 11th academic year, they are assigned to work depending on their nature and interests. In one such assignment ceremony, Jonas is assigned to be “The Receiver” who has to receive memories, pleasant and painful, from the present Receiver who will now be called “The Giver”.

The book creates a world which appears perfect and utopian at the superficial level, but as the facts are revealed, we realize it is actually dystopian. There are women who are assigned to birthing whose job is to give birth to three babies in their lifetime and then move on to physical labor. Spouses are matched by the council who then watch the couple to see how compatible they are. The council decides when and how many kids the couple will have.

The book traces the life of Jonas and the twist in his life when he is chosen as The Receiver. His world is revealed to us through his eyes. As Jonas discovers bitter truths about his world, life, family, he realizes people are not what they seem they are.

Lowry’s world itself is interesting, but what I found lacking in the book is strong characters. Jonas and The Giver, the two central characters have some flesh, but not enough to connect with them emotionally. The supporting characters are so poorly sketched that they are just that: supporting characters. I will definitely read the rest of the books in the series, but wish I could connect better with Jonas and others.

 

Gone Girl

Title: Gone Girl
Writers : Gillian Flynn
Published: 2012
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 4 on 5

Gone Girl is about the life of a just-like-any-other couple Amy and Nick wherein Amy goes missing on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. Amy is shown as a sweet, innocent girl while Nick is painted as evasive, indifferent to the situation and is rightfully the primary suspect. The book takes a big U-turn around half way through and the reader starts questioning self about the characters and are they really what they seem.

The book is a thriller, page turner and very, very un-putdown-worthy. I finished it in two marathon sittings, dying to know what happens in the end. The book is written through Nick’s POV and Amy’s diary entries. Having two voices, who are on different sides of the tables makes this book a very different read. It is as if you are the detective, listening to the two sides of the story and determining who is guilty.

Amy and Nick’s characters and even the supporting ones are very strongly etched. Without spoiling it for the others, let me just say, both the lead characters go through a roller coaster ride where they go from good to evil and all shades of grey. The writing was okay, I don’t really pay attention to the literary beauty when the story is so gripping.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, but I still give it a 4 mainly because the book makes crime sound too easy. Crime shouldn’t be a cakewalk, right. The plotting and careful planning is very clearly shown in the first half and it is amazing to see the character’s brilliance while committing the crime, but the later part of the book makes it look too easy, child’s play. Another reason for the rating is the ending. I wish there was a stronger, more in-the-face-explosion kind of ending.

Even with the loopholes and the weak ending, the book is a great filler for in between heavy reading. While I was reading the book, I couldn’t help thinking what a great movie this book will make and what do you know, movie is going to be released this October. Can’t wait to see it.