Short Book Review: The Dark Vineyard by Martin Walker

SBR: The Dark Vineyard is the second book in the Bruno, Chief of Police series. Like the first one, this is also set in the Dordogne region of South West France. The crime being investigated starts with a fire, likely to be a case of arson, and escalates only later in the book. The resolution of the mystery was, to be honest, underwhelming for me, but you can get drawn into the comfortable existence of a small town and its close-knit community. The stories of some of the recurring characters progress further and I found myself totally caring about those everyday stories. In what seems to be a pattern (if two books can define a pattern!) the crimes involved may shock the community, but their resolution do not seem to disturb it. And as the protagonist seems to care about the community’s well-being above the letter of the law, that is perhaps a desirable outcome. Will it make the crime and mystery part of the future books boring? I will know when I read the next one!

To read or not to read: Yes, if you are into this genre for entertainment.

Short Book Review: Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker

Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin WalkerSBR: Bruno, Chief of Police is the first novel in a mystery series based in Dordogne region of France. I came across this book while researching for traveling in France. One of the travelers who visited that region had mentioned this series as one of her favorites! Since I am planning a trip there as well (fingers crossed for VISA), I decided to pick it up. A good mystery is always welcome as an entertaining read and the book didn’t disappoint.  It was rich in describing the local settings, people and landscape without getting boring with them. The best part of the story was that it draws you into the complicated past of the nation which can’t leave even the far countryside unscarred. However, it did get didactic about the history. At times the conversations in the books seemed to be have been penned solely for showing off the author’s historical research! In a mystery book, it is a put-off. But I was happy to know a little bit of history because I was anyway planning to follow it up with a book on History of France!
To read or not to read: Yes, if you like mystery or if you are planning to visit Dordogne and reading fiction set there is your idea of preparing for it!

Short Book Review: Malice by Keigo Higashino

Malice by Keigo HigashinoSBR: I have read and reviewed two books by this author earlier. Malice is not in the same series, but it is also a good mystery book with the all the surprising twists and turns in the narrative and warped motives in the characters that you would want to read in the genre. The translation also works fine. And Japanese setting continues to be refreshing for me.
To read or not to read: Yes, if you like mysteries.

Short Book(s) Review: Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camileri

Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camileri
SBR: I am reviewing the series as a whole here. I was looking for something light, but not trashy to read and got recommended this series by a friend. Over a short period of time, I ended up reading eleven books in the series. Because it is set in Sicily where the dynamics of politics and crime are very different from a typical American or British setting,  and which the author uses to its full advantage, these books make for a refreshing read (gory crimes notwithstanding). Not every crime is neatly closed with the perpetrator put behind the bars. Sometimes there is nothing to be gained by taking the strictly legal route and the protagonist, Inspector Montalbano, chooses the course of action guided by his own conscience and morals, rather than the law. At least in one case, even for his personal gain.  The translation to English is good. The only part I don’t like is that the characters don’t seem to grow at all over the series. Montalbano is – to put it politely – nasty, self-centered and sexist. The relationship between Montalbano and Livia is erratic and even pathetic. Sometimes it feels like the author can’t make up his mind about whether they are soulmates or just two confused, but needy people holding on to each other. At any rate, they don’t seem to be going anywhere. But the cases can keep you going all right.
To read or not to read: Read it, especially if you are a mystery reader.

Short Book Review: The Devotion of Suspect X by Kiego Higashino

The Devotion of Suspect XSBR: I decided to read The Devotion of Suspect X because when I looked around to see what people were saying about my previous Higashino read, those who had liked that book, and even those who hadn’t, were recommending this one. I don’t know if it is about the order in which you read things, but I liked Salvation of a Saint better than this one. It could partly be because the quality of translation might not have done justice to The Devotion of Suspect X. What is interesting in this book, however, is that you know within the first few pages who committed the crime and how. Still the book manages to hold your attention.
To read or not to read: Yes if you like mysteries. Otherwise, there is no reason to start reading with this one.

Short Book Review: Devices and Desires by P. D. James

Devices and DesiresSBR: Devices and Desires by P. D. James is a different sort of a mystery fiction in the sense that most of the book is not focussed on the detective activities, but the affected characters and their lives. While I liked that, overall, the book didn’t work for me. The same things were being said about the characters again and again in the beginning and it made for a boring start. Even though the story did become interesting later on, the lack of enough detective work became a weak point at that stage. Only the reader gets to know the complete story, which by itself is an interesting plot device, but the way reader gets to know it is all forced and contrived. It was as if at one point of time the author realized that too much has been written and now the story needs to be wrapped up. So she quickly starts introducing conversations which would explain it all.
To read or not to read: Some of the Amazon reviewers who didn’t like this book still  liked the earlier ones in the Adam Dalgleish mystery series of which this is the eighth  book. So if you haven’t read the series it might be better to start with one of the early ones rather than this particular book.

Short Book Review: Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino

Salvation of a SaintSBR: Salvation of a Saint is a murder mystery and it does a good job of it. The prose is readable and the story keeps your interest hooked. There are the standard ingredients of a main detective and a junior and a brilliant scientist. But the junior is not a buffoon, but rather sharp and outsmarts her boss often. Her being a woman is a plus in my book and she is much more qualified for her job than J K Rowling (oops! Robert Galbraith)’s Robin. The brilliant scientist doesn’t get things right in one go. So that is good too.
Any genre novel will have parts that would make a literary fiction reader intent upon reading humdrums of real life cringe. But there isn’t any fun in reading a mystery novel with the lens of literary fiction. So I would not do that either.
To read or not to read: Yes, if you like mystery.

Short Book Review: Dubai Wives by Zvezdana Rashkovich

Dubai WivesSBR: Dubai Wives is a book that could have been. The author has enough material in the variegated, but connected stories of the plethora of characters she explores in the book. But the book needed a sincere rewriting and a ruthless editing. The size could have easily been two-third of what it was, probably smaller, endlessly repetitive parts should have been torn away, and some very obvious language issues should have been dealt with.
To read or not to read: Don’t pick up unless a better edited edition comes out.

Short Book Review: Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J K Rowling)

Career of EvilSBR: When you have a detective with turbulent enough a past that he can think of four different people who would be up to sending him a severed leg, there can be no lack of adventure and thrill in the story. Career of Evil, third book in Cormoran Strike series by J. K. Rowling’s alternate avatar Robert Galbraith, keeps you engrossed as the genre is supposed to do. Her writing is charming as usual. What doesn’t work for me are the chapters narrated from the criminal’s point of view. They contribute to the story well, making you do your own detective work as you the book, but they don’t read like you are in the psychopath’s mind, but like the profiles they create in Criminal Minds. On the other hand, I like the romantic tension between Strike and Robin better than almost any romance novel I have read.
To read or not to read: If you are a mystery/crime genre reader, or a Rowling fan, do read it. If you are neither, this may not be the one book of the genre you need to read.