Autobiography of a Mad Nation by Sriram Karri

What an interesting book this is.

A criminal and political whodunnit that takes place in contemporary India, and at the very highest levels – we meet the President of India in the opening moments of the book, and yet leaves us puzzling over the nature of the crime, the motives for it and indeed who really carried it out, right up until the final pages of the book.

The novel opens with great panache and style, as the President shows his trusted confidant and the former head of the Intelligence Service, Dr. Vidyasagar, a plea for clemency he has received.  A mentally unstable young man, Iqbal, has been beheaded in Hyderabad and the author of the letter, Vikrant, is the convicted killer, who actually called the police to confess.  Now on death row, he writes to the President asking not for clemency but for justice.  He says he has proof as to who really killed Iqbal.  And he sends the proof to the President, whom he refers to as the People’s President.

This is perhaps the moment to say that one of the things I enjoyed about this book was trying to guess who was who, for the very nice, compassionate People’s President is never named per se, but there are enough clues for me to venture a suggestion – the still very popular former President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam.  Even if I’m wrong, while reading reading this novel, I imagined our fictional President to have the same genial face and kind, gentle nature of President Kalam.

I was sent this book for review by the publisher, Fingerprint!, but the problem with reviewing a whodunnit is that you really cannot reveal too much of the plot, for glaringly obvious reasons.

Suffice it to say that the first section of the book is seriously gripping, as Vidyasagar, racing against time (for the clock is ticking down both to the end of the President’s term of office and Vikrant’s execution) has to figure out whether or not Vikrant is a killer and if not, who was Iqbal’s murderer and why on earth would Vikrant have confessed to such a crime?

I am not going to spoil the plot for you, worry not.

The second part of the book consists of a long and very detailed flashback, and as you read it, you slowly begin to put together some of the pieces of this complex jigsaw puzzle of a book.

But not all of them, which means you start the third and final section sort-of-beginning-to-understand some things, and not understanding others at all.

Which is why this is a good read right until the very last paragraph.

Recommended.  Loved the first part, which is gripping and mystifying at the same time.

To buy the book right now, all you have to do is click on one of the links below.

The Perfect Murder by H.R.F.Keating

Re-reading “The Perfect Murder” was every bit as delightful the 3rd time round, as it was the first.

Yes, of course I knew whodunnit, but the writing and the scene setting and the use of language in the book are all so delicious that you read it as much for the writing as for the story.

This book is a truly dazzling literary tour de force once you know that the author had never, ever been to India when he wrote the book.  And yet Bombay (it was, back then) springs to loud, noisy, colourful life in front of your eyes.  The characters are 100% credible, the language is spot-on, and you marvel at how perfect (no pun intended) the depiction of one of the world’s great cities is.

And Mr. Keating had never visited.  Not once.

This book is the first in what would become a long, delightful series, and in it we meet the dogged, determined, definitely put-upon Inspector Ghote, from the Bombay CID.  We meet his feisty wife Protima, their beloved son Ved, and an array of characters as lifelike, as dodgy, as suspicious, as likeable as you could wish to meet.

My old, battered paperback, dating from my first trip to Bombay was published by Hamlyn, and cost the then princely sum of £1.10p though the book was first published in 1964.

If, after reading this review, you would like to buy the book, nothing could be easier.  Just click on the link below :

 

THE BEEKEEPER’S APPRENTICE by LAURIE R.KING

Having only recently discovered the wonderful Sherlock Holmes meets Kim whodunnit, “The Game” by Laurie R. King, this reviewer decided to go back to the first book in this eminently readable series, which is actually a series about the gutsy young Mary Russell.

aka Mrs. Sherlock Homes.

In “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” we meet Mary Russell.  And what  a meeting between one of fiction’s stalwarts and someone who is to become a great fictional heroine, although she doesn’t yet realise it.

A short sighted, half American, partly Jewish, clever teenager bumps into Sherlock Holmes, literally. Mary trips over the recently retired and therefore rather bored and grumpy detective, as she is shortsightedly wandering over the hills near his cottage.

What follows is a clever rendition of the Conan Doyle style, era and characters – with a twist.

And that twist is our intrepid heroine who charms not only Sherlock Holmes but also Dr. Watson, whom she calls Uncle John, and Sherlock’s equally clever brother Mycroft. A slew of exciting adventures take place, from Wales to London to Palestine, and as we follow the progress of Mary, who is tutored by Sherlock during her vacations from Oxford, we watch her develop into a young lady and a formidable foil to her clever mentor.

They are still Miss Russell and Mr. Holmes at the end of this charming book, but we feel we know what will happen, eventually.  The great Mr.Holmes is clearly falling for his sparkling protegee –  as does the reader.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is published by Allison and Busby, and the paperback costs £7.99

This book truly is a great read, and is the start of a wonderful series of books, so if you wish to start and order, it couldn’t be simpler.  Just click on any of the links below :