Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Interrogator’s Notebook by Martin Ott – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘Norman Kross is a career interrogator who has worked covertly in some of the most dangerous places in the world. He returns to his Los Angeles home contemplating retirement and coming to terms with his past. He may be a master at unlocking others’ secrets, but he is blind to the truth of his deteriorating relationship with his wife, to take on one last assignment, to interrogate a character actor who may be responsible for the death of a director’s daughter. The secrets he uncovers are far more terrifying than any battlefield, any windowless room, any passage in the notebook he feverishly writes in to make sense of what men are capable of behind their masks.’

The Interrogator’s Notebook is a psychological thriller novel written by Martin Ott; a poet who has successfully trespassed into the thriller genre. It features a former army interrogator, Norman Kross, but doing a much lighter task now, that is teaching. However, he couldn’t stay away from his profession for too long, as he accepts to do one last assignment, interrogating an actor, who is suspected by the famous director Owen Arnold, of murdering his daughter Natasha.

Norman Kross – his unique character was a highlight of this novel with his seemingly unconventional techniques of interrogation, his totally messed up personal life, the squabbles with his father in law, and his complete devotion to his profession. I liked the introductory pages of every chapter where the Norman narrates his past experiences and also his approach to interrogation. The balance too, was proper, and nowhere did I get a feeling where the story regarding his personal life is merely a sub-plot. The antagonist too was an interesting character, the actor George Stark, who managed to keep Norman under threat – something which he had probably never felt, even at Fallujah. The USP of this novel is that it is straight from the horse’s mouth, with Martin Ott, himself being a former interrogator and the book that I read, is probably even a collection of his own experiences – which was suggested, I guess in Lesson 10, where Norman states that if he has to compile his experiences, it would probably be presented as a fiction. The only significant drawback I felt was that the pace that was required for a thriller novel wasn’t present in this plot, although that didn’t in anyway made it dull. For casual readers, this might not be so easy read; taking a gist of paragraphs after a couple of glances won’t help you and if you’re intrigued by this review, I suggest you read this book without skipping a word.

When I came to know  that this book was categorised under Psychological Thriller, I was quite sceptical about the whole thing as the only psychological thriller I’ve read so far is the famous Russian novel, Crime and Punishment and I was utterly disappointed with it but this book has helped to dispel that scepticism on this sub-genre. I had an enjoyable experience reading this book, and I felt that this was one step ahead of a good book, and therefore, my scale would award The Interrogator’s Notebook a seven on ten.

Rating – 7/10

Have a nice day,

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘I’ve waited a long time for young criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl to meet his match. Finally, it’s happened.

A second juvenile genius has discovered that fairies do exist, and she is determined to capture one for scientific study. And not just any fairy. The newcomer intends to trap a demon – the most human-hating species unknown to man.

Only an ancient time spell separates the demons from mankind – and Artemis must prevent it from unravelling. If he fails, the bloodthirsty tribe will re-launch their quest to wipe every human from the planet. Because that’s what demons live to do.

The can only be one winner – and this time it might not be Artemis Fowl.

Take nothing for granted.’

Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony is the fifth book in the Artemis Fowl octet. The reviews of books; 1, 2, 3 and 4 are available in this blog and in case you haven’t read one of them, don’t continue reading this review.

Coming to the crux of the plot, another person has come to know about the existence of fairies, that is, the eighth fairy family, the demons. And this ‘another person’, is very similar to Artemis; another juvenile genius, Minerva Paradizo. But, Minerva is similar to Artemis’ older self, who wants to exploit the fairies for her personal gains and Artemis has got to stop her, and it is not going to be easy. 

The Lost Colony’s plot was excellent; with the highlight being the intellectual confrontations between Artemis and Minerva, both trying to outwit each other. The demon world, their attributes and attitudes were brought out well by the author. The elements of Artemis Fowl novels were ever present, with the degree of sarcasm only increasing in this package. This could have been the best novel in the book; hands down, had it not been for the extremely boring, last quarter of the novel which happens in the demon world. Yes, Artemis’ intellect was put to good use, but in many cases, Colfer was simply pulling a rabbit out of his hat, to make the situation favourable to Artemis.

It is a pity that I can’t rate this book as high as any of the previous novels, notwithstanding the fact that I enjoyed three quarters of this book more than any other Artemis Fowl novels (including The Time Paradox and The Atlantis Complex), the last quarter was boring, dull and childish. I’d award this book a rating of six on a scale of ten.

Rating: 6/10

Have a nice day,

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Sutherland's Rules by Dario Ciriello – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘All Christian White wants is a quiet life. But between the FDA threatening new regulations which would bankrupt his business, and the challenges posed by his open marriage to Carol, his attractive, younger, bi wife, peace isn’t anywhere on the horizon. And when he receives a letter from Billy, his old chum and sometime guardian angel from their hippie days, asking him to come to London and help him collect a forty-year-old IOU, Christian’s other problems start to look insignificant. Because the IOU is for two hundred and fifty kilos of charas, high-grade hashish from Afghanistan. And Christian owes Billy too much to even consider refusing.’

Sutherland’s Rules is the first thriller novel, or, in fact the first work of fiction written by the author Dario Ciriello. This story features Christian White and the character after whom the book is named after, Billy Sutherland, who are very close friends and are in their sixties now. Christian is leading a relatively peaceful life, running a legitimate business in New York but is threatened by the new regulations imposed by Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But, things change, when he is invited by Billy Sutherland to join him in one last mission, a highly dangerous one. An IOU that Billy signed with an old farmer at Mazari Sharif, Afghanistan, forty years ago was about to mature and was for 250 kilos of hash (cannabis). Despite all the perils at going for it, the two decide to take the change to ‘reminisce the days of their youth’ and they’re to bring the stuff back to the United Kingdom, against all odds.

The best part about the book was Billy Sutherland himself – a person with a very high IQ but has used it all along only to smuggle drugs, that too not usually for sale; made his profile very interesting. The way in which Billy planned the entire operation was the highlight of the novel. The friendship between Christian and Billy was brought out well and I was also pleased with the character building, even with that of the antagonists – the immigrants serving for the British Police force – Detective Inspector Amir Khan and his sidekick, Vladimir. The element of ‘unseen character’, often used in sitcoms although I’ve seldom seen it being used in a book, was used well in this novel – fitting Barraclough into that role, Amir Khan’s superior. Although Barraclough was never involved in an actual conversation, I believe the reader could still easily make out how he’d react in either of the cases – Khan’s success / failure in nabbing Sutherland and his friends. The tiny sub-plot was also a useful digression in the story, that being Christian’s discussions with the CEO of his firm regarding the new FDA regulations. The global element of the novel was enjoyable, with the story going through three continents over two hundred pages and – particularly, the part where it takes place in Afghanistan was my favourite which brought out the author’s diligent research on Afghanistan, their culture and their current plight. I enjoyed the description of Afghanistan and also the author’s take on some of the issues – two which I believe are worth sharing in this review:

‘The terrorists had won. No two ways about it: when a handful of semi-literate cavemen several thousand miles away could upset the lifestyle of an advanced society of hundreds of millions of civilized people, they'd won. Game over. And how? Because we'd become so soft, so afraid, so dependent on faceless structures and institutions to tell us what to do, how to act, what to think, that we actually deserved to lose’ – Page 25

‘”I think (there) will come the day when there are no foreigners, and Afghans rule all Afghans, But, peace, I am afraid that we will not have. For peace, we need more than democracy – we must all be beyond the tribe, beyond religion. This is why the Europeans no longer fight wars against each other. Until we overcome these thing, there cannot be peace”’ – Page 95

This is one of those very few books where I loved both the protagonists and their counterparts; while the former had not been doing anything so honourable, the way in which they approached the same was what made it special. Even the two police officers were good and totally workaholic and took lots of effort in the Sutherland case despite their boss being more concerned about some Estonian gang. A pity that you can't have both the sides winning.

I had wanted to read Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner for two reasons: one being the author’s citizenship – for the reason that most books in my shelf are that of the authors from the British Isles and I wanted to add variety to it by adding books of American authors; and the other one being that I wanted to read a story that takes place in Afghanistan, even if only a part of it takes place in that location. This book, satisfied both those intentions of mine even before I got my hands on to The Kite Runner although as far the first reason is concerned, it is a little complicated in this case, with the author of Sutherland’s Rules being London born, currently living in US and of Italian descent.

To sum it up, I had a thoroughly enjoyable experience reading this book and I’m sure most thriller lovers, too, would love this book. It had a well-written story, moving at the right pace and with a fitting end, which, in my opinion, are the most important aspects of the thriller novel. Going by that, I’d give this book a rating of nine on ten.

External links:

Have a nice day,

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Artemis Fowl and the Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer - Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘Arch-criminal Artemis Fowl has had his mind wiped, and now someone wants him dead.

He remembers nothing of the man-eating trolls and flame-throwing goblins from his past. It might help if Artemis actually read what his much-abused biographer has written.

Because now he needs his memories back – and fast. A certain power-crazed pixie is out for revenge and Artemis’s one fairy ally, Captain Holly Short of the Lower Elements Police, is on the run, charged with murder.

Suddenly everyone is depending on Artemis Fowl: the only human who really scares the People.

And Artemis is depending on a flatulent dwarf.’

Artemis Fowl and the Opal Deception is the fourth novel in Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl octet. The reviews of books 1, 2 and 3 are available in this blog and I’d recommend readers to follow the sequence.

In this, Opal Koboi, the pixie genius is back, and she is seeking vengeance on all those who foiled her earlier plan to conquer the fairy world (in The Arctic Incident) and those in the death list, inevitably include Holly Short, Julius Root, Foaly and of course, Artemis Fowl. Julius is killed in Opal’s plot – that is a disaster by itself but, it was Holly Short who was framed by Opal in the incident and she is charged with murder. Only one person can help her retrieve her LEP career, and also save the fairy world, Artemis Fowl that is, and he retains none of his fairy memories, owing to the mind-wipe and is busy stealing a priceless piece of art in Munich.

This book, in my opinion had a more interesting plot than ever and to the reader’s delight, Artemis old character returns, thanks to the mind-wipe, with him going back to his criminal activities. Moreover, a direct confrontation between Opal and Artemis where the latter is absolutely helpless, and has no contact with Foaly; is a highlight, something which was lacking in the second book. The last, Mulch was ever-present in this book, for a change, he is doing something for Artemis without expecting anything in return. So, on the whole, the vengeance idea was carried out well, with the typical elements of an Artemis Fowl novel in it.

The negative ones I found were that the novel had very long chapters – which is a discouraging factor for someone with my speed of reading. Moreover, the ‘saving the world’ was oversimplified – suppressing the lust of one person amounts to saving the world? I wonder…

On the whole, this is one of the best books in the Artemis Fowl octet (I’m yet to read the eighth book) and deserves a rating of 9/10.

Rating – 9/10

Have a nice day,

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Artemis Fowl Files by Eoin Colfer – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘How much do you know about the infamous Artemis Fowl and the People? Become an expert on everything in Artemis’ world, with this hilarious and essential guide to the Artemis Fowl books.

·         Two brand-new short stories starring Mulch, the flatulent dwarf, and the irrepressible elf Holly      Short
·         Interview with all the characters
·         A complete guide to the fairy code
·         A spotter’s guide to the People
·         Fairy quiz: how to tell if you are a dwarf, troll, elf or pixie
·         Map of all fairy transport locations
·         Manual of Foaly’s inventions
·         Fairy word searches and crossword puzzles
·         Interview with Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl Files is an ancillary book in the Artemis Fowl octet written by the Irish author Eoin Colfer. It was released during the gap between the release of Artemis Fowl and the Eternity Code and Artemis Fowl and the Opal Deception.

It contains interviews, some puzzles, the Gnommish script decoder, interviews with the characters and the better part of the whole thing, two short stories. One of them is an event that takes place before the start of the series, which is Holly Short’s promotion to the rank of a captain and also her admission into the Recon. The second story, The Seventh Dwarf is a recollection of an event that takes place after the completion of book one but before Arctic Incident where Mulch and Artemis, together, try to steal a tiara.

I found the stories to be good, especially the first one – Holly was her usual self, as good as ever. While the idea of the second one was good, I felt it to be logically inconsistent – for in the Arctic incident, while neither Holly nor Artemis say anything to indicate that they’ve not met during the interim period, nevertheless, one of what Butler said was clearly indicating how he had no idea about Mulch after the Fowl Manor siege.

I found the additions, quite boring, especially when I read it after five years. Yes, when I was a thirteen year old, the puzzles, the flashy diagrams of Foaly’s inventions did have me fascinated but when I read it the second time, I found the interviews dull (did Colfer interview himself or did he get someone else to do it for him?), and I was particularly disappointed with the BIG REVEAL – that is the Gnommish script. Before reading the Files, I expected something different, something a little more complex, like Tengwar in The Lord of the Rings but Gnommish just happens to be the Latin script with different symbols and decoding requires no skill whatsoever.

While I liked the two stories, there is nothing special about this otherwise overpriced supposed ‘ultimate’ guide to the Artemis Fowl books. For the sake of those two short stories, I’d rate it a little more than ‘bad’, to a neither here nor there rating – that is five on ten.

Rating – 5/10

Have a nice day,

Friday, 1 March 2013

When the Signal Turns Red by Jayanand Ukey - Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘Girish and Prajakta are in love. Very soon Girish will be joining the numero uno IT company of the country. He prepares himself by buying expensive clothes and other accessories he had always dreamed of. He and Prajakta have together planned to build on a good bank balance and then meet each other’s families to talk about marriage, probably after a year or two. Unexpectedly, the families get involved before Girish can join the IT company. Against all odds, the couple manages to convince their family and an engagement date is fixed. But destiny has other things in mind. A global catastrophe mars their plan which leads to the engagement getting annulled.

Will Girish find a way out of his predicament? Will he ultimately win Prajakta’s hand or will he move on in life, learning to live without her?’

When the Signal Turns Red is a romance novel which happens to be the first work of the author, Jayanand Ukey that has been published. I’ve never tried the genre before, but this being a direct request from the author himself, I accepted it.

Girish, a 22 year old who has completed his graduation, is about to join a leading IT company, DCL. He is in love with his college mate, Prajakta, and they wish to get married after working for some years, but, the girl’s parents find out about Girish and the families fix their engagement. However, their plans are in turmoil as both have lost their jobs, owing to the recession and the Prajakta’s father breaks off the engagement.
It is quite a short story, with just 198 pages expressed in simple words, and thus, a person who is really fast at reading might finish reading the book in ninety minutes. However, speed being my inherent limitation, I took me two days to complete the book. I liked it how this was so unlike the other Indian love stories in Indian films, with both the lovers actually being qualified and their parents actually agreeing to their choice without much discussion. The plot was simple and straight forward, without many digressions or sub-plots and the characteristics of the two families were brought out well. Moreover, I liked how the author chose the financial crisis as the background and with the author himself being in the IT sector, he is someone who’d understand it best, the loss of jobs in the IT sector which started in 2008. My favourite part about the whole thing was that I was promised a light read, and it was delivered, with precision.

However, on the flipside too, I’ve a lot of points. While I praised the simplicity of the author’s writing, I found the sentences to be too short, doesn’t even give the reader a chance to enjoy the flow of the words. Moreover, I wasn’t particularly pleased with the character building, even that of the protagonists, Girish and Prajakta. While I liked the background being the financial crisis, I felt the description of the same was over-simplified. And the last being the finish, till then, the story was going normally, events that took place were plausible, but the finish (which I’m certainly not at liberty to disclose), unfortunately was like any other typical Indian film. But I’m sure that for many readers, these points are not so relevant and this book certainly has a strong audience.

Overall, I felt that it was a good attempt from a first time author, who had a good story to tell, but the only bone of contention being that the same could have been expressed better. For coming up with a good idea for a story, my minimum rating is a six on ten. 

Rating – 6/10

Have a nice day,

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