Showing posts from 2016

The Secret of the Druids

The Secret of the Druids is the second book in the trilogy of The Mahabharata Quest by Christopher Doyle.   Having read the previous books of Christopher Doyle, I was curious to know what further secrets was the author trying to reveal.

Interestingly between the first and second book of the trilogy, the author released a mini-sequel.  It is in this that he meets up with his father's friend KS, who hands over to him a prism.  
The Secret of the Druids starts with a group of people trying to dig up a grave somewhere in present day Scotland.  They are frightened by the fire and light that emanate from the area when this happens.
Cut to the present and we have Vijay Singh, who is trying to understand what the prism reveals, along with his friend Alice and her friend, Saul Goldfeld. He travels to England to find its twin in the Museum.  Together they seem to provide inscriptions to some secret about Semiramis, an Assyrian legend.
The Order is behind the secret too, as is revealed when…

24 - the movie

This is not about 24 - the TV show,  the Indian version of which stars Anil Kapoor.  This is about the Tamil movie starring Surya that I got to watch over a  weekend.

The movie starts with Sethuraman (Surya), a watch mechanic discovering (or inventing?) a device that could do time travel.  He is ecstatic and celebrates with his wife (Nithya Menen) and his new-born.  His evil brother Athreya (Surya, in another role) gets to know of this watch and wants it.  In the process, there is a fight, Sethu and his wife are killed and Athreya crippled and in coma.

The child, Mani grows up oblivious of this.  He (Surya in the third role) becomes a watch mechanic.  By providence, he chances upon this time-travelling watch.  Initially he uses it for befriending Sathya (Samantha), who is studying in the City and comes to him to repair her watch.

Athreya comes out of coma. He wants to unearth the time-travelling watch since he believes he can go back and fix his injury with that.  He advertises a r…

Clifton Chronicles Finale - This was a man

Finally, the last book of the seven book Clifton Chronicles is out.   Jeffrey Archer one of my favourite authors decided to publish both the sixth and seventh book in the same year (2016), perhaps to save users the impatience of waiting!

Cometh the Hour, the 6th book of the series, ended with Giles Barrington's wife Karin and her "father" Pengelley going to the edge of the forest and a shot being fired.  This was a Man starts from there.  Is Karin a Soviet double agent?  And does Pengelly kill her for double-crossing?

Emma decides to step down as Chairman of Barrington Shipping after having decided to sell her company off.   If she thought that that would give her time to spare, it is not to be.  Margaret Thatcher wants her to play the same role for Tories that Giles is doing for Labour. Party - help win marginalized seats in the elections.   Thus, we have siblings in opposing parties trying to get their party to power.

Harry wants to write a different book,  as his mo…

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Can't recall the last time I read a play.  No, I never read a William Shakespeare play in its original form.   I was quite curious to know what J K Rowling had taken Harry Potter beyond the seven book series.   The play is actually written by Jack Thorne and based on the original story by Thorne, J K Rowling and John Tiffany.

The play starts with Harry's child Albus Severus Potter starting his first year in Hogwarts (similar to the first book in the Harry Potter series).   His sister Lily is small.  In the Station, they meet Ron and Hermione and their daughter Lily.  Albus is tense since he is unsure which school house he is going to get into.  In the train, they meet Scorpius - son of Draco Malfoy.  Surprisingly Albus and Scorpius hit off though Lily cannot take it.   The sorting hat assigns Albus to Slytherin, much to the surprise of all.

Albus has difficulty thanks to his father's reputation preceding him.  Scorpius on the other hand has a different issue - rumours hav…

The Case of Caretaker's Cat

I grew up on the novels of James Hadley Chase and Erle Stanley Gardener before I was old enough to understand them!  So I was quite excited when I got hold of The Case of Caretaker's Cat, a Perry Mason novel by Erle Stanley Gardener.
Peter Laxter is a miser who lived with his grandchildren.  He left in his will that his caretaker Ashton be taken care of.  He also left out his grand-daughter Winifred, while dividing his property among his two grand children, Sam Laxter and Frank Oafley.  The problem?  Ashton's sole companion is Clinker - his persian cat and Sam cannot stand it.  Sam wants Ashton to get rid of it.  So Ashton seeks Perry Mason's help.

His secretary Della Street feels this is not a case worthy of Perry Mason's attention and instead he should take a cruise to Orient.  But Perry Mason is curious.  He enlists the help of Paul Drake, who runs Drake detective agency to gather details of the case.

Perry Mason sends a legal notice to the grandchildren stating …

The War on Black Money

8th November 2016 will be known not only as the Day, US elected Donald Trump as their President, but also as the day, Indian Government took a decisive step towards the fight against black money.
In retrospect, the many steps taken by Government in the last two years were clear indication of things to come.  
Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana was the ambitious scheme to get every Indian to own a Bank account.  Every Indian was allowed to have a Bank account with zero balanace and a debit card with which he could make electronic transactions. He would also have access to Internet/Mobile banking as he desired.
To further incentivise those did not open such an account, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana & Jeevn Jyoti Bima Yojana were introduced.  While the former provided a Rupee two lakh accidental insurance coverage against an annual premium of Rs.12/- per annum, the latter provided a term insurance coverage of the same amount, against a premium of Rs.330/- per annum.  In both cases, th…

Car insurance renewal woes

The calls began nearly three months back.  "Calling from so-and-so insurance company.  Sir, your car insurance is due for renewal."  Pretty much all the private insurance providers would have called me, in addition to some of the ones.  My car dealer was also one of the callers, asking me to renew my insurance through them.   I do not know how so many providers would have got hold of my cell number - is insurance renewal detail in public domain?

I waited till it was less than two weeks to the insurance expiry.  The reasons were simple -
a) what if I had to make a claim (God forbid)?
b) what is the point in paying the premium so many days upfront?

It was when I checked who my current insurance provider was, that I got a shock! I did not have the insurance papers.  I  recalled the day last year that I had picked up my vehicle from the dealer.  "Your insurance papers will be mailed to you".  All I had was the proposal form.  Lucky me, the police had not accos…

The Tale of Two Girls

It was by coincidence that I got to read the Girl on the Train and Gone Girl one after the other.  As it turned out, Gone Girl, written by Gillian Flynn was published in 2012, while the Girl on the train, written by Paula Hawkins, came out in 2015.  Both were bestsellers and while Gone Girl is also a motion picture, the Girl on the train is soon to be one.

The Girl on the Train is based in London.  There is Rachel, who takes the train every day, ostensibly to work.  The train passed by her old house, where she used to stay with her ex-husband Tom.  She also gets to see nearby houses and among them, one where a couple (Megan and Scott) stay.   One day, she finds Megan with another man from the train and is disturbed.  Soon, she reads about the disappearance of Megan.

Rachel is drawn to the crime scene thereby meeting Anna, Tom's current wife. Anna and Rachel detest each other. Rachel is alcoholic and often blacks out.

What happened to Megan?  Who was the mysterious person with who…

The Moneychangers

After the banking novels of Ravi Subramanian, I had a chance to read The Moneychangers by Arthur Hailey.  This book was written in 1975, and I was curious to see how the author depicted the world of banking in America during this period.

The book is story of First Mercantile American Bank, founded by the grandfather of the current chief, Ben Roselli.  As Ben Roselli is diagnosed with terminal illness, it is time to find a successor.  There are two candidates - Alex Vandervoort and Roscoe Hevward.  Both are senior executives of the Bank with proven track record.  While Alex favours the path of retail Banking and modernization, with corporate social responsibility, Roscoe prefers large business lending with focus on profits.

The Bank is rocked by theft of cash, as well as forged credit cards.  While Alex, with the help of Edwina D'Orsey, Branch Head and Nolan Wainright, head of Security tries to solve these, Roscoe ends up dining with G G Quartermain, head of SuNatCo, a large busin…

A Lotus for Miss Quon

After Hong Kong, in A Lotus for Miss Quon, Chase takes the reader to Vietnam, where Steve Jaffe accidentally discovers diamonds hidden in a hole in the wall of his house.  Jaffe sees his as a way to prosperity, but his house-keeper wants it to be given to Government.  Jaffe ends up silencing his house-keeper forever in the course of persuading him. 
He needs to run, before the law catches up with him for murder.  But will authorities get to know about the diamonds?  He confides in his mistress Quon (thus the title), and with her help holes up in her grandfather's place.  
The police find the broken wall and based on the previous occupant of the house (mistress of a dictator general, who had swindled the country), realize that Jaffe has diamonds.  But the police head again has no intention of giving it to the Government.  Nor does Quon's employee, who discovers this information, while trying to help Jaffe escape the country.
With multiple people, each eager to get hold of the …

A Coffin from Hong Kong

It has been ages since I had a chance to read a novel by James Hadley Chase.   I was introduced to his novels at a very early age (too young, I would think) by my older cousins.  I used to read the books, without understanding many words!  What I liked about these books were, they were not too long, had interesting plot with suspense and intrigue.

A Coffin from Hong Kong is one such book - a coffin does literally arrive by flight from Hong Kong. But the hero of the novel, Private Investigator Nelson Ryan does not know that.  He is staking out the house of John Hardwick, a client he only knows through a telephone call, but who gave him a $300 retainer.    Once he realizes that the house is empty and John Hardwick does not stay there, he comes back to his office to find a pretty but dead Chinese girl!   His own gun has been used to shoot the girl and he is thus the prime suspect.

The detective on the case,  Dan Retnick is under pressure to make arrests, but luckily for Ryan, a witness …

Banking trilogy

Having started with the latest book of Ravi Subramanian (The Bestseller She wrote), I decided to read the banking trilogy books that he is famous for.  Though I found a number of his books with "bank" contained in the title, I believe it is If God was a Banker, The Devil in Pinstripes and the Incredible Banker that makes up this trilogy.

I read them in order though it does not matter, since there is no continuity between the books.  While the first two books has New York International Bank as the Bank around which the story revolves, the last one has Greater Boston Global Bank (GB2).

If God was a Banker narrates the story of two IIM graduates who join New York International Bank on the same day.  While one of them is honest, upright and follows the straight path, the other one is aggressive, passionate and does not mind cutting corners to progress.  They start by being the best of friends, but become rivals as they compete for higher positions in the Bank.  Around the two c…

The visit to planetarium

True to their age and nature, my kid's current interest is stars, planets and moons.  He wanted to see the planetarium, not having much idea what it holds.   Over the weekend, I decided to visit Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium in Bangalore.    Would you believe if I told you, my only visit to planetarium was possibly 30 years back in Bombay and I had never been to the Bangalore one?
Thus it was that, on a Saturday afternoon we started off to our destination.  I had visited the website and gathered that there was an English show The Sun - our Star at 4.30 PM.   We had started early, so despite the Saturday afternoon traffic, we were in planetarium by 3.30 PM.  
The planetarium itself is located in an island surrounded by one way roads on all-sides, with just one entrance on one side.  It is quite tricky to locate the road which has the entrance and I almost missed it despite looking out for it.   
Once inside, you are transported to a different world though.  It is a specious complex…

Cometh the hour - The Clifton Chronicles Book 6

I could not wait to get hold of Cometh the hour, the 6th book in the (hopefully 7 book) Clifton Chronicles by one of my favourite authors, Jeffrey Archer.  Having read the previous five,  (the first four together and the fifth, when it came out), it was only fitting that I continued to read the series.

It is hard to write about the book, without spoilers especially about previous books.  So, those who plan to read the earlier books, do skip the rest of this.

Like the previous books, this one revolves around five primary characters

Harry Clifton - Harry continues to write his Detective Warwick books and they land up #1 in New York Times bestseller list.  He also completes and gets published, Uncle Joe, the book of Anatoly Babakov, the Russian writer, who has been imprisoned for writing against Stalin.   His prodigious memory helps him, not just to write the book (which was narrated to him in Russian prison by Babakov), but also to quote random pages from his during his book promotion …

A Gripping Action Thriller or avial?

In my struggle to find a book that would interest me in Kindle Unlimited after the previous experience, I came across Operation Chaos: A Gripping Action Thriller by Himanshu Rasam.  If the title itself said "a gripping action thriller", I wondered how the contents must be.  I decided to give it a shot!
I guess this is one of the many books from Kindle Direct Publishing since I could not find the book elsewhere.  I did find a couple of other mentions of Operation Chaos in wikipedia, including a sci-fi novel.
Anyway, the plot is quite interesting.   There is a bomb blast in Rashtrapathi Bhavan (yes, our own President's home), killing a few Black Cats and others.  The President is travelling and thus escapes unhurt.  There is a phone call, again made to the President's office from an unknown number warning of worse things to happen.  India's greatest missile, Brahmos is under siege and would be unleashed upon an Indian city, unless the perpetrator gets what he want…

A Day of Three Movies

It was one of those days, where I ended up watching three movies. It started with an English movie, Fantastic Four in my media player.  It was followed by the malayalam movie Vikramadityan in Mazhavil Manorama and ended with the Tamil movie 10 Endrathukulla in Star Vijay (the last two recorded, courtesy Tatasky and then played skipping ads).

Fantastic Four: I had seen the two Fantastic Four films of 2000s and for some reason thought this was the third one.  A few minutes into the movie and I realized it was a "reboot" of the franchise.  The film stars with the young  Reed experimenting in his garage, creating something which his school teacher can't understand (understanably so).   His neighbour and friend, Ben is unwittingly part of it.  They are spotted by Dr.Storm during a science exhibition.  Apparently Reed has solved a problem which they were grappling with.  On full scholarship, Reed helps develop a machine that can "teleport" objects to "Planet Ze…

Tales of two Indian authors

Courtesy Kindle Unlimited, I got around to reading the latest works of two of the popular Indian fiction authors today - Ravi Subramanian and Chetan Bhagat.
The Bestseller She Wrote was the first book of Ravi Subramanian that I was reading.  I had pretty much read all of Chetan Bhagat's previous novels - so Half Girlfriend joined that list.
First, the BestSeller She Wrote.  The book describes the travails of a popular Indian author who gets embroiled in controversy after he agrees to help a young aspiring writer to get her first book published.  His personal life and reputation comes under threat as he struggles to free himself from the quagmire that he got into.  Is the young girl just an opportunist who would do anything to succeed?  Is an affair a mistake or a conscious decision?  Can a first love be forgotten?   These are the "lofty" questions that the book aims to answer.
As for The Half Girlfriend, here is a guy from Bihar who has got into St.Stephen's College…

The Butcher of Benares

I finally succumbed to the temptation and grabbed the offer to have a Kindle Unlimited subscription for a year at Rs.1399/- (a limited-time offer that Amazon India is offering currently).   The first book that I decided to "borrow" was The Butcher of Benares by Mahendra Jakhar.

Hawa Singh is a police inspector from Delhi, who has come to Benares with his father, who wants to attain salvation by breathing his last in India's most sacred place.  Hawa has a bad past, including a bullet lodged in his brain, courtesy an encounter with a dacoit.   Benares is a place of dead, where bodies are burnt all the time.  But even there, a floating dead body of a foreigner with a cross stuck in her chest is a matter of concern.  Hawa happens to be in the vicinity of the crime scene and is called in for help since his exploits are known to the higher-ups.  

The death of the American lady also brings in an FBI agent, Ruby Malik.

Even as the investigation commences, there is another deat…

Helmet rule for pillion riders in Bangalore

Early this month, the rule to make it mandatory for pillion riders of two-wheelers to wear helmets became mandatory in Bangalore (or is it Karnataka?)  Police gave users 10 days time before they started fining violators.   As per newspaper report, over the last two days, Police have penalised about 5000 for violating.

Like many other rules, helmet for pillion riders make a lot of sense.   Most of the deaths in accidents involving two-wheelers could have been prevented if the riders were wearing helmets.  In fact, even if there were no rules, one would think that riders would think of protecting themselves when travelling on the road.

One could argue that with the traffic in today's roads, chances of accidents due to speeding vehicles are rare.  But then accidents can come in many forms.  In Bangalore (as in many other places), popular accident causes are potholes and road bumps.   Reversing vehicles banging into you is common as well.  Just because your two-wheeler does not spee…

The Rogue Lawyer - John Grisham

Grisham is a popular American writer, known for his legal thrillers.  I had read many of his earlier books, but felt it had become repetitive.  I decided to read his latest one, The Rogue Lawyer, featured in New York Times Best Sellers's list.  
Sebastian Rudd is the rogue lawyer, one who takes up cases of those whom no one wants to defend. He knows the system well and uses it to his advantage where suitable.  He defends an alleged killer of two young girls, whom a prejudiced jury is very likely to find guilty.   In the course of doing that, he exposes the eagerness of prosecution to convict the accused overlooking clues that lead elsewhere. 
Rudd also has other interests, including promoting up-and-coming cage fighters, one of whom ends up behind bars for killing the referee.  He is also harassed by a convict, who staged an escapade moments before he was due to be hanged. 
Rudd also ends up being forced to be the lawyer to a person accused of being responsible for the missing of…

New Year reading - The Troubled Man

I stumbled upon the hard copy of The Troubled Man, the English title of the novel translated from Swedish a few days back.  The original novel, as I learnt subsequently was by popular Swedish crime writer, Henning Mankell, who passed away in Oct 2015.

The novel features police inspector Kurt Wallander.  Menkell has written a series of books based on Wallander - this one incidently was the last Wallander novel.

A retired naval officer, von Enke disappears during a morning walk.  A few days later, von Enke's wife disappears as well.   von Enke is soon going to be the father-in-law of Wallander's daughter Linda.  This gives cause for Wallander to investigate the disappearance.

As Wallander interviews the near and dear of von Enke, various incidents involving Swedish navy, NATO and Russia during von Enke's career comes to light.   Could there have been a spy and could some of the politicians during that period made mistakes?

Wallander has also grown old and realises that he h…