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The Mysteries of Last Week…

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that the week after vacation will be stressful! The events at work once again proved the very obvious theory accurate and to say I was glad that the week passed is an understatement. After 16 hrs day at work, I could not summon the courage to read Daniel Deronda or The March of Folly; great books but hardly something to lessen the exhaustion! Casting around for something easy to read, which gave a break from work reality, I found GoodReads hosting The Thriller & Mysteries week and among the various activities, they had planned, they also had listed the most popular Mysteries/Thrillers per Reader ratings! Reading through I found, Book#3 was apparently sitting in my many unread collection and this seemed a good time to get started. I finished that and wanted something more and found Book # 28 which I recollect my father had really liked and was part of his collection, so naturally, my selection for the second read became Book#28!  Now at the beginning of the brand new week, I present two mini reviews of my reads of Book#2 and Book#28!

Book#3 was A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George, published in 1988 and winner of Anthony Award. The book is the first in series of now famous Inspector Lynley series and the reader is introduced to Inspector Thomas Lynley, Eton/Ozford educted Peer of the Relm, who is also one the best inspector of CID. He is drawn from the wedding of his best friend, by Sargent Barbara Havers, the infant terrible of the police department, who has finally been paired with Lanley in the last hope of having her investigative mind brought to the fore, instead of her aggressive, belligerent attitude, which got her suspended from CID and back in uniform 8 months back! Lanley and Havers make their way to Keladale, in North Yorkshire, where the body of William Teys, honorable member of the Church, devoted father and successful farmer is found, decapitated, with his daughter, the 19 year old Roberta Teys, sitting on an upturned bucket, with an aze on her lap and with the only words spoken “I did it, I am not sorry!”. It seems like an open and shut case, ezcept there are parts to tale which does not fit in, including a cousin who gets the farm on the event of William Tey’s death, a finance, a artist and the daughter of William Teys who ran away, years ago! As Lanley and Havers dig for the truth, they discover all kinds of unholy secrets, that the quiet village of Keladale holds, which not only challenges them professionally, but also confront their personal demons, to find the killer!

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Book# 28 was Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith, published in 1981. This book like the previous one is the first in the series of Arkady Renko, the Chief Investigator of Moscow’s homicide squad. The novel introduces us to Arkady Renko, one of the finest and most honest investigator’s in Moscow’s Prosecutor’s office. He is the son, of a decorated War General and grew up in the privileged circles of Moscow, attending the best schools, University and Law School. The novel opens on a cold day in April in Soviet Russia, in the northern end of Gork Park, the amusement Park of Moscovites, where the militiamen, have discovered three dead bodies, now that the snow is thawing, and Arkady has been called into investigate the corpses. Two men and one woman lay dead and  their faces have been mutilated and ends of the thumbs chopped off to ensure, there is no identification whatsoever! Arkady Renko  sets off on a trail to find the identity of his victims as well as their killers and as he slowly unravels the mysteries, he confronts, the KGB, an American Business man, a New York City Cop and happenings much closer to home, and the chase for the killer will take him to the exiled land of Shatura and then America until he finds the very truth, that lay hidden among the obvious!

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Some 100 pages into The Great Deliverance, I realized that at some point, I had read this novel and I began to vaguely recollect the end, though I hung on because of the hows and simply because it was written very well. The taut plot of the novel, is the strength of The Great Deliverance. I did not much care for the main characters – the absolutely perfect Lanley and the constantly snotty Havers (I wanted to throw a book at her), but the ensemble cast made up for the insipidity of the protagonists, who were much more life like, confronting confusion, trauma and much more, and still chalking out better lives for themselves! The ending was kind of cliched but my guess is in 1988, when such things were still not so much in the open, it must have created quite a stir and again based on the fast paced and through narration, the book must have been one  thrilling read!

Gorky Park was much more to my taste! Firstly, it is set in Russia, which predisposes me to like it. The plot, unlike The Great Deliverance was not of sensationalist nature, but ran with with an equally tight narrative, which made the reading, as interesting and kept one hooked on. In Arkady Renko, the author had created a wonderful hero, who with all his flaws, comes through as someone, you would want as a hero of a novel. Wikipedia states that Renko has been called a Bryonic Hero and he may be, but I really liked the character that was capable of great intuitive thinking but at the same time having blind spots that enables them to fall and then rise again! The book was banned in Soviet Union after its initial release and I can quite understand why; the author captures the tense, suspicious atmosphere of the last years of Socialisim beautifully. Despite the change of regime and new laws, to guarantee freedom of rights and liberty, the citizens till live in the fear of losing jobs, of suddenly being denounced as dissidents and landing up in Siberia or worse dead, for as simple case of being religious. Even if you do your job and keep your head down, you may still fall under the scanner and your promotions thwarted because, you are not an “active” party member. The dull, grey lives of the Soviet citizens is wonderfully captured which brings out the psychological as well as economic deprivation succinctly!  What really set this novel apart, from other books set in similar settings is lack of the chest thumping glory of Capitalism; Soviet Russia is bad, but the glorious land of free is no better. So called Radicals are put under surveillance, racism exists and there equal amount of incompetence in the institutions! Well crafted, with meticulous attention to detail and a believable cast ensemble, this book was a great read, through and through! I am so impressed that I went and bought Book#2 of the series, Polar Star!

To end, let just say, the both the book, not so good and very good, helped me make it to a stressful week and to that end, they fulfilled their aim of taking me away from reality!

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. mudpuddle #

    we’re on the same page, here… early on i read one of EG’s books, i forget which one, and was hohum about it. then tried another and was completely put off by the gore; plus the characters were a long way from capturing my interest. Cruz Smith, on the other hand, has a much better understanding of what people are actually like, regardless of nationality… and his plots are mesmerizing, imo… i’ve read all of Renko’s adventures and i can’t say i’ve ever read a bad one… some are darker than others, but they’re all good…
    working 16 hours a day is awful; i had to work like that sometimes before i retired, but not every day-every day… it’s amazing you get time to read anything! great post, by the way, accurate and effective…

    April 10, 2018
    • M…thank you so much for your kind words!! They make the day/week so much better! I am on Polar Star now and I really am more than ever convinced that Cruz Smith wrote better stuff than Elizabeth George. 16 Hrs a day happens, more often than not and honestly, my company is great…it’s just that my current projects are kind of all subsuming! I really really look for forward to retirement, and one the reasons why I am working so hard is to buy myself an early retirement – house in himalayas, 3 dogs and books! Heaven!

      April 11, 2018
  2. I’m working 16 hour days too, but I’m really enjoying myself so that’s a bonus. I never thought I’d ever be working in construction, learning so much and be so happy at my tasks. I love learning new things, so that’s the key. However there is no time for reading which makes me cry. It was so nice to read your excellent reviews! I bought a few EG and she slowly faded away but I’ve always longed to read Gorky Park. I must pick it up at some point. And i will come and visit you at your house in the Himalayas!

    April 11, 2018
    • You know, most of the time because we love our work, the 16 hrs seem doable. Imagine having to work for 16 hrs and hating the job??! Shudder! Shudder! I am glad you are learning new things and I hope you will do a blog post on the “character building” of construction work! I would reccomend NOT reading EG and Reading Gorky Park if you are in a mood for light but a substantial read! Yes, come to my Himalayan Home but first come visit me in the plains first! 😉

      April 11, 2018
  3. Good for you for participating in Goodreads’ mystery/thriller week! I always glance at their blog posts and then forget about them, so I’m really impressed (and a bit inspired) but how you’re taking their ideas and transforming them into your own blog posts! Thanks for the mini-reviews and the idea:)

    April 13, 2018
    • Thanks Anna!! Though I cannot claim too much credit! This just happened at the right time more than anything else. Otherwise, I too forget! And the genre is definitely something that always interests me….I mean whats not to like in a good yarn! Hope you find some good books among GoodReads! Thank you so much for the kind words!

      April 13, 2018

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