Author Archive > Anjana Basu

The House of Dolls

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 The House of Dolls, David Hewson, book reviewPieter Vos is a top cop felled by dope and the disappearance of his daughter Anneliese three years ago, a disappearance that all his sleuthing skills was unable to crack. As a result he lost his partner to the politician Wim Prins and all interest in life. However, Vos is recalled to life and Marnixstraat police bureau Amsterdam by the eerily similar disappearance of Prins’ daughter Katja – even though Prins refuses to believe that she has been kidnapped because the girl is a drug addict.

Vos is dragged into police work again by the klutzy Bakker, a country bumpkin with red hair known as ‘the aspirant’ and made fun of by the big city cops.


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No Country

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No Country, Kalyan Ray, book reviewThis ambitious novel takes its title from Yeats and continues in an Irish vein bringing in everything that Bengali literature lovers know about Ireland, like the shadow of Ben Bulben, the oppressive landlords, beautiful Irish women with red hair and the Potato Famine, all of it written in the rhythms of Irish speech. No Country starts with a murder in modern America, with a cop from Hungary present, and then begins to move back in time. Kalyan Ray maps a violent past and present on a canvas in which identities are lost along with countries and lovers fall away.


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A Bad Character

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A  Bad Character, Deepti Kapoor, book reviewFor a long time the bad character in Deepti Kapoor’s debut novel seems to be Delhi which, with its coffee shops, its sleaze and its Sufi gathering dominates the book in poetic prose quickly delivered and very easy on the eye. The mysterious ‘he’ with his bulging eyes, dark skin and mouthful of teeth could quite easily be a metaphor for the city where a girl ripe for marriage and hemmed in by her Aunty looks for a chance of excitement and escape. Rana Dasgupta says as much in his blurb, this is 21st century Delhi shown up warts and all. Kapoor’s is a story of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, a search for self and a wish to damage on the heels of lost love.


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Private India

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 Private India, James Patterson, Ashwin Sanghi, book reviewThis is a continuation of the Private series, one of James Patterson’s most popular worldwide which is based around the exclusive detective agency, Private, headed by Jack Morgan with offices across the globe. In India, the setting is Mumbai, the centre of Bollywood glamour, glitz and finance which results in a collaboration between Ashwin Sanghi and the world’s No 1 thriller writer.

Ashwin Sanghi has been making headlines with books like Chanakya’s Chant and The Krishna Key. Given the fact that the thriller focuses on whisky swilling Santosh Wagh who is the Indian head of Private India, it is obvious that Sanghi’s contribution is vital to pad out the Mumbai crime details and to provide information that Patterson would not have had access to without in depth research. And one is tempted to give Sanghi credit for the Durga connection in the novel, which is probably not too presumptuous an assumption.

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In the Light of What We Know

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In the Light of What We Know  Zia Haider Rahman, book reviewA mysterious Bangladeshi friend thought long lost materialises at the door fresh returned from Afghanistan and a myriad wanderings. The friend is Pakistani and as pedigreed and privileged as the Bangladeshi Zafar is not. However rumours are rife about Zafar, ‘that that he had been spotted in Damascus, Tunis, or Islamabad, and that he had killed a man, fathered a child, and, absurdly it seemed, spied for British intelligence’. The list, tantalising as it may sound, is totally misleading. The conversations between the two friends consist of references to higher mathematics like Gödel’s incompleteness theorem which talks about claims that are true but cannot be proven. And in between the chapters are trending topics like the Wall Street crash, geopolitics, terrorism, the Bangladesh war.


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Journey to the River Sea

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Journey to the River Sea Eva Ibbotson, book reviewThis book by the Austrian born British author was published in 2001 and was since reissued with a foreword by Michael Mopurgo. ‘River Sea’ is the name the Indians who live in Brazil give to the broad Amazon and the book tells the story of the orphan Maia who sets out with her governess to find shelter with relatives who live in Brazil. Maia is very hopeful that they will be nice but, like many of Ibbotson’s adopted families, they turn out to be sadistic and in it only for the money. They also hate the rain forest and stay indoors with a tin of Flit, swatting any kind of insect life that comes their way.


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Frog Music

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Frog Music by Emma Donoghue, book reviewSan Francisco at the height of a heat wave with small pox raging. In the middle of that two women caught in a crossfire that leads to murder, Blanche and Jenny. Both are French, though Blanche doesn’t know it and Jenny is a transgendered kind of figure on a bicycle encountered in a crash. Blanche earns her living from dancing in a musical hall cum brothel and her fancy man Arthur and his friend Earnest earn their livings off her. Blanche also has a baby that she rescues from a Dickensian London circumstances in a storm of indignation.

The book actually begins with violent death the way most murder mysteries do. Jenny is shot full of buckshot through a window at night and the pellets skim Blanche’s cheek because she happens to bend over.


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Junglezen Sheru

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Junglezen Sheru, Samarpan, book reviewFables are few and far between these days unless you count Paolo Coelho and his are tales of mystical human experiences. After Aesop and the Panchatantra, George Orwell’s was the most definite and that was more in cautionery satire territory.

Samarpan’s third book after Tiya and Param, Junglezen Sheru is a story that sets out sounding like The Lion King and then takes quite a different turn, in total contradiction to the Panchatantra tradition which was created to teach princes the principles of kingship through fables featuring animals.


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Mirror City

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Mirror City Chitrita Banerji, book reviewThis is the story of an uneasy marriage between a girl from this side of the river and a boy from that side; the this and that depending on which side of the river you are on. Uma is a Bengali Hindu and her husband Iqbal is a Bangladeshi Muslim. They met in the neutral terrain of America, fell in love and married. As a result of that marriage, Uma has been disowned by her family in Calcutta. Iqbal however has brought his wife back to post 1971 Dhaka where he takes up a university posting and for some inexplicable reason, the marriage gradually begins to fall apart.

The story is told through Uma’s eyes, the growing discomfort of a woman who begins to realise that in Calcutta’s ‘mirror city’ of Dhaka, situations can be quite easily reversed.


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The Treasure of Kafur

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The Treasure of Kafur,  Aroon Raman, book reviewGoing through the first few chapters I was tempted to ask whether Aroon Raman’s latest was fantasy or adventure because the hero is just 19 and accompanied by a troop of animal friends, a cow, a tortoise and a pair of ravens with whom he seems to be able to converse quite easily. It took a little time adjusting to that, but not too much since the animals are not too busy being twee and, in fact, so little time is given to their animalism that they could just as well be human.

It is 1580 and the ruler of Khandesh, the despotic Asaf Baig is gathering forces together to rise up against the Emperor Akbar who in twenty years of rule has made many enemies.


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The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey

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The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey, Hansda Sowvendra Sekhar, book reviewThe Santhal villages of Bengal and Jharkhand remain much of a mystery for most readers. Visitors to Shantiniketan admire their art and silver work or glimpse them in Satyajit Ray’s Aranyer Din Ratri. What is known is that the women are liberated, beautiful and drink haandi and that the Santhals are a very private, fiercely independent people. Hansda Sowvendra Sekhar’s debut novel takes us into the heart of the villages and into the stories behind their lives. Witchcraft or dahni-bidya is rife and women are rumoured to feast on human livers. In the middle of this comes the story of Rupi Baskey who delivers a child in the paddy field – an opening that reminds me of another novel, possibly Sarita Mandanna’s Tiger Hills, but one which seems to work here, though the story of Rupi gets diverted to the back story of her family, her step mother and her mother in law Purki.


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Q&A with Omar Shahid Hamid

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Omar Shahid HamidFrom the former head of Karachi’s CID comes a bone chilling debut crime fiction about Karachi’s criminal underground, The Prisoner. This interview was conducted by email specially for Curious Book Fans.

CBF: What made you decide to write this novel?

Omar Shahid Hamid: My wife. Some years ago, I was reading a book and complaining about the way it was written, and my wife, tired by my ranting, said, “if you think you have more interesting stories to tell, why don’t you get off your ass and write a book?” and so I ended up doing so. I always thought the police department had amazing stories, that were buried beneath the surface, but no one from within the police was ever likely to tell those stories and no outsider would ever be privy into that world.

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