Author Archive > koshkha

A Cut Like Wound

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Cut Like Wound, Anita Nair, book reviewA Cut Like Wound is the latest book by one of my favourite Indian writers, Anita Nair, and it’s a very new direction for her to take.She normally writes about the rotten lot of Indian women or complicated emotionally-charged romances between unlikely people. I certainly wasn’t expecting her to suddenly come out with a crime novel, apparently the first in a yet-to-be written series if the cover blurb of ‘Introducing Inspector Gowda’ is to be believed. I didn’t expect Nair to pack in all her literary fiction and go down the crime route – but of course I knew she’d do it well.

In a dark alley in Bangalore, the charred body of a young male prostitute is found one night by a passing photographer. Whilst initial suspicions are that the man has ‘just’ been set alight, an autopsy shows he shares the same marks around his neck as another man, found elsewhere and killed the same night.


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Adultery

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Adultery by Paulo Coelho, book reviewAdultery by Paulo Coelho is a beautifully written tale of unpleasant people doing unpleasant things to each other in the name of love, lust, boredom or depression. It’s a story where you’ll have to look quite hard to find anybody to like in amongst its cast of spoiled and over-privileged characters.

Linda is Swiss. She’s successful in her journalism career, she has a fabulous marriage to a man with lots of inherited wealth and whom she loves. Her husband who’d happily give her anything she wanted, and they have two beautiful problem-free children.


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Broken Glass, Broken Lives: A Jewish Girls’ Survival Story in Berlin

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Broken Glass, Broken Lives: A Jewish Girls’ Survival Story in Berlin, 1933 - 1945  Rita KluhnBroken Glass Broken Lives is Rita Kuhn’s first hand account of growing up in Berlin in the 1930s and 40s during Hitler’s Nazi regime. Rita is Jewish, brought up as a practicing Jew, going to a Jewish school, wearing her yellow star along with all the others marked out for attention by the regime. The difference was that in the eyes of that same regime, Rita was somehow not quite Jewish enough.

In Rita’s case, her mother was a Jewish convert who gave up the religion she’d been born with in order to marry Rita’s father. As such, Rita’s mother was exempt from much of the abuse that was perpetrated on ‘born and bred’ Jews and Rita and her brother were classified as a Geltungsjuedin – or ‘Jews by law’.


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The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe

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Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe By  ROMAIN PUERTOLAS, book reviewThe Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir who got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas is one of those books whose title makes it a little hard to ignore. It’s an interesting technique to intrigue the potential reader with a title that seems to almost tell the story itself and I’m reminded by such classics as Salmon Fishing in the Yemen or ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’.

Romain Puertolas is a French writer and this book has already been a hit in his home country. His translator – Sam Taylor – has done an amazing job to take such a bizarre book with its many complex puns and jokes, and translate it into something digestible by an English speaking readership. Knowing a little about the reliance of French humourists on bad puns and word play, I’m impressed that Taylor has captured the spirit of that humour without forcing it on us too much.


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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum,  Katherine Boo, book reviewBehind the Beautiful Forevers: LIfe, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum by American writer Katherine Boo is a remarkable book that reads like the best of fiction despite being founded in fact. I read it the whole way through without realising that it wasn’t fiction which is probably testimony to the page-turning quality of her writing. I’ve not seen a non-fiction book about India quite so astonishing, amazing and insightful since Dominique Lapierre and Javier Moro’s ‘Five Past Midnight in Bhopal’. Bearing in mind that the latter is one of the best books I’ve ever read, then you can take it that I’m seriously impressed by Behind the Beautiful Forevers.

We start with a death. It’s July 17th, 2008, and in a small hut in Annawadi slum on the periphery of Mumbai’s International Airport, a spiteful woman’s plan to upset her neighbours goes badly wrong.


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Ragtime in Simla

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Ragtime in Simla Barbara Cleverly, book reviewRagtime in Simla by Barbara Cleverly is the second of her four novels featuring Comander Joe Sandilands of the Metropolitan Police on secondment to India in the 1920s. It’s the third I’ve read and fits neatly between The Last Kashmiri Rose and The Damascened Blade. Of the three it’s the one I enjoyed the most.

The book doesn’t start in India; instead we kick off with a train accident in France several years earlier in 1919. The train is travelling to the French south coast where Englishwoman Alice Conyers plans to catch a boat to India.


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The Damascened Blade

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The Damascened Blade by Barbara Cleverly, book reviewThe time is 1910, the place is India’s North Western Frontier – although strictly speaking under 21st century geography, we’d now call that the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. It’s a wild and isolated place peopled by dangerous tribesmen who have traditions of honour that are alien to western minds. When a small group of military men from the Highlanders are attacked by Pathan tribesmen, the order is given to pull out; to leave the dead and bring out the wounded. And if the wounded can’t be rescued, then don’t leave them to the assault of their merciless attackers. One man falls into a ravine and is left behind. A young soldier disobeys the order to retreat, and heads back to help his comrade who is being tortured. He kills the man’s torturers and then does what he knows he must. He puts the man out of his agony with a bullet to the head. And then……..well then you can sit back for another 280 pages of Barbara Cleverly’s book The Damascened Blade before you’ll finally understand what that was all about and how it’s connected to the plot that follows.


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The Last Kashmiri Rose

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The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly, book reviewThe time is 1922, the place is Calcutta and Commander Joe Sandilands of the Metropolitan Police is packed and ready to head back to England after a six month secondment to the Bengal Police. He can’t wait to get out of the heat and intensity of the city, but his plans to head home are thwarted by a phone call from Sir George Jardine, Active Governor of Bengal asking him to help out with an investigation. The wife of an army officer has been killed in Panikhat about fifty miles out of the city and Sir George’s niece Nancy is married to the local Collector and suspects foul play. Could Sandilands hang on a bit longer and help out? It’s not the sort of offer a police office can really turn down. It might be a chance to see a bit more of the country and there are the undoubted charms of Nancy to attract him to the case. With considerable reluctance and a regret that he’s not on the boat to Blighty, Joe agrees to stay and we get to read his story in Barbara Cleverly’s first Joe Sandilands mystery The Last Kashmiri Rose.


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One Night in Winter

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One Night in Winter, Simon Sebag Montefiore, book reviewOne Night in Winter……a group of teenagers who love poetry – and adore the dead writer Pushkin – dress up in costumes and go out in the streets to play ‘The Game’. Shortly after two of them lie dead in the street. They are in Moscow, it’s June 1945, and the city – indeed the whole of Russia – is celebrating Stalin’s victory over the Nazis. Nobody in Russia is a stranger to death after the war years, but the deaths of these two are something different.

The young people – dead and living – are not just ordinary teenagers. The all attend School 801 – the best school in Moscow, the place where the offspring of the great and the powerful are educated at great expense.


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The Sea of Innocence

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The Sea of Innocence, Kishwar Desai, book reviewWhen Simran Singh and her adopted daughter, Durga, go for a holiday in Goa, they’re not looking for any excitement. They just want to take things easy, soak up the sun, hang out on the beach and relax. But when Simran is sent a video of a young blonde girl dancing with some local men, followed by footage of the girl lying on a bed with the men, she’s instantly concerned about what might have happened to the girl. The clips have been sent to her by Amarjit, the policeman who’s her old ‘friend’ and occasional lover and he wants Simran’s help. Simran’s resistant – she’s on holiday, she wants to spend time with Durga, she’s not looking for a ‘case’ to investigate but Amarjit’s newly single, getting a divorce and might it be worth her while to help him out? Wouldn’t her mother be thrilled if Simran could get herself a man as well as a tan?

This is Kishwar Desai’s third Simran Singh novel – The Sea of Innocence.


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A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine

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A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine,  Tony Benn, book reviewWhen the opportunity arose to get a pre-publication copy of Tony Benn’s final diaries, A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine my hand shot up quicker than my brain could actually process what I’d just done. I’ve long been an admirer of this controversial political giant, egged on no doubt by my grandfather who considered him some kind of living god, but was I really in the market for a politician’s diary? What if it turned out to be drier than dust and deadly dull? Didn’t I already have Alan Clarke’s diaries on my shelf, still unopened many years after his death? How on earth would I find something to write about in a review if all he did was bang on about politics? Silly me. Tony Benn couldn’t be boring if he tried to and his latest book – likely to be his last set of diaries – is witty, entertaining and always deeply human.


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Takedown Twenty

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Takedown Twenty, Janet Evanovich, book reviewWhen the chance to read Janet Evanovich’s latest Stephanie Plum novel, Takedown Twenty, arose I was first in line shouting “Me, me, me” in an entirely undignified way because Stephanie is an old friend of mine. It couldn’t be any other way after I’ve read 18 books about her and her hapless attempts to bring in the bad guys as a bail bond enforcer for her cousin Vinnie in the New Jersey town of Trenton. I’ve been with her since the very beginning back in 1994 – I have a signed copy of ‘One for the Money’ – and up to now, have missed only one, and that’s purely because I’ve not got round to tracking down a copy. As someone who spends most of her time on non-fiction or rather more ‘literary’ fiction, I love to step off my high-brow high-ground and have some fun with my favourite law and order girl.


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