Private India

 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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A Cut Like Wound

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 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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Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard, book reviewThe Illyri had been waiting and watching for many years – using the very technology that Earth had created – before they came. They arrived through wormholes that allowed them to travel across vast reaches of space in the blink of an eye, invading and conquering Earth in a matter of mere days. Some of the advanced technology that they brought was to the benefit of humanity, bringing with it more reliable food and energy sources. But they also set themselves up in governance of the planet, taking resources and harvesting young people to fight the Illyri’s wars on other planets they had conquered. Seventeen years after their conquest and humanity is still fighting back against their new rulers, with resistance movements springing up in almost every country across the globe. Some parts of the world prove too hostile for even the Illyri to effectively govern, though: Afghanistan and the Scottish highlands being notable amongst them.


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How To Eat Out

How to Eat Out, Giles Coren, book reviewWhy would anyone read a book entitled How To Eat Out? I know how to eat out. You pick somewhere and book a table. You turn up at the agreed time and sit at the aforementioned table, pick what you want off the menu, then eat it and go home having spent quite a bit of money and often feeling a bit disappointed/anticlimactic/heartburny, wondering why on earth you bothered leaving the comforts of your own home in the first place. Oh yes, you fancied not having to wash up that evening. Well, that was worth the difficulty parking, the taut discussion on whose turn it was to be the designated driver, and the soggy-bottomed starter that will be reappearing sooner than you would have liked. My book on How To Eat Out would probably run to two words – don’t bother. But this is not my book, this is a book by The Times’ restaurant critic and sometime TV presenter, Giles Coren.

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In the Light of What We Know

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

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 Book of Life

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness , book review“It began with absence and desire. It began with blood and fear. It began with a discovery of witches.”

Quite literally, actually. Deborah Harkness’ bestselling All Souls Trilogy started with A Discovery of Witches in 2011, before moving onto Shadow of Night the year after and finally coming to a satisfying conclusion with The Book of Life, finally released this month to an impatient readership. I was fortunate enough to be part of the London pre-launch event for the book, which served as a very timely reminder as to why I had enjoyed the first two books in this series so much and why I was so lucky to get an advance review copy (signed by Deborah to boot). For those of you new to this superior supernatural fantasy, let me bring you up to speed.

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

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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The Vanishing Witch

The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland, book reviewSeptember 1380, Lincoln.

Set in a once prosperous city now in decline, with work becoming scarce and taxes rising to fund wars abroad, Karen Maitland’s novel The Vanishing Witch could be seen as something of a metaphor for our own times. Lincoln was once a mighty centre for the mightier English wool trade, but with the industry moving elsewhere, only a few merchants remain and numerous rivermen try to eke out a living transporting what shipments remain around the local waterways. England is in turmoil from the King’s ceaseless wars in France and Scotland, and he wants ever more from his subjects to pay for his armies and campaigns. As 1380 moves into 1381, tensions increase, tempers fray and the prospect of a long, hot summer brings about turmoil and the breakdown of social order.

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

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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Journey to the River Sea

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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