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Book Nook - 11-12-2017

Monday, December 11, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

The Writer Investigates
A woman goes to an undertaker’s office to make arrangements for her own funeral. A few hours later she is found murdered in her home.

From this intriguing beginning, Anthony Horowitz constructs a gripping novlel--The Word Is Murder-- in which he plays a starring part. Horowitz is a bestselling author, who has written a Bond thriller,Trigger Mortis, a Sherlock Holmes mystery, The House Of Silk, his own very popular Alex Rider series for young adults among other novels, TV series and films. But, as his previous novel The Magpie Murders proved, he is adept at spinning complex suspense yarns with devilishly clever twists, and a tough-to-guess killer, even when he is staring the reader right in the face.

Disgraced police detective Daniel Hawthorne, who has been consultant on a TV series written by Horowitz, now works as a consultant with the Metropolitan police. He is assigned the job of investigating the murder of Diana Cowper, the woman who planned her own funeral, down to the casket and music. Hawthorne is strapped for cash and approaches Horowitz to write a book about him working on the Cowper murder. He cheekily suggests a 50/50 split, which, of course, does not extend to his splitting bills for travel and meals.

The first problem for Horowitz is that Hawthorne is not in the least likeable, the second is that the book will work only if Hawthorne manages to solve the case. So, over the next few days, the writer follows the cop around like a sidekick and finds his life completely taken over. Hawthorne even disrupts—in a hilarious scene-- a crucial work meeting Horowitz is having with Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.

The dead woman’s son Damien, a successful star working in Hollywood, arrives with girlfriend and daughter in tow. He is, from all accounts, as ruthlessly ambitious as he is handsome. His mother may have had some enemies, like a theatre producer who conned her, the parents of a boy who was killed in an accident by Diana Cowper, and his twin brother severely maimed.

Hawthorne is annoyingly rude, bigoted and invasive, but also a brilliant investigator; Horowitz who is proud of his own analytical skills is often left gobsmacked by the cop’s sharp mind.

The book is not just suspenseful but also witty, and gives a lot of insights into the world of creative people—success, failure, struggle, ambition, envy, despair. Who the killer turns out to be is not surprising, it’s the why and how that is truly enthralling.

The Word Is Murder
By Anthony Horowitz
Publisher: Cornerstone
Pages: 400


 

Excerpt of The Word Is Murder
Just after eleven o’clock on a bright spring morning, the sort of day when the sunshine is almost white and promises a warmth that it doesn’t quite deliver, Diana Cowper crossed the Fulham Road and went into a funeral parlour.

She was a short, very businesslike woman: there was a sense of determination in her eyes, her sharply cut hair, the very way she walked. If you saw her coming, your first instinct would be to step aside and let her pass. And yet there was nothing unkind about her. She was in her sixties with a pleasant, round face. She was expensively dressed with a pale raincoat which hung open to reveal a pink jersey and grey skirt. She wore a heavy bead and stone necklace, which might or might not have been expensive, and a number of diamond rings that most certainly were. There were plenty of women like her in the streets of Fulham and South Kensington. She might have been on her way to lunch or to an art gallery.

The funeral parlour was called Cornwallis and Sons. It stood at the end of a terrace, with the name painted in a classical font both on the front and down the side, punctuated by a Victorian clock which was mounted above the front door. Beneath the name, again printed twice, was the legend: Independent Funeral Parlour since 1820. There were three windows looking out onto the street, two of them curtained, the third empty but for an open book made out of marble, engraved with a quotation: When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions. All the wood – the window frames, the frontage, the main door – was painted a dark blue, nudging black.

As Mrs Cowper opened the door, a bell on an old-fashioned spring mechanism sounded loudly, once. She found herself in a small reception area with two sofas, a low table and a few shelves with books that had that peculiar sense of sadness that comes with being unread. A staircase led up to the other floors. A narrow corridor stretched ahead.

Almost at once, a woman appeared, dressed in a suit and spectacles, coming down the stairs. She was smiling pleasantly, politely. The smile acknowledged that this was a delicate, painful business but that it would be expedited with calm and efficiency. Her name was Irene Laws. She was the personal assistant to Robert Cornwallis, the funeral director, and also acted as his receptionist.

‘Good morning. Can I help you?’ she asked.

‘Yes. I would like to arrange a funeral.’

‘Are you here on behalf of someone who has died recently?’ Again, the word ‘died’ was instructive. Euphemisms, she seemed to imply, would not do anyone any good.

‘No,’ Mrs Cowper replied. ‘It’s for myself.’

‘I see.’ Irene Laws didn’t blink – and why should she? It was not at all uncommon for people to arrange their own funerals. ‘Do you have an appointment?’ she asked.

‘No. I didn’t know I’d need one.’

‘I’ll see if Mr Cornwallis is free. Please take a seat. Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?’

‘No, thank you.’

Diana Cowper sat down. Irene Laws disappeared down the corridor, reappearing a few minutes later behind a man who so exactly fitted the image of the funeral director that he could have been playing the part. There was, of course, the obligatory dark suit and sombre tie. But the very way he stood seemed to suggest that he was apologising for having to be there. His hands were clasped together in a gesture of endless regret. His face was crumpled, mournful, not helped by hair that had thinned to the edge of baldness and a straggly beard. He was about forty years old. He too was smiling.

'Good morning,’ he said. ‘My name is Robert Cornwallis. I understand you wish to discuss a funeral plan with us.’

 

ALSO RECEIVED
The cover of Betrayed: Tale Of A Rogue Surgeon, about medical malpractice, is rather vivid—a stethoscope turning into a snake. Says the synopsis of Satbir Chada’s book, “A young widow, Mohini, from the Punjab of undivided India, in a bid to escape sexual molestation by her own brothers-in-law, flees barefoot on a journey that delivers her into the hands of her childhood friend, Anjana, in faraway Abbottabad. Under the kind and loving care of Anjana and her husband, Kartar, she goes on to become a doctor and eventually a powerful IAS officer. Running parallel is the story of the young couple, Dr Amit Biswas and his wife Anita. Amit’s ambition to be a great healer for the poor is gradually derailed by his greed, spurred by the rich and successful in his fraternity.

“This book shocks you with details of numerous medical malpractices perpetrated by the same noble people we turn to when in illness, even before we turn to God. From innocent small kickbacks to clandestine drug trials, from small and big surgeries to highly specialized procedures, medicines to implants, ethics are thrown to the winds at the altar of Lucre. The book ends with a chilling and totally unpredictable climax.”

Betrayed: Tale Of A Rogue Surgeon
By Satbir Chadha;
Publisher: Vitasta
Pages: 200



The summary of Deep Trivedi’s satire reads, “The book Don’t Teach Me Tolerance – India, written in the first person, explains in detail the genesis of the universe and how the natural elements and life forms came into being, and the exemplary tolerance of every particle in this creation. The book defines what true tolerance means, and on the basis of this definition relooks at India, and existent religions and political parties in India, with respect to their tolerance. It examines the tolerance shown by some past Prime Ministers of India towards their posts, right up to the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on whom a complete psychoanalysis has been presented, with regard to what and how he thinks and what is actually in his mind; what he has done, and left undone; what more he needs to do, and what he shouldn’t. Tolerance is a comprehensive word, impacting the happiness and prosperity of an individual or a nation. The book provides reasons for India’s long period of enslavement and cautions against future pitfalls. The book maintains that it is only by showing the youth of India the right path, and them learning to become tolerant, as it is a law, that the more tolerant one is, the greater will be his progress.”

Don’t Teach Me Tolerance – India
By Deep Trivedi; 
Publisher: Aatman
Pages: 244



Sonya Lalli’s The Arrangement is a modern day romcom about the search for the perfect match. According to the synopsis,”You can't choose who you fall for...but it helps if there's a list. When you're approaching thirty it's normal (if not incredibly annoying) for your family to ask when you'll tie the knot and settle down. But for Raina there's a whole community waiting for someone to make her a wife - and a loving grandmother, Nani, ready to play matchmaker with a comprehensive list of potential husbands.
“Eager not to disappoint her family, Raina goes along with the plan but when the love of her life returns - ex-boyfriend Dev - she's forced to confront her true feelings. Now her 'clock is ticking', it's time for Raina to decide what she actually wants. Will Raina let her family decide her future, or can she forge her own path?”

The Arrangement
By: Sonia Lalli;
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 344

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