Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A Mind to Murder - PD James

A very crafted mystery by a well loved author.
photo courtesy:amazon.A we
What never ceases to me about a PD James novel is its consistency. There is a very definite, distinctive way of handling the story and its amazing how PD James sets exacting standards and meets it every time.


This time the murder happens at a psychiatric clinic and the victim an adminstrative officer, Enid Bolam. Bolam being an administrator is not exactly popular among the staff and doctors making it difficult for Detective Adam Dalgliesh.  As usual, the way the victim is found throws light on many suspects, including doctors, nurses and the staff who have their own reasons to hate her.

I thought a psychiatric clince was a very interesting place to set the murder. Being a crime thriller fan, it was interesting to see how James sets out the murder and plays it out at the clinic. Apparently, James had served a short stint working in such a clinic and therefore it comes as no surprise how she draws on an accurate picture about the politics that inhabits the working environment.

What works:
  • The cast of suspects are drawn with care and detail. James' keen eye for human behaviour and insight into the workings of the mind works very well indeed.
  • Reading  PD James novel can be an eye opener in terms of life experience and leaves one a bit wiser about hows and the whys of human tendency. 
What doesn't:
  • Reading James' is not always easy. She tends to get a bit old schoolish and demands patience. For a contemporary crime thriller fan who does not have to "labour" in terms of lengthly paragraphs and detailed descriptions in novels of recent times it can get a bit trying. 
  • The writing gets a bit prosaic and once you are familiar with James' writing, you know you will have to trudge through the details before the story catches pace. 
I haven't read enough PD James nove to say whether it is one of the best or not. However, if you haven't tried James yet, perhaps this may be a good place to start.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Return to Fourwinds - Elisabeth Gifford

An atmospheric novel about family secrets.

This is my third novel in a row, for review in the family saga genre and I couldn't help but compare them. The three novels. Moriarty's Last Anniversary. Mcinerney's Hello from the Gillespies and Gifford's Return to Fourwinds deal with a similar theme yet they are distinct in their own way.

Where Last anniversary is more plot driven with a bit of suspense, Hello rides high on emotions and the characters and Return to Fourwinds, has underlying complex themes set in wartime atmosphere and a clash between the working class and the gentry.Gifford weaves a very atmospheric tale which has the past and present narratives running alongside giving it soft layers and laden with themes.


The families of Nick and Sarah have come together to celebrate their wedding. However, things don't go to plan and then the wedding is about to be called off, it throws open some secrets from the past. Both families have known each other in another era and the past finally catches up with them forcing them to confront repressed memories and deeply buried secrets. Ranging from the war time to the academic atmosphere of Oxford, there are various themes in the novel, the relations between the working class and the upper classes.

What works:

  • A great story, skillfully told. Gifford does a good job of painting the present day and that of the war time atmosphere very well. 
  • Her keen insight into the characters show off very well in the story as we move between the the working class to the gentry through the characters.
  • Her r narratives are very clear and gripping. Flitting through the past and the present can be difficult but the story moves fluidly and is very engaging.

What doesn't:

  • The story is wonderfully detailed however it tends to get a bit dry when you are wondering what is going on the mind of Ralph and how does he end up with Alice. 
  • Despite the dry going in the middle, the story picks up pace and gets interesting as it moves to the resolution with all ends neatly tied.

A great story and extremely enjoyable read. I am glad to have discovered her through goodreads and look forward to her next novel with interest


Monday, 17 November 2014

Hello From The Gillespies - Monica Mcinerney

photo courtesy: goodreads.com
A superb read from a much loved author.

I have always been a great fan of Mcinerney although I found her earlier works better than the later ones. What sets her apart is that her books are all set in Australia which makes it a fascinating read, her stories offer a glimpse into the country as well.

I can still dig into The Faraday sisters and enjoy re-reading my favourite parts of the book. Her later book, At Home with Templetons was not something I could stick with till the end and left me wondering if she has lost the magic, that made her books so enjoyable.

I was wrong. She is back with a delightful book, and reading every page of it was a pleasure.


The crux of the story is a Christmas letter sent out by the protagnist Angela Gillespie to the extended family and friends. Originally a Londoner, Angela is married to an Australian and living in an outback station with her husband and four children of varying ages. Her Christmas letters are usually cheerful, flowery and optimistic but not this one. Something has changed this year and the letter triggers off events, forcing the family to assess their priorities and relationships with one another.

What works:

  • Everything. Mcinerney connects very well with her reader and has an amazing ability to handle family issues well. The subtle shifts in family relations, the banter and the repartee between the characters is skillfully done and enjoyable.
  • She brings the characters to life through dialogue and description and the reader instantly takes to them and like them for their distinct personalities.
  • It was nice to read about a family in rural Australia. Having been in the country on holiday recently, it was nice to read and imagine a family in the outback. It made me regret the fact that that restricted my travel to the big cities instead of venturing into the outback.
  • The concept of spinning off the story from a Christmas letter was a very great touch.Couldn't help wondering if it was a timely launch to help readers pick it up as a Christmas read or as a gift. Well, it it certainly fits well as the perfect family read, this festive season.
What doesn't:
  • So much for gushing about how what a lovely read it is, I couldn't help but feel that a bit of editing would helped the story. The interaction between Will and Nick seemed to drag a bit. It could have benefitted from the editor's red pencil and made the story tighter.
Overall a great read. Much recommended for those looking for a nice, feel good book this Christmas.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Last Anniversary - Liane Moriarty

photo courtesy:goodreads.com
A delightful lighthearted read.

Having heard of Lianne Moriarty's The Husband's Secret, I was looking forward reading this one. The premise seemed a bit obscure and vague but interesting enought for me to get stuck in right away.


The story begins with Sophie, a 30 something career girl in the city, with a rotten love life. Things look up when her ex-boyfriend contacts her with the news that his dead aunt has left the house to her. Sophie, is shocked first but also exhilarated and then moves to the island into her new home and meets the Family.

Connie (Thomas' aunt who left her the house) has a reason for leaving the house to Sophie. She and Rose are known as the Doughty sisters who found the Munro baby and have been living of the story quite profitably.

There are also other characters, the Munroe baby (Enigma, who is grandma now),
Grace, their grandchild and a new mother struggling with the demands of a baby, Callum, her husband who is baffled by his wife's behaviour and Sophie comes as a breath of fresh air. Thomas, the ex who has married another but is hanging onto Sophie still. A divorced Veronika who first introduced Sophie to her brother Thomas but is grappling with issues of her own.

Over and above is the mystery of this abandoned baby, that Rose and Connie brought in years ago. Veronika is keen to unravel the secret behind it once for all and trigger off a set of events which are misleading, confusing but finally enlightening.

What works:
  • Moriarty's style of writing is fresh and though she tackles a predictable side storyline of a thirty something girl waiting for the right guy, she does it with humour and gets it right.
  • The characters are all well etched, although I must admit, I was a bit confused about who was related to who and how. However, the characters are good and although it gets a bit chaotic in between, it does keep you turning the page. In my view, the sign of a winner.
  • Moriarty's writing builds up suspense quite well which provides the necessary twists and turns. I think that was quite good especially she pulls it off well.
  • Moriarty also does a good job with the way she says her heroine loves Regency romance and keeps the focus on getting the right guy. The reader has fun finding out who she ends up with and Moriarty uses the Romance genre well. I do not want to say more for fear of spoiling the story, but it is very subtle and shows off her storytelling talent.
What doesn't:
  • It takes a while to get used to the characters. As I said, it takes a while to figure who is whose daughter and sister and so on, but the characters are all endearing and it is fascinating to watch who Sophie ends up with and what is the mystery all about. 
A great downtime read. A bit frivolous at places but a well written story.