Book Review: Malice by Keigo Higashino


Malice - Book CoverI am a huge fan of Keigo Higashino’s earlier works – Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint. I consider him one of the most intelligent mystery novelists of our time, and in the same league as Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. It took me no time to decide that I have to read this book as soon as I saw it on my amazon recommendation page.

<Spoilers Ahead>

Detective Kyochiro Kaga is investigating the murder of best selling author Kunihiko Hidaka. He is found dead in his locked home by his childhood friend Osamu Nonoguchi and his wife Rie. Nanoguchi’s behavior makes Kaga suspicious and very soon he is able to establish beyond doubt that Nanoguchi is indeed the culprit. However, Nanahuchi’s version of the story strikes as odd to Kaga, which leads him to further investigation, unraveling the fiendishly diabolical plot by Nanoguchi to not only kill Hikada but to destroy his reputation, his integrity as well his honor.

In a typical detective story, there are multiple suspects, and the detective works diligently, piecing together evidences, reconstructing the  past, keeps eliminating suspects and then zeros down on the real culprit. and this is more or less the end of story. In this novel, there is only one suspect who is discovered pretty early in the novel. But that is not the end, The remainder of the book is devoted to finding the real motive of the murder. Instead of a whodunit we can call this book a whydunit. Kago’s dialogue sums it all – “You may be the first murderer who decided to fabricate a motive before committing the crime”

I have mixed feeling for this books. On one hand, I feel that it is a great book with a clever story, engaging twists and turns, and interesting characters. On the other hand, it was a bit disappointed too as I had really high expectations from the author – the other two books are master pieces and this is certainly not in the same league as Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint. Also, I was not very convinced by the motive and rationale of why the characters did what they did. More than anything else, it was this disconnect which lessened my enjoyment of the book.

PS: My review of Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint


Book Review: Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino


Salvation of a SaintSalvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino is the second book of the Detective Galileo series, the first being the hugely popular Devotion of Suspect X (see my review here)

The series revolves around Inspector Shunpei Kusanagi and his friend, Manabu Yukawa, a physics professor who, occasionally, helps Kusanagi solve some of his most challenging cases, and is known as the Galileo detective.

This story starts with the death of a wealthy business man, Yoshitaka Mashiba, by arsenic poisoning. There is one prime suspect – Yoshitaka’s wife Ayane, but she has an iron clad alibi. Working on the case are detective Kusanagi and his assistant Kaoru Utsumi, with some help from Prof. Yukawa.

Salvation of a Saint is what I call as “minimalist suspense thriller”. There is only one suspect, that too with a perfect alibi, very few characters, very few (and very subtle) clues. It is very clear, within the first few pages, who committed the murder and why. And it takes the rest of the book to figure out how!! It is really commendable that the author has managed to keep interest levels high and the narrative simulating enough to keep reading. By the time I was half-way thru, the only thing I wanted to know was how it was done. The book was simply un-put-down-able.

After the ‘The devotion of suspect X’, I had very high expectations from this book and it certainly lives up to it. A very intelligent book, indeed.

For fans of mystery genre, both this and The Devotion of Suspect X is a must read.

PS: In some marketing/PR stuff, Higashino is referred to as “The Japanese Stieg Larsson. This is a very unfair comparison (both to Higashino as well as to Larsson). There is very little in common between the their writings, apart from the fact that both belong to the broader genre of thrillers and were translated to English.

PS: Keigo Higashino’s next novel ‘Journey Under the Midnight Sun’ is releasing on October 08, 2015 and I am already excited about it.

Book Review: The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino


The Devotion of Suspect XWhich is harder: devising an unsolvable problem, or solving that problem? Ishigami to Yukawa in The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

A divorced woman, Yasuko Hanakoa, along with her daughter Misato, accidentally murders her ex-husband Togashi. Tetsuya Ishigami, their neighbour, a brilliant mathematician having unrequited romantic feelings for Yasuko, offers to help her cover up the crime. He comes-up with a near perfect plan to dispose the body, leaving the police completely clueless about the crime. Ishigami would have succeeded but for the involvement of Yukawa, a friend of Kusanagi, the investigating officer. A physicist, Yukawa is Ishigami’s ex-classmate and as intelligent and analytical as him. What follows is an immensely interesting battle of wits between these two.

An extremely clever, intelligent and well written book, it will definitely surprise you with the way the plot unfolds. It is a cover-to-cover book, very difficult to leave in between once you start. The logic and scientific deduction techniques used reminded me of old classics from Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. I strongly recommend this book for lovers of good mystery fiction.

PS: This book has sold a whooping 2 million plus copies in Japan. 2 million is more than 1.5% of Japan’s population buying (not reading, there would obviously be more readers) it, probably making it the most successful Japanese book ever.

PSS: Trailer of Korean movie “Perfect Murder” based on this novel

PSS: Trailer of Japanese movie “Suspect-X” based on this novel

Book Review: Trail of the Chupacabra by Stephen Randel


Trail  of Chupacabra by Stephen Randel

Trail of the Chupacabra by Stephen Randel is the story of Avery, an eccentric and quirky geek/explorer, who enters Mexico in search of the mythical animal – Chupacabra. His companions in this adventure are Zippy, a burnt out hippy and a crazy private militia (called as “Southwest Texas Revolutionary Armed Confederate Border Operations Militia STRAC-BOM”; headed by General x-Ray). It is about how they get entangled in the rivalry between the feared drug lord Padre, his enemy Barquero and the Mexican army, and how they eventually come out of it.

The premise of the story is interesting and has a potential to be a highly entertaining book. There are two parallel tracks – Avery’s search of the chupacabra and Barquero’s revenge on the Padre. The two tracks merge towards the end of the book resulting in a superb climax. However, the undoing of the book is its uni-dimensional characters. While funny and hilarious to start with, almost all the key characters (Avery, Ziggy, General X ray etc.) become repetitive after some time. Even the humor (Avery’s complaint letters to the authorities, Ziggy histrionics, and STRAC-BOM’s stupidity) feels stale.

To summarize, Trail of the Chupacabra is the kind of book which can be harmlessly browsed through if you have spare time and nothing better to do. However, you may not like to take out time specifically to read it.

PS: I received a complementary copy of this book in order to review it.

Book Review: The Mine by Arnab Ray


“Makes you wonder if God himself is evil? Or whether what we consider the design of the devil is actually nothing but the will of God?” – Excerpt from The Mine by Arnab Ray (aka Greatbong).

To begin with, this book is a very bold attempt. I don’t remember having seen a novel in this genre by a mainstream Indian author. Such disturbingly dark pieces of art (movies/fiction/art etc.) are generally not well appreciated. As Indians, probably, we are not very comfortable with someone showing us the mirror. So, hats off to Arnab for this attempt.

The Mine has an interesting and engrossing story, one of those which is difficult to put down before finishing. Five experts are called to investigate some strange events happening in a hi-tech and secret mining facility, following the discovery of an ancient temple. The investigation soon turns out to be a battle for survival where each one has to face not only the diabolic traps and decoys in the mine but also demons from their past. The basic premise seems inspired by the SAW series of movies.

The characters are not mould in the usual black and white, every character is grey, some more grey than the others, and each one has a shady back story. These stories are cleverly revealed as the narrative progresses, interlinking the past lives of the characters. At the end, everything fits perfectly completing a dark jigsaw puzzle of the basest human emotions. The revelations in the last few pages, when you think that the worst is already over, are particularly chilling.

Read this one because of the eccentric characters (you will rarely find such a group in one novel together), because it is a bold and, potentially, a genre creating attempt, and because this is nothing like Greatbong we all know.

PS: Not recommended for faint hearts

Book Review: Gone Girl


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

“I was told love should be unconditional. That’s the rule, everyone says so. But if love has no boundaries, no limits, no conditions, why should anyone try to do the right thing.” – Excerpt from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Breathtakingly Fresh & Totally Awesome!! These four words sum up my views on this book!

Gone Girl is the story of Amy and Nick Dunne, a married couple of five years. Both of them, after having lost their jobs in New York, had to move back to Nick’s home town to take care of Nick’s sick parents. Amy mysteriously disappears on their fifth anniversary and Nick seems the prime suspect. However, as the plot unfolds, new secrets about the victim and the supposed perpetrator are revealed, literally turning the plot upside down.

Full of twists and turns and a couple of “Shawshank Redemption Moments”, I was not able to put it down once I started. Told from point of views of both Nick and Amy, and following a non-linear narrative, it is a very intelligently structured fiction. A well written book with really interesting characters – especially Amy’s (In her own words, Gillian specializes in difficult characters – damaged, disturbed, or downright nasty and Amy is a perfect example)

On the face of it, Gone Girl is a whodunit thriller set against the backdrop of a broken marriage. Peel off this layer and you will find that this is truly a story about relationships – a noir love story between a narcissist husband and a physco wife.

The novel is being adapted to a movie by 20th century fox. Eagerly looking forward.

PS: The book has some dark moments and a good amount of foul language.