Unexpected Elephants and Moustache’d Inspectors

On the day that he was due to retire, Inspector Ashwin Chopra discovered that he had inherited an elephant.

And thus starts a novel which takes Inspector Chopra on a journey which no one could have expected at all. Full of murder, conspiracy, domestic dramas in the complex they live in and a cute little elephant, this novel has it all. This novel was recommended to me by a friend who thought I would like it, and I’m glad she did – it reminded me of a lot of things in different way which made me enjoy the story all the more. There’s scenes of the manly hero, Inspector Chopra chasing the ‘baddies’ through meandering roads and hiding in warehouses a la Bollywood style (albeit the 60s and 70s action movies kind). There’s conspiracies, corruption and secrets, with the weak poor classes against the corrupt rich. And at the heart of it all is the focus of traditional values and the importance of honesty.

The story also reminds me a little of another detective series, Alexander McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, which has the similarities of infusion of local culture, wonderfully drawn characters and quirky, gentle humour. The story follows the retirement of Inspector Chopra in the richly-described Mumbai, following two mysterious cases; firstly the inheritance of a baby elephant left to him by a loved uncle for reasons unknown, and secondly the drowning of a young man whose death is suspicious, yet keeps being brushed under the carpet. With this, Inspector Chopra’s retirement suddenly feels too peaceful and boring, and the hero is led to investigate on his own, leading him to more serious issues like the corruption of the upper-classes, the activism of lower classes for more rights, into the dark Underworld and slums.

The story is quirky and whimsical enough that there are a few sweet, silly lines which keep the story entertaining, although there are also more serious issues which are given their space, which balance the story well. This isn’t a serious, thriller-type crime novel, but it is a story which draws you into the busy, colourful world of Mumbai and see it through the eyes of a native. This is something which feels a little more old-fashioned, quietly showing us the story yet charming, the characters are very likeable, such as the sub-plot of the Inspector’s marriage with his feisty wife Poppy (and her mother!), and the impact of the baby elephant on all of their lives.

I really enjoyed this novel, if only because I loved the story is brought together, the two mysteries running alongside each other, with the colourful voice of Mumbai, street-life and the gentle humour which gives this story the whimsical touch. There are some who have said that this story isn’t credible, or even very original, but I think that it’s hard to depict the characters and city-life of India the way this story has, and it has been quite well done. I’m already looking forward to the next in the series on my book reader, and I’ll wait to see if the baby elephant is still in the next novel!

Lazy Sundays

I’ve had a pretty busy week this week, so I’m finally settled in this Sunday and multi-tasking with some yummy home-made chocolate cake, blogging catch-up and getting on with that (digital) stack of books I’ve been waiting to read.

I’m hoping to do a few book reviews for this week, so watch this space! In the meantime, here’s my view today : )

Happy weekendings, all x

Weekend Reads…The Good Liar

I went on a e-book downloading spree a few days ago, and have been spending my free time trying to catch up on that long list of books waiting to be read! I’ve noticed that a few of the books I’ve read or reviewed recently have not been new one, so I’m aiming to review books that have released in 2017.

I’m still catching up, so bear with me – this is an interesting book about a con-man who may or may not get his comeuppance – I’ve only just started it but it looks promising!

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Quirky Bookstores & Libraries: Sokol Boosktore in Chelsea

I have always loved looking for quirky buildings which add a little character to London – and Sokol Bookshop does just that. This is a bright red bookshop I found while wandering past in Chelsea which looks more like a giant, old-school Toy Store, adding a splash of colour to the area. Interestingly enough, this bookshop specialises in medieval texts and manuscipts, which I saw a glimpse of in the window display.

Is it me, or does this book-store seem like something found in the middle of a traditional European village?

Friyay!

It’s that time of the week – time to snuggle up with a good book or three, a big bar of chocolate and get the TV remote ready for that late-night comedy film. I haven’t been making much time for myself recent to relax and read books – probably because London’s recent and sudden heatwave has been making us lazy and not in the mood for much except ice-lollies and cold drinks. I’m promising myself some book-time this weekend though, not least because I want to review them, so watch this space!

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Death, Memory and Scars Among Yellow Flowers

“Snow White poisoned. Cinderella enslaved. Rapunzel locked up. Tessie, dumped with bones. Some monster’s twisted fantasy,”

“I am the Cartwright girl, dumped once upon a time with a strangled college student and a stack of human bones out past Highway 10, in an abandoned patch of field near the Jenkins property. I am the star of screaming tabloid headlines and campfire ghost stories. I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans. The lucky one.”

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin follows Tessa (no longer ‘Tessie’, a name which has been abandoned along with her childhood innocence), lone surviving victim of a serial killer who dumped her along with three other dead girls, buried amongst the yellow flowers known as ‘Black-eyed Susans’, which also becomes their moniker. Hindered by her memory loss surrounding the incident, Tessa struggles to pinpoint who has done this to her, working through therapy and recovering with help of her best friend Lydia, but all the while unsure about what happened leading up to the time she was found and why she was chosen.

Now, 17 years later, Tessa’s doubts grow heavier about the man apprehended and serving on death-row for the crime, especially as the deadline for his black eyed susansexecution approaches. Re-examining the facts which don’t seem to add up, she re-counts the times that someone has planted Black-eyed Susans flower around her home, left there for her to find, as well as potential clues she has found and kept over the years. Now an adult with a teenaged daughter of her own, Tessa goes back to her memories and looks back with an adult mind, working with the police and with new DNA and forensic methods to find out if the right man really was caught, or if she is still in danger.

I’m not usually a big fan of the flashback method but in this case it works, the two narratives of Tessa at 17 after her abduction weaved with the perspective of Tessa in present time 17 years later work well together. The flashbacks are not prolonged or dragged out, and serve to heighten the anticipation as Tessa slowly unravels the mystery in both time periods.

Filled with intense, eccentric and interesting characters, the novel is a well-crafted one, making the mystery pulled together by not only the characters but their backgrounds and their stories. There’s Tessa’s  grandfather with his morbid fascination with death, fairy-tale stories and a giant, almost grotesque castle of a house; her best friend Lydia, a highly intelligent young girl who supports Tessa with witticisms and poetry, yet is fascinated by death, celebrity gossip murder cases and eccentric parts of history, Tessa’s own daughter Charlie, wiser than her years and cool in the face of Tessa’s fears; and of course their scatty elderly neighbour Effie, a quirky, brilliant scientist who can’t cook and is worried about someone stealing all the diggers in the neighbourhood.

I won’t agree with critics who say this is for fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl – although it may perhaps have a touch of the same dark mystery of Dark Places by the same author, which follows a woman looking for answers about her family’s massacre. The book is one that slowly creeps up on the reader, intense but well-researched, combining the psychological with facts about forensics. For those who like thrillers and mystery, this is a good pick although be prepared for a slower unravelling of the story rather than fast-paced action.

Although I wasn’t entirely too satisfied with the ending of this novel, it is a good one, and there is enough of the unexpected if you don’t spot the hints along the way. Heaberlin has an ability to create characters which, although flawed, are interesting ones – Tessa herself is a myriad of emotions and but her growth from scarred teenager to a stable, confident woman and mother is admirable. This is a satisfyingly creepy and compelling story, almost a twist on a dark fairytale which leads you through to new questions with each new answer given – but definitely a thriller to remember.

 

Quirky Bookstores & Libraries: A bookstore in Oia

One of the things I look out for whenever I go somewhere new are bookstores and libraries. I’ve been lucky enough so far to find some beautiful examples, such as this lovely bookstore in Istanbul which I found while strolling around in the New City, and which was beautifully put together.

I was pretty delightly, then, to find this colourful, quirky bookstore in Greece one on of the Islands, in the area called Oia which is famous for its beautiful sunsets and landscapes, (and which is a very popular tourist spot for honeymooners) – it was hidden away along the main street with stairs leading down into the bookshop inside. What I loved about this bookstore what the the outside was just as pretty as its interior – there were plenty of paintings and decor around the building so there was something to catch your eye wherever you look.

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I loved the random pieces scattered around – bookshelves, plants, typewriters and handwitten signs to give the personal touch and make it feel homely. I always love finding places like this, and it was great to see the effort put into decorating this bookshop.

The interior of the bookshop was a little dark (excuse the grainy pictures!) but it felt a little like a personal dreamland – hundreds of books in various languages crammed together on bookshelves, with some hanging from the ceiling, piled up on the cabinets and generally giving plenty of invitation for passerbys to come and immerse themselves in the world of books.

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We left this place with a big smile on our face (myself more than anyone else) because it was such a beautiful corner of a beautiful city, and I loved the fact that it seemed untouched by commercial values, instead asking customers to give what they can and to make the most of seeing the books. It’s made me keep an eye out for more of these places around the city, and of course, I’ll be posting more of these when I find them!

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Journal Your Ramadan – Day #3: C is for Currently Reading

I love picking up new books that I’ve heard reviews about – like my sisters, I have a huge pile of books waiting to be read, and an even bigger pile on my electronic book-reader (which I keep adding to!).

Aside from reading holy books such as the Quran during the month of Ramadan, we find that there’s suddenly a lot of free time now that the day doesn’t revolve around food and cooking. I’ve been giving myself a portion of time every day to relax and have a read – when you’re absorbed in another world, its easy to not count the hours!

These books below are on my book list of things I’ve been reading, I have a lot more but these are the ones I’ve been meaning to read for ages, and I’ll be posting reviews of them all soon.

What’s on your current reading list?

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