Thursday, November 28, 2013

Book Review: The Salvation of a Saint

Is it possible to kill someone from hundreds of miles away?

This is the fundamental question that Detective Galileo (Yukawa, who is actually a professor of Physics) has to answer.

Intriguing? Definitely. 

This installment of the Detective Galileo series from Keigo Higashino may not match the masterpiece ("The Devotion of Suspect X"), but it is also very good nonetheless.

The plot is simple. 
Yoshitaka was on the verge of divorcing his wife. He is poisoned by coffee spiked with arsenic and dies. The most logical suspect is naturally his wife, Ayane. However, there is a glitch. Ayane was hundreds of miles away when he was murdered. 

Yoshitaka was not a saint. He had other women in his life at various times, and had treated them badly. That includes Yoshitaka's mistress. But none of those suspects is as strong on motive as Ayane. But her (lack of) opportunity to commit the act at the fatal hour is a major obstacle for the investigators.

To add to this, the lead detective (Kusanagi) unfortunately falls for the prime suspect . He just refuses to believe that she could have had anything to do with the crime. 

However, his assistant, a lady by the name of Kaoru Utsumi, thinks exactly the opposite. Her woman's intuition tell her to go after Ayane, even if the facts don't support her theory.So she does what her boss has done for years when stymied—she calls upon Professor Manabu Yukawa.

Yukawa and Kusanagi had damaged their relationship during the previous case ("Devotion ..."), and are not on speaking terms. But Utsumi's interference forces them to work together again. And being thorough professionals, they do that quite well.

Higashino follows his tried-and-tested method of hiding everything in plain sight. When the end is revealed, you might end up kicking yourself for not guessing the plot.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Book Review: The devotion of Suspect X

This is not a "who"dunnit. It is a "how-was-it" dunnit. 
You know the crime, and the criminals. What you don't know is how the crime was covered up. 
The author hides everything in plain sight, and does a wonderful job of it.

The story begins innocuously, with the central characters (Tetsuya Ishigami and Yasuko Hanaoka) going about their normal routine.
Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced, single mother who works at a restaurant that delivers packed meals. She has a daughter called Misato.
Ishigami is a very intelligent Mathematics teacher. He is a next-door neighbor of Yasuko and Misato.

One day Togashi (Yasuko's loser ex-husband) shows up at Yausko's apartment to extort money from her. He threatens to keep doing this and to intrude in their lives. The situation quickly goes out of hand, and Togashi is killed by mother and daughter.
Ishigami overhears the noises, and puts 2 and 2 together. He offers his help in taking care of everything - including getting rid of the body and also covering up the crime.

Inevitably the body turns up and is identified. Kusanagi (the detective investigating the murder case) starts looking at Yasuko as the obvious suspect. He tries to poke holes in her alibi but is unable to do so. 

Kusanagi frequently (unofficially) consults with Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and his college friend. Yukawa and Ishigami are also batch mates from the same college.

Yukawa initally does not suspect Ishigami and he only meets him to catch up with his old friend. But slowly Yukawa is convinced that Ishigami is not just an innocent witness. 
Then we are treated to a battle of wits, where Ishigami tries to protect Yasuko and Yukawa tries to unravel the layers of deceit and get at the truth.

In the end, Yukawa does decipher what happened. He is awestruck by Ishigami's devotion which even surpasses his considerable intelligence.

The prose isn't very elegant - probably because this is a translation from a Japanese novel. But it doesn't matter. The substance more than makes up for the lack of style.

My favorite quote from the book:
"Sometimes, all you had to do was exist in order to be someone's savior."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Movie Review: Race 2

Summary: Even if you keep your brain aside, your head will still hurt while watching it!! :-)

Arman Mallik (John Abraham) is a ruthless rich creep who only loves money and can do anything to get it. His partner-in-crime is Elena (Deepika), who also happens to be his step sister. He was a street fighter and still fights whenever required.

Ranveer Singh (Saif) is out to get revenge on John (for what is revealed later). He takes the help of Anil Kapoor to achieve this. The entire movie is about how the revenge is taken.

Omisha (Jacqueline Fernandez) is John's girl friend, and has her own agenda. Anil's secretary is Amisha Patel, who only motto in life seems to talk about carnal pleasures. There is also Aditya Panscholi as Godfather Anza. Anza wears dark glasses all the time, presumably because he too does not want to see where the story is heading ...

The plot is wafer-thin. There are the usual twists and turns galore. But while they were enjoyable in the Race, in Race 2 they seem to be put in there forcibly. Also the twists can be seen from a mile away, so the punch is lost.

Abbas Mastan have tried so hard to make this entertaining that they have lost sight of the fact that a story is also needed. So we are treated to an continuous parade of mansions, discotheques, yachts, casinos, etc. There is a lot of skin show - with all the 3 ladies in a "race" for the top slot.

There are many unintentional hilarious scenes in the film - playing cards in high stakes poker being changed digitally due to "micro sensors" fitted in them, Jacqueline's attempts at fencing, John's attempts at acting.
But the icing on the cake is a car being driven out of an aeroplane, and then landing safely because 4 parachutes pop up from the upper 4 corners of the car!! "Allah Duhai hai" is right!! A miracle!!

Saif is competent. Deepika delivers a good performance. But both of them fight a lost cause (the film).
John Abraham proves once more that you can get by in Bollywood without acting, so long as you maintain your good looks. Ditto for Jacqueline.
John wears a constipated wooden expression most of the time, even when fighting.

Anil Kapoor is wasted in delivering perhaps the most lame, vulgar and cheesy dialogues in his entire career. Amisha has a limited role, and you thank your lucky stars for that.

There are some good, some "classic" (the other kind) and vulgar dialogues.
"Dilchaspi kisi na kisi tarah nazar aa hi jaati hai"

Classic (the other kind)
  • Jacqueline:  "Men are many, but money is money"  (profound)
  • Deepika: Agar life ka one third hissa sokar ki guzarna hai ... toh akele hi kyun (even more profound)
  • Anil: Sabar ka phal meetha hota hai, aur usse bhi zyada meetha hota hai ... sabere ka phal
  • Jacqueline: Aaj tak kisne mujhe is tarah choone ki koshish nahi ki
    Saif: Bura laga toh bata deti
    Jacqueline: Meine yeh kab kaha ki bura laga?
Pretty much all of Anil Kapoor - Amisha Patel ones.

See it if you don't want a story, and are happy with glamour / attempted glamour.