Shailaja and I go through a few books a week, sad testimony to our social lives and the state of Delhi nightlife. Now we're running out of room, and we've got a lot of stuff that's too good to flog to the ignoramuses at Saket. So here's the first installment of our giant sales list. You can get any book for Rs. 150, five for Rs. 600 or ten for Rs. 1100. (Note: We don't ONLY read crime novels, but tend to keep our literary novels and obsessively thumbed boxing books)
This is genre fiction but all these come with our personal guarantee that the crap stuff has already been sold to unknowing suckers who don't read this blog.
A Rich Full Death by Michael Dibdin - Gold Dagger Winner, mystery featuring English poet Robert Browning. Much better than Dibdin's Aurelio Zen series.
The Poet by Michael Connelly - Well within that great territory of pleasurable, silly books about serial killers that don't embarrass you vicariously with their stupidity (a good example of an author that provide that kind of pleasurable schadenfreude--Patricia Cornwell). Connelly didn't convince me with the first one I tried, but this one was better. Adding to the pleasure, the hero is a journo who covers the cops beat, and the former LA Times reporter does a good job of getting inside "the life," digging at editors, etc.
One Step Behind by Henning Mankell - We picked up Mankell's first book about a year ago and we were immediate addicts. Inspector Kurt Wallander reminds one a little of Ruth Rendell's beloved Inspector Wexford in his sensitivity and irascible manner, but Mankell's descriptions of life in provincial Sweden are what really sells this series. A notch or two above Connelly, who's a notch or two above Cornwell, on the trash-literature continuum.
Firewall by Henning Mankell - The worst of the Wallander series -- hey, I promised full disclosure -- but you gotta read 'em all once you start. Mankell gets bogged down in a Y2K bug type scenario, which doesn't suit his skills.
A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine - For those in the know, Barbara Vine is the pen name of much-feted mystery writer Ruth Rendell. (OK, if you haven't read Ruth Rendell, we've got some more books to sell you, but first you have to push off the rock you've been living under and read some testimonials. This is the kind of author who gets knighted or whatever it is they do with women, though I don't know how writing crime novels is service to the empire). In the Vine books, Rendell is really writing gothic novels a la the Bronte sisters, in my estimate. Childbirth, often post partum depression, and creepy old houses tend to get big play. It's a deft touch, though, as one would expect from such a master, without any dopey old magic or ghosts. In this one, a group of hippie types drop out in the old mansion one of them inherited from a relative. Murder is inevitable.
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall - McCall won many fans with the first of many in the Ladies Detective Agency series. Set in Africa, these are engaging, if sometimes a bit patronizing, tales about Precious Ramotswe, a matriarchal type who solves crimes. A TLS international book of the year and booker judge special recommendation.
A Demon in My View by Ruth Rendell - See above for fulsome praise of Ruth Rendell. This is one of Rendell's psychological thrillers (she does police procedurals in the Inspector Wexford series and gothics writing as Barbara Vine) and takes as its subject a strangler who succeeds in suppressing his compulsion by nightly strangling a store mannequin--until his downstairs neighbor takes it out for burning on Guy Fawkes day.
The White Lioness by Henning Mankell - Here Mankell, who later moved to Africa from Sweden, kind of bridges the gap between his two lives with a thriller cum crime novel about a plot to assassinate Nelson Mandela. I know that sounds dumb, but it ain't.
The Blood Doctor by Barbara Vine - See above for Vine intro. This one has some qualities reminiscent of AS Byatt, as it follows a biographer investigating his great grandfather, physician to Queen Victoria. And one creepy dude.
A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine - Two sisters have a creepy conflict that involves a baby, unwed pregancy, and murder.
The Rottweiler by Ruth Rendell - One of Rendell's more engaging desi character in this one, not to mention the classic blackmailer's line, "You're the Rottweiler, innit?" Psychological thriller - you'll never stoop to Thomas Harris again after dipping into Rendell.
Ripley Under Water by Patricia Highsmith - The appealing thing about Highsmith is you get to root for the sociopath. Ripley only murders the rude, uncouth, or foul-smelling, and I say good riddance to all of 'em.
Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell - the first of the Wallander series. he gets better as he goes along, but this one lays the foundation for greatness. Swedish police procedural about bank robbers that soon turn murderers.
Queen of the South by Arturo Perez Reverte - Not his best work, in my opinion, but good enough. This is the story of a Mexican girl, the moll of a "narco," who gets caught up in a burn gone wrong and has to split for Europe. In Spain, she rises to become the Queen of the South, the head of a drug-smuggling ring that unites all the big players. Sort of a Scarface meets Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke - Full disclosure: I'm a recovering sci-fi/fantasy geek who read every book by Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator of Tarzan, my childhood idol/secret identy), so I was pretty much bound to like this Harry Potter for adults. The surprise was that Shailaja, a confirmed fantasy hater, dug it, too. I think the secret is that it's a sly joke on literary novels somehow, and seemingly pretty clever about English history, a subject about which I'm near ignorant.
-- More to come: Contact by emailing me or commenting on this post --