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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Chick lit meets crime fic, with a dash of fun

Normally I’m a little sceptical about this whole new chick-lit-meets-crime-fic genre that seems to have mushroomed recently. It either winds up being really angsty (tough female heroine has never found love and is treated badly) or really cliché (she is saved in the nick of time by her handsome, studly supervisor) or just unable to stick to a genre (skipping wildly from here to there in the attempts to be Agatha Christie meets Marian Keyes.) Anything that is ‘something meets something’ is usually a book you should avoid. Remember that advice. It’ll come in handy someday.

But, I’m always happy to change my mind. (Isn’t that one of the very fun prerogatives of being a woman?) And so when Piggies On The Railway landed on my bedside reading pile, I picked it up with interest, but not much hope. And boy, was I wrong. This book made me eat my words….Read the rest of it.

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Private investigator Kasthuri Kumar, the narrator of Smita Jain’s Piggies on the Railway, is a kick-ass heroine. She does interior monologues in the style of Philip Marlowe and other hardboiled detectives in 1930s crime fiction. But this being a book that – improbably but successfully – combines a detective story with chick-lit, Kasthuri (also known as Katie) has more on her mind than just solving the kidnapping case assigned to her…Read more

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Nonchalantly Insolent

ALAS! Lady-detectives, Indian lady-detectives are elusive literary creatures. Despite the plethora of contemporary characters that the modern Indian writer has cajoled out of the mighty pen, this earthling has failed to evolve.

But wait a minute. Here comes one waltzing in on her wannabe “black Fendi peep toes”—and six inches high no less!

Enter Kasthuri Kumar aka Katie, detective with a buzz and two bumbling feet. And ‘seasoned’ chick-lit writer Smita Jain pulls her off with elan. Smita knows what she is getting into. Her successful debut novel ‘Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions’ is compounding nto a screenplay for a Bollywood film and as she herself says: “I know I can write a decent murder mystery.” Smita is also curious, “Did you guess who the killer is?” she asks fervently. And I must confess I did not. I was on the wrong railway track all along (much to this author’s delight!) and I certainly enjoyed the bumping ride!

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Here’s a book review I did for Businesworld recently.

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I apologise if it appears I’m blowing my own trumpet (which I am), but when you read this, you’ll understand why. I came across this recently and it really made my day:

“This book was marketed as Indian chicklit, part of a new wave in Indian publishing. Well it does have a spunky, 20-something female as the lead character; but the reason I liked it (and no I’m not trying to be snotty about chicklit…for the record, I LOVE chicklit) was because it’s an intricate murder mystery too.

For Indian readers who grew up reading Agatha Christie and felt sorry for themselves because they believed they could never relish that pleasure in an Indian form…well…there’s hope. Now, now… Jain is no Christie. Judging from her glam author photo and bio, she might even take offence at being compared to a badly dressed tame dame, no matter how successful. But she sure possesses a talent for dragging you, protestingly at first, through a hundred twists and turns to finally catch the killer.

There are a bunch of interesting suspects who are all linked to each other and to the victim in rather complex ways. Jain keeps all these connections, cross-connections, and revelations moving along smoothly as she weaves her way to the climax. And she does all this without subverting any of your cherished beliefs such as: a) highly-placed murderers never get caught in India b) Mumbai traffic is BAD c)and Indian policemen are lazy and inefficient. They might be lazy and inefficient but they can solve murders when they want to…as long as they have a nutty TV writer and her hot squeeze of a serious author to help them.

Policeman Gaitonde is my favourite character in the book…I find myself saying ‘actuities’ and ‘hau’ every now and then…try it…your tongue twists interestedly around them…in a way it never will around ‘activities’ and ‘have’. Some of the characters are rather cliched but they help to build the atmosphere. I’m convinced it will be made into a movie soon…I had the feeling I was not reading a book so much as watching a fun thriller–a blend of Ram Gopal Varma and the Rajat Kapoor/Vinay Pathak stable.”

Read the original review here.

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