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Book Nook - 19-12-2016

Monday, December 19, 2016
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to

The House That Christie Built
Anthony Horowitz has been labelled a pasticheur, for writing in the style of other writers, like Arthur Conan Doyle (The House of Silk) and Ian Fleming (the racy Trigger Mortis). In his latest Magpie Murders, he pays homage to Agatha Christie.

A part of it is set in 1955, in a small English village, where everyone knows everyone, but it is a book within a book. Susan Ryeland, a book editor at Cloverleaf, a small publishing house, is handed the latest manuscript by writer Alan Conway. His detective Atticus Pund series has been hugely successful, keeping the company afloat during the ongoing publishing crisis. Though she discovered Conway, who was a not-very-popular school teacher before making it as an author, Susan doesn’t quite like him.

A chunk of Horowitz’s book is then Conway’s story about the goings on in Saxby-on-Avon. Mary Blakiston, the housekeeper at the mansion, Pye Hall, has died after falling down the stairs. It seems like an accident, but the villagers are not so sure, more so because the dead woman’s surly on Robert, was heard threatening her.

Robert’s fiancée, Joy, goes to meet Atticus Pund and his assistant James Fraser for help in clearing his name.  Pund, who is suffering from a terminal illness, gently turns her down, but when Mary’s employer, Sir Magnus Pye, is murdered in a particularly gruesome manner, he cannot stay away from Saxby-on-Avon.

Like Christie’s Hercule Poirot, Pund is a foreigner; what makes it worse for him is his German name and giveaway accent, which, soon after the WW-II made people just a bit unfriendly towards him. In Christie style again, Horowitz lines up a series of suspects all of whom have good reason to kill the obnoxious Sir Magnus. He had made enemies in the village by selling a picturesque piece of forest land to developers, but as people tell Pund, it’s not the kind of place where people would kill; still, a murder has been committed and the culprit must be found.

To Susan’s chagrin, the manuscript given to her by her boss Charles Clover is incomplete. Then, Conway commits suicide after sending a note to his publisher. Susan sets out to hunt for the missing pages, begins to suspect that Conway could have been murdered, and gets down to playing sleuth herself. There are too many parallels between the real and fictional, and she puts her life at risk in tryin to get to the bottom of the mystery.  Fans of crime fiction would be pleased to find that the killer who emerges after a series of very plausible red herrings, is quite unexpected. Magpie Murders is a wonderful read, with amusing diversions into other styles of writing, and many nuggets from the world of publishing.

Magpie Murders
By Anthony Horowitz
Publisher: Orion/Hachette
Pages: 258

Excerpt of Anthony Horowitz’s the House Of Silk
‘Influenza is unpleasant,’ Sherlock Holmes remarked, ‘but you are right in thinking that, with your wife’s help, the child will recover soon.’

‘I very much hope so,’ I replied, then stopped and gazed at him in wide-eyed astonishment. My tea had been halfway to my lips but I returned it to the table with such force that the cup and the saucer almost parted company. ‘But for heaven’s sake, Holmes!’ I exclaimed. ‘You have taken the very thoughts from my head. I swear I have not uttered a word about the child nor his illness. You know that my wife is away – that much you might have deduced from my presence here. But I have not yet mentioned to you the reason for her absence and I am certain that there has been nothing in my behaviour that could have given you any clue.’

It was in the last days of November, the year 1890, when this exchange took place. London was in the grip of a merciless winter, the streets so cold that the very gas lamps seemed frozen solid and what little light they gave out subsumed by the endless fog. Outside, people drifted along the pavements like ghosts, with their heads bowed and their faces covered, while the growlers rattled past, their horses anxious to be home. And I was glad to be in, with a fire blazing in the hearth, the familiar smell of tobacco in the air and – for all the clutter and chaos with which my friend chose to surround himself – a sense that everything was in its right place.

I had telegraphed my intention to take up my old room and stay with Holmes for a short while, and I had been delighted to receive his acquiescence by return. My practice could manage without me. I was temporarily alone. And I had it in mind to watch over my friend until I was certain that he was fully restored to health. For Holmes had deliberately starved himself for three days and three nights, taking neither food nor water, in order to persuade a particularly cruel and vengeful adversary that he was close to death. The ruse had succeeded triumphantly, and the man was now in the capable hands of Inspector Morton of the Yard. But I was still concerned about the strain that Holmes had placed upon himself and thought it advisable to keep an eye on him until his metabolism was fully restored.

I was therefore glad to see him enjoying a large plate of scones with violet honey and cream, along with a pound cake and tea, all of which Mrs Hudson had carried in on a tray and served for the two of us. Holmes did seem to be on the mend, lying at ease in his big armchair, wearing his dressing gown and with his feet stretched out in front of the fire. He had always been of a distinctly lean and even cadaverous physique, those sharp eyes accentuated by his aquiline nose, but at least there was some colour in his skin and everything about his voice and manner pronounced him to be very much his old self.

He had greeted me warmly, and as I took my place opposite him, I felt the strange sensation that I was awakening from a dream. It was as if the last two years had never happened, that I had never met my beloved Mary, married her and moved to our home in Kensington, purchased with the proceeds of the Agra pearls. I could have still been a bachelor, living here with Holmes, sharing with him the excitement of the chase and the unravelling of yet another mystery.

And it occurred to me that he might well have preferred it thus. Holmes spoke seldom about my domestic arrangements. He had been abroad at the time of my wedding and it had occurred to me then that it might not have been entirely a coincidence. It would be unfair to say that the entire subject of my marriage was forbidden, but there was an unspoken agreement that we would not discuss it at any length. My happiness and contentment were evident to Holmes, and he was generous enough not to begrudge it. When I had first arrived, he had asked after Mrs Watson. But he had not requested any further information and I had certainly provided none, making his remarks all the more unfathomable.

Anuradha Prasad’s book, Coming Back Home, is set against a showbiz backdrop and tells the story of a young woman who sees the best and worst of what is on offer. The synopsis reads: “Arpita is on top of the world! After all she was the fresh face of Ponds India and had snubbed the casting couch of Bollywood to land a Leading role in the small screen’s most popular channel. Life never looked more beautiful! Riku is a small town man with handsome looks and big-time Bollywood dreams. He has no ethics and is raring to make it at any cost! Unable to bag big movies as a main lead he ends up accepting a romantic role opposite Arpita on small screen. Betrayed by her own innocence, she finds herself abandoned by her dream man and cannot fathom which is more painful? Whether her failed relationship or her vanishing career! Riku makes it to the dizzying heights of stardom after leaving her. Beaten and broken Arpita has to make it again to even exist in a ruthless industry that only celebrates success. It is a savage ordeal even to have a roof over her head and two square meals! What will happen to her now? Will god punish her forever for making one wrong choice? Will she die in poverty alone? Or fulfill the dreams that she had set out for? One person must trust her to give her a chance. One opportunity must appear to raise her again! Coming Back Home - will carry you through a roller - coaster ride, yet keep you well grounded for inspiration.

Coming Back Home
By Anuradha Prasad
Publisher: Leadstart
Pages: 303

Manoj Jain’s second book is set in a health centre. According to the synopsis, : "Now look at the person in the mirror and tell her that you love her."   Sanjaneka stared and stared, unable to utter the simple words aloud.  Why is Sanjaneka unable to love herself? What past is she running away from?  How does an Uber ride help Samar to save his marriage? Why does the dull moonlight of a gibbous moon trouble Varun so much?  Three lives. One Utopian centre. The Total Holistic Centre (The THC) welcomes the broken and those looking for closure through its doors and works its magic to return them to the world fulfilled. This is the story of these three troubled souls who seek solace at the centre, indulge in its unusual treatment and find the cures to their ailments in surprising places.  A book on loss, longing and changing circumstances, The THC dives into uncomfortable topics that are usually swept under the rug: fragile relationships, deteriorating marriages, addictions, impotence, and the delicate bond between fathers and sons. Welcome to the THC .”

THC: Under The Gibbous Moon
By Manoj Jain
Publisher Notion Press
Pages:  200

Reader’s Recommendation

Champ is the lovely story of Champion, a cocker spaniel who enters the lives of a wonderful family and brings with him an abundance of love, laughter and joy. This book is for the old and the young alike and also for those who adore dogs and those who dont,but most importantly it plays a very important role if one is planning to add a pet to their family. The book is a humorous account of Champ right from the time he was a pup till he grows up. Champ is a dog with a will and mind of his own, and his adventures and misdemeanours recounted in the book will bring both a smile to the readers face and a tear to some eyes. In short the book is a classy narration of a spunky and feisty little cocker spaniel who was loved and adored  by everyone who got to know him. The author of the book, Pushpa Palat, is an established writer having written books on a variety of subjects with several leading publication houses. The entire proceeds of the book is donated to the NGO The Welfare of Street Dogs that cares for neglected street dogs in Mumbai.

Champ My Favourite Child
By Pushpa Palat
Pages: 173

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