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Book Nook - 23-07-2018

Monday, July 23, 2018
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 adc.booknook@gmail.com

King Is Zing
After a few crime thrillers and sci-fi, Stephen King returns to what he used to do best—horror. His latest, The Outsider starts out being a straightforward police procedural, with witness interviews reproduced as is; then it takes a sharp turn into the supernatural, brings back the appealing OCD-stricken, movie buff Holly Gibney from his Bill Hodges Trilogy, and the fan cannot ask for more.

The close knit community of Flint City is shocked out of its wits when the badly mutilated body of a little boy is found in the park. All fingers and forensic evidence point towards popular teacher and baseball coach, Terry Maitland.  So enraged are the cops at the severity of the crime, that they arrest Terry in the middle of a game, in front of the entire stadium of spectators, including the man’s wife Marcy and two young daughters. The men responsible for this hasty arrest are the District Attorney Bill Samuels and Detective Ralph Anderson.

Terry Maitland has a cast iron alibi—he was in another town with a bunch of fellow teachers and attended a talk by thriller writer Harlan Coben (a nice hat-tip from one master to another). The cops are completely baffled and worried, because if Terry is proved innocent, their jobs are on the line, plus they face the certainty of a lawsuit from the Maitland family.

Samuels (with his comical cowlick) has no pangs of conscience, but Anderson, a good-hearted family man (his relationship with his wife Jeannie is his strength), is gutted by the possibility of having wronged Terry.  Marcy gets her husband’s lawyer friend Howard Gold to come to her help; he hires investigator Alec Pelley to work on the case, and he calls Holly Gibney.

Holly now runs the detective agency, Finders Keepers, started by her mentor Bill Hodges, who is dead of cancer and she misses him acutely. It is Holly who starts to pull at the thread that unravels the scientific certainty that a man cannot be at two places at the same time; Holly knows better because she had encountered pure evil in the mass murderer known as the Mercedes Killer (from the Bill HodgesTrilogy). She gives the unknown but satanic killer the name—The Outsider. Her encyclopedic movie knowledge leads her to the solution out of Mexican folklore, seconded by cop, Yunel Sablo, who comes from Mexico.

This sets Anderson and his team on a chase to prevent the killer from picking another innocent victim and striking again.

King builds up horror and suspense in layers, and there’s a tense, heart-stopping action sequence towards the end. Holly Gibney is a marvelous creation, but King’s female characters like Marcy, Jeannie and the redoubtable old dame Lovie Ann Bolton (who helps with the case to protect her son), are all strong, wise and immensely likeable. Pick up this book and be prepared to stay up till the last page is turned.

The Outsider
By Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 576

 

Conspiracy Theory
The tribute to Harlan Coben in The Outsider, is quite deserved. The creator of the bestselling Myron Bolitar  and Mickey Bolitar (for young readers) series and some standalone thrillers, has legions of fans among readers of crime fiction.

His last novel, Don’t Let Go is a tensely plotted story that moves from the present to the past and envelops a very scary conspiracy that is right out of news headlines.
New Jersey cop Napolean ‘Nap’ Dumas had lost his twin brother Leo fifteen years ago, when the young man  and his girlfriend Diana were run over by a train; Nap’s own girlfriend Maura had disappeared the same night, and he still misses her. There was no rational explanation for how Leo and Diana even landed up on the tracks where they were killed, or why Maura skipped town.

Nap was so shattered by those events that he talks to his dead brother and takes great pains to remain under the radar in the small community when a single man would be viewed with suspicion. As a cop, however, he takes risks and is not averse to bending a few rules.

Years later, suddenly, Maura’s fingerprints are found in a car that was being driven by an off-duty cop Rex Canton, who was shot dead. What sets alarms ringing in Nap’s head is that Leo, Diana, Rex and Maura were all members of their school’s Conspiracy Club, which seemed like a harmless fun activity till they found out something they were not meant to know. Of the two other members of the Club, Hank and Beth, who survived what seems to have been an attempt to wipe out the group, one is murdered and the other goes missing. Nap figures that they may have stumbled upon a secret that some powerful forces want to keep under wraps and have the means to eliminate anyone who threatens them. An abandoned military base in the town seems to hold the answers, and Nap goes out on a limb to reach the truth, even if it matters to nobody but himself.

The answer may seem a bit far-fetched, but Coben writes in a foreword, that this book was inspired by a local legend in suburban New Jersey, where he grew up, which turned out to be true. Enough to give nightmares to the sanest of readers.

Don't Let Go
By Harlan Coben
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 400

 

Excerpt of Don’t Let Go
Daisy wore a clingy black dress with a neckline so deep it could tutor philosophy.

She spotted the mark sitting at the end of the bar, wearing a pinstripe gray suit. Hmm. The guy was old enough to be her dad. That might make it more difficult for her to make her play, but then again, it might not. You never knew with the old guys. Some of them, especially the recent divorcees, were all too ready to preen and prove they still got it, even if they never had it in the first place.

The mark peered into the glass of whiskey in front of him as though he were a gypsy with a crystal ball. Especially if they never had it in the first place.

As Daisy sauntered across the room, she could feel the eyes of the male patrons crawling down her bare legs like earthworms. When she reached the end of the bar, she made a mild production of lowering herself onto the stool next to him.

The mark peered into the glass of whiskey in front of him as though he were a gypsy with a crystal ball. She waited for him to turn toward her. He didn’t. Daisy studied his profile for a moment. His beard was heavy and gray. His nose was bulbous and putty-like, almost as though it were Hollywood silicon special effect. His hair was long, straggly, mop-like. Second marriage, Daisy figured. Second divorce in all probability. Dale Miller—that was the mark’s name—picked up his whiskey gently. He cradled it in both hands like it was an injured bird. “Hi,” Daisy said with a much practiced hair toss.

Miller’s eyes slid toward her. He looked her straight in the eye. She waited for his gaze to dip down the neckline—heck, even women did it with this dress—but they stayed on hers.

“Hello,” he replied. Then he turned back to his whiskey.

Daisy usually let the mark hit on her. That was her go-to technique. She said hi like this, she smiled, the guy asked whether he could buy her a drink. You know the deal. But Miller didn’t look in the mood to flirt. He took a deep swallow from his whiskey glass, then another.

That was good. The heavy drinking. That would make this easier.

“Is there something I can do for you?” he asked her.

Burly, Daisy thought. That was the word to describe him. Even in that pinstripe suit, Miller had that burly-biker-Vietnam-vet thing going on, his voice a low rasp. He was the kind of older guy Daisy found oddly sexy, though that was probably her legendary daddy issues rearing their insecure heads. Daisy liked men who made her feel safe.

It had been too long since she’d known one. Time to try another angle, Daisy thought.

“Do you mind if I just sit here with you?” Daisy leaned a little closer, working the cleavage a bit, and whispered. “There’s this guy...” Still, she would never tell him the truth.

“Is he bothering you?”

Sweet. He didn’t say it all macho poser like so many of the d-bags she had met along the way. Dale Miller said it calmly, matter-of-factly, chivalrously even—like a man who wanted to protect her.

“No, no. . . . not really.”

He started looking around the bar. “Which one is he?”

Daisy put a hand on his arm.

“It’s not a big deal. Really. I just . . . I feel safe here with you, okay?”

 

SHORT TAKES
Smart: The Digital Century is a fascinating survey of the Internet and how it has evolved differently in different countries under different circumstances. According to the synopsis, “Digitization is accelerating globalization tenfold. Social networks have gone mobile: telephone, television and towns have gone ‘smart’. How did China manage to create clones of Google, Facebook and YouTube, and build its own censored version of the Internet? How do Arab countries use social networks for their revolutions? Why is there no minister for communications in the US, and why does no one regulate the Internet there? From Silicon Valley to Tokyo, from South Africa to southern India, and all the way to Cuba and Gaza, this unprecedented investigation in the field covers the whole battle of the Internet and its future.

“Drawing on hundreds of interviews in about fifty countries, Frederic Martel examines the different ‘Internets’ on five continents. In so doing, he reveals that we are moving not only into a connected, globalized world, but also a territorialized one. Smart shows that the Internet has never been truly global, and that it will become increasingly local.”

Smart A Digital Century
by Frederic Martel
(translated by Sindhuja Veeraragavan)
Publisher: HarperCollins India
Pages: 432

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