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Book Nook - 25-09-2017

Monday, September 25, 2017
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

The Girl Is Back Again
Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson created in Lisbeth Salander a heroine for our age—a young woman who rose above her horrific past to become virtually indestructible, both physically and mentally.

The first book, The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo became an instant international bestseller, followed by The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. Larsson died tragically young  in 2004, after finishing three books that make up the Millennium Trilogy, but it would be a shame to kill of his characters too, so his estate decided to pick David Lagercratnz to continue the series starring Salander and the investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist.

Salander’s hacking and martial arts skills came to Blomkvist’s aid many times in his journalistic career and saved the magazine he works for, Millennium, from shutting down. He is one of the few men she trusts and he feels protective towards her.

The first book by Lagercratnz, The Girl In The Spider’s Web was as intricately plotted and written with the same energy and chutzpah as Larsson’s work. The second, The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye is out now, and happy as fans are to have Salander back, the main grouse is that there isn’t enough of her in the book.

In this novel, Salander is in jail for a flimsy reason, to do with her shenanigans in the last one, in which she had saved the life of an autistic child. Having suffered an abusive childhood, she cannot take injustice or victimization of the weak, which is why she takes on the prison bully Benito (who named herself after Mussollini) and the entire system, because they torture a Bangladeshi prisoner, Faria Kazi.

Faria’s story of oppression by her strictly Islamist family is one of the main plots of The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye; the other has to do with an awful genetic experiment conducted in the past on racial minorities,  in which Lisbeth Salander also suffered.  Her origins story runs somewhat parallel to that of twins Leo and Daniel.

When Salander’s old and ill mentor Holger Palmgren is murdered in his own home, Blomkvist and she try to unravel the mystery that involves evil scientists and a kill-all-witnesses kind of cover-up.

The book is readable alright, but has too many subplots, too many flashbacks (why is Blomkvist’s past love life of interest to the reader?) and Lisbeth Salander not at her Amazonian best, though, of course even in prison, she manages to reach a computer and that makes her nearly invincible. But she does not have a villain worth fighting with, and then, she gets her ribs kicked in twice, instead of causing the other party equal damage.

Let’s hope the next book places her right back in the spotlight where she belongs.
 
The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye
By David Lagercrantz (Translated by George Goulding)
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 362


Excerpt of The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye
LISBETH SALANDER WAS ON HER WAY BACK TO HER CELLfrom the gym and the showers when she was stopped in the corridor by the warden. Alvar Olsen was blathering on about something, gesticulating wildly and waving a set of papers. But Salander could not hear a word he said. It was 7:30 p.m.

That was the most dangerous time at Flodberga Prison. Seven-thirty p.m. was when the daily freight train thundered past; the walls shook and keys rattled and the place smelled of sweat and perfume. All the worst abuses took place then, masked by the racket from the railway and in the general confusion just before the cell doors were shut. Salander always let her gaze wander back and forth over the unit at this time of day and it was probably no coincidence that she caught sight of Faria Kazi.

Faria was young and beautiful, from Bangladesh, and she was sitting in her cell. From where Salander and Olsen stood, all Salander could see was her face.
Someone was slapping Faria. Her head kept jerking from side to side, though the blows were not that hard—there was something almost routine about them. It was clear from Faria’s humiliated expression that the abuse had been going on for a long time and had broken her will to resist.

No hands were raised to try to stop the slapping, and in Faria’s eyes there was no indication of surprise, only a mute, dull fear. This terror was part of her life. Salander could see that just by studying her face, and it matched what she had observed during her weeks at the prison.

“Will you look at that,” she said, pointing into Faria’s cell.

But by the time Olsen had turned to look, it was over. Salander disappeared into her own cell and closed the door. She could hear voices and muffled laughter in the corridor and outside the freight train clanging by, shaking the walls. She stood in front of the shiny washbasin and narrow bed, the bookshelf and desk strewn with pages of her quantum mechanical calculations. Did she feel like doing more work on loop quantum gravity theory? She realized she was holding something and looked down at her hand.

It was the same sheaf of papers that Olsen had been waving around, and that did, after all, make her a little curious. But it was some sort of rubbish with coffee cup rings all over the cover page: an intelligence test. Ridiculous. She hated to be prodded and measured.

She dropped the papers which spread like a fan on the concrete floor. For a brief moment they vanished from her mind as her thoughts went back to Faria Kazi. Salander had not seen who was hitting her. But she knew perfectly well who it was. Although at first prison life had not interested Salander, reluctantly she had been drawn in, decoding the visible and invisible signals one by one. By now she understood who called the shots.

This was called the B Unit, the secure section. It was considered the safest place in the institution, and to a visitor that might have been how it seemed. There were more guards, more controls and more rehabilitation programmes here than anywhere else in the prison. But anyone who took a closer look would realize there was something rotten about the place. The guards put on an act, exuding authority, and they even pretended to care. But in fact they were cowards who had lost control, and they had ceded power to their chief antagonists, gang leader Benito Andersson and her mob.

During the day Benito kept a low profile and behaved like a model prisoner, but after the evening meal, when the inmates could exercise or receive visits, she took over. At this time of day her reign of terror was uncontested, just before the doors were locked for the night. As the prisoners roamed between cells, making threats and promises in whispered tones, Benito’s gang kept to one side, their victims to the other.

 

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Robin Cook is to medical thrillers what John Grisham is to the law.  Ever since he hit the bestseller lists in 1977 with the truly chilling Coma, he has churned out 35-odd books set against a medical backdrop, and picking holes in the so-called ‘noble profession.’

The title of his latest, Charlatans, is self-explanatory; the novel opens with the detailed preparation for an operation at the prestigious and state-of-the-art Boston Memorial Hospital. The surgery was supposed to be routine, but the patient dies on the operating table. The arrogant, high-flying surgeon, Dr. William Mason, blames the anesthesiologist, Dr Ava London, and she points fingers at him. But when three such deaths occur, there is cause for suspicion. An ambitious young chief surgery resident, Dr. Noah Rothauser, is caught in the crossfire, when he has to investigate the deaths.

He is attracted to Ava, but also finds that her lifestyle is way more lavish than a doctor could afford, and there are other strange things about her, like her obsession with social media under assumed names. Turns out she works as a lobbyist for the Nutritional Supplement Council, and the plot gets more complex and dangerous.

The novel, like all of Cook’s work, makes valid points about medical malpractice, but the books, too high on procedure and jargon, are getting increasing tough to get through, without some speed-reading.  But, at least they are eye-openers in one way of another. There are good doctors, and then there are the greedy and evil kind.
 
Charlatans
By Robin Cook
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 448

 

Excerpt of Charlatans
Due to the seasonal tilt of the earth’s axis, the dawn of June 27 came swiftly to Boston, Massachusetts, in sharp contrast to mornings in the dead of winter when the sun’s arc was low in the southern sky. Starting at 4.24 a.m., progressively bright summer light quickly filled the streets of the Italianate North End, the narrow byways of elegant Beacon Hill, and the broad boulevards of stately Back Bay. At exactly 5.09 a.m. the sun’s disc appeared at the horizon out over the Atlantic Ocean and began its steady rise into a cloudless early-morning sky.

Of the varying spires of the Boston Memorial Hospital, known as the BMH, the first to catch the golden rays was the very top of the central, twenty-one-story Stanhope Pavilion. This modern glass tower was the newest addition to the mishmash of structures comprising the famous tertiary-care Harvard teaching hospital that overlooked the Boston Harbor. Its clean silhouette was strikingly different from the older, low-rise, red-brick buildings dating back more than a hundred and fifty years.

The state-of-the-art Stanhope Pavilion had every modern hospital accoutrement, including a suite of twenty-four of the most up-to-date operating rooms, called “Hybrid ORs of the Future.” Each bristled with high tech and looked like it had been designed as a set for a Star Trek movie, far different from the old standard operating rooms. The entire suite was oriented in two radii of twelve rooms around two central command stations. Windows provided direct visual contact of each OR interior by OR supervisors to augment closed-circuit TV monitors.

Within each of these new hybrid ORs, capable of supporting a wide variety of surgical procedures, from brain surgery to complicated heart surgery to routine knee replacement, a number of large and exquisitely adjustable utility booms hung from the ceiling and supported various types of state-of-the-art medical technology. The suspension system allowed all the equipment to be instantly available yet kept the floor open to maximize movement of the personnel and speed up the transition between cases. One boom supported the anesthesia station, another included a heart-lung perfusion system, a third had an operating microscope, and a final C-shaped boom supported a biplane digital imaging and navigating system that used a combination of infrared light and X-rays to provide real-time three-dimensional images of internal human structure. Each OR also had multiple banks of high-definition video screens plugged into the hospital’s clinical information system so that patient data and medical images such as x-rays and sonograms could be displayed instantaneously by voice command.

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