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Book Nook - 25-07-2016

Monday, July 25, 2016

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 [email protected]

The Suicide Prince Strikes
End of Watch is Stephen King’s fifty-fifth novel (hat tip) and the third of the Bill Hodges trilogy.

In the first book, Mr Mercedes, a mentally-disturbed man, Brady Hartsfield, drives a stolen Mercedes into a crowd of job seekers, who had queued up at the City Centre on a cold morning. He is clever enough not to be caught, which bothers the cop, Bill Hodges, who retired with an unsolved case on his head.

Now, living on his own, with nothing to do and no friends, Hodges starts feeling depressed. He is forced out of his self-pitying idleness by the Brady—a computer wiz—who taunts and goads Hodges into trying to catch him. He deviously pushes the hapless owner of the Mercedes to commit suicide by messing with her computer, and also plants thoughts of suicide into Hodges’s mind.

Then, Brady tries to commit mass murder at a stadium full of kids who have come to watch a popular boy band perform. He intends to do that by blowing himself up with a home-rigged bomb, but Hodges and his companions, Jerome Robinson and Holly Gibney foil his plans. Holly whacks Brady on the head with a heavy object, leading to his being hospitalized in a vegetative state.

In the second book, Finders Keepers, Hodges has recovered from a heart attack suffered during the stadium attack and set up a detective agency with Holly, who is a “bundle of nervous tics and strange associations” but fiercely devoted to the older man, and very fond of young Jerome. A case connected to the first book turns up; Hodges who goes to visit Brady regularly is convinced he is faking mental damage to avoid trial for his crimes. The nurses at the hospital are scared of Brady, because he makes strange things happen through telekinesis.

In End Of Watch, the full extent of Brady’s diabolical powers are unleashed. An unscrupulous doctor, Felix Babineau, experiments on Brady with some drugs which give the criminal supernatural abilities that the doctor is unable to control, and which lead his downfall. Brady’s damaged brain gets fully functional, though he continues to pretend being catatonic. But with the help a defunct electronic gadget called Zappit, which he has contrived to place with survivors of the foiled concert attack, and his former co-worker, Freddi, he triggers off a spate of suicides.

Alarm Bells ring in the Hodges camp when Bill’s old partner, Pete Huntley, tells him about a fresh case of murder-suicide linked to the Mercedes massacre, and then Jerome’s cheerful kid sister Barbara tries to kill herself. Hodges, pushing seventy and low on energy, discovers he has pancreatic cancer, and his precarious health adds a layer of urgency and tension to the proceedings.  

If Hodges and Holly catch on to Brady’s modus operandi very soon, the “architect of suicide” never underestimates his nemesis and always skips one step ahead of them. The two have to trace and stop Brady themselves, because nobody will believe what he has been up to and how. And by the time, they can convince the cops, Brady will have succeeded in his evil plot.

The friendship between the young and moviestar handsome African American Jerome, the middle-aged eccentric Holly and the old cop is suffused with a rare warmth, and makes the reader wish the series would go on for a few books more.

Stephen King’s mastery over the thriller makes the story totally plausible and hence, very scary.  The book can be a standalone read, but it is better to read all three books for full impact—the first being arguably the best.

End Of Watch
By Stephen King
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 368

Excerpt of End Of Watch
Bill Hodges isn’t the only one who took an instant dislike to Becky Helmington’s replacement. The nurses and orderlies who work in the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic call it the Bucket, as in Brain Bucket, and before long Ruth Scapelli has become known as Nurse Ratched. By the end of her third month, she has gotten three nurses transferred for various small infractions, and one orderly fired for smoking in a supply closet. She has banned certain colorful uniforms as “too distracting” or “too suggestive.”

The doctors like her, though. They find her swift and competent. With the patients she is also swift and competent, but she’s cold, and there’s an undertone of contempt there, as well. She will not allow even the most cataclysmically injured of them to be called a gork or a burn or a wipeout, at least not in her hearing, but she has a certain attitude.

“She knows her stuff,” one nurse said to another in the break room not long after Scapelli took up her duties. “No argument about that, but there’s something missing.”

The other nurse was a thirty-year veteran who had seen it all. She considered, then said one word…but it was le mot juste. “Mercy.” Scapelli never exhibits coldness or contempt when she accompanies Felix Babineau, the head of Neuro, on his rounds, and he probably wouldn’t notice if she did. Some of the other doctors have noticed, but few pay any mind; the doings of such lesser beings as nurses—even head nurses—are far below their lordly gaze.

It is as if Scapelli feels that, no matter what is wrong with them, the patients of the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic must bear part of the responsibility for their current condition, and if they only tried harder, they would surely regain at least some of their faculties. She does her job, though, and for the most part she does it well, perhaps better than Becky Helmington, who was far better liked. If told this, Scapelli would have said she was not here to be liked. She was here to care for her patients, end of story, full stop.

There is, however, one long-term patient in the Bucket whom she hates. That patient is Brady Hartsfield. It isn’t because she had a friend or relative who was hurt or killed at City Center; it’s because she thinks he’s shamming. Avoiding the punishment he so richly deserves. Mostly she stays away and lets other staff members deal with him, because just seeing him often infuses her with a daylong rage that the system should be so easily gamed by this vile creature. She stays away for another reason, too: she doesn’t entirely trust herself when she’s in his room. On two occasions she has done something. The kind of thing that, were it discovered, might result in her being the one fired. But on this early January after - noon, just as Hodges and Holly are finishing their lunch, she is drawn down to Room 217 as if by an invisible cable. Only this morning she was forced to go in there, because Dr. Babineau insists she accompany him on rounds, and Brady is his star patient. He marvels at how far Brady has come.

“He should never have emerged from his coma at all,” Babineau told her shortly after she came on staff at the Bucket. He’s a cold fish, but when he speaks of Brady he becomes almost jolly. “And look at him now! He’s able to walk short distances—with help, I grant you—he can feed himself, and he can respond either verbally or with signs to simple questions.”

He’s also prone to poking himself in the eye with his fork, Ruth Scapelli could have added (but doesn’t), and his verbal responses all sound like wah-wah and gub-gub to her. Then there’s the matter of waste. Put a Depends on him and he holds it. Take it off, and he urinates in his bed, regular as clockwork. Defecates in it, if he can. It’s as if he knows. She believes he does know.

Something else he knows—of this there can be no doubt—is that Scapelli doesn’t like him. This very morning, after the exam was finished and Dr. Babineau was washing his hands in the en suite bathroom, Brady raised his head to look at her and lifted one hand to his chest. He curled it into a loose, trembling fist. From it his middle finger slowly extended.

At first Scapelli could barely comprehend what she was seeing: Brady Hartsfield, giving her the finger. Then, as she heard the water go off in the bathroom, two buttons popped from the front of her uniform, exposing the center of her sturdy Playtex 18-Hour Comfort Strap Bra. She doesn’t believe the rumors she’s heard about this waste of humanity, refuses to believe them, but then…

He smiled at her. Grinned at her.

Also Received
Sanjay Chitranshi’s Dalits Dynasty And She is a political satire right out of media headlines, with thinly disguised characters based on real politicians. A Dalit woman with ambition and acumen sets out to challenge the established dynasty-based political order, and want to take the leap from being the chief minister of a north Indian state to the prime minister of the country. No need to even read between the lines.

The synopsis states, “For the first time in the history of the nation, a Dalit woman leader has captured the seat of power in the most populous and politically most important state. And decades after the independence, the Dalits are feeling hopeful of justice and their empowerment. An old political party, controlled by a powerful dynasty that has ruled the country most of the years since the independence, is facing the charges of massive corruption. A powerful movement against corruption has erupted under an old social-activist, hijacked by his vocal, ambitious upper-caste supporters is spreading over the entire country, taking the political class by surprise. A small section of the Dalits and tribal, disgruntled with the status-quo and the feudal power-structure, while the seats of power change from one set of looters to another have embraced Maoism and are preparing for an armed revolution. Will the marginalised sections of the society get justice and be empowered under the rule of a Dalit leader? Will the movement against corruption succeed? Will the Maoist succeed in an armed revolution? Finally, will the chance meeting of so many strong socio-political currents help the nation usher in a new beginning?”

Dalits Dynasty And She
By Sanjay Chitranshi
Publisher: Leadstart
Pages: 270

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