Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

Stieg Larsson has presented a never-before insight into the psychology of the characters of a crime novel, not to mention an exceptional portrayal of gender relationships in Sweden.

Mikael Blomkvist, investigative financial journalist, who for most of the story appears to be the hero (unless you’ve read the reviews first, according to which Lisbeth Salander, delinquent researcher, is the main protagonist), is recruited by leading industrialist Henrik Vanger for a seemingly improbable task—find out what happened to his niece who went missing more than thirty years ago. Blomkvist, with Lisbeth’s help, meticulously uncovers subtle leads that ultimately result in a stunning outcome. He has to open a whole consignment of Pandora’s boxes on the way and deal with a large family of oddballs who would put a prime-time soap opera to shame. The way the unpredictable Lisbeth goes about her business leaves you in awe.

However, “Kalle” Blomkvist unwittingly comes across as a wannabe James Bond who beds practically every other woman that he bumps into, leaving you to speculate how much Larsson (who was an activist-journalist) saw of himself in his hero. At the beginning of each part, there are some purported statistics about sexual excesses committed against Swedish women. I would venture to say that if the behaviour of the average Swedish woman resembles that of the female characters of this book, then they’re probably asking for it. Further, the story is unnecessarily padded in places with descriptions of walks, meals and sleep.

There is a financial/corporate intrigue angle ripe with possibilities but Larsson fails to exploit it. When it comes to gathering critical information, the methods depicted are a bit fanciful—Lisbeth simply hacks into people’s computers and proceeds to gain absolute control. Practically speaking, installing a simple key-logger in your coworker’s PC is an uphill task, let alone remotely manipulate laptops of people to whom you’re not connected in any way.

A fresh approach to a stale crime, but doesn’t live up to the hype.


Tarquin Hall announces his arrival on the Crime Writers scene with a superbly smooth-paced mystery. Modern day India is splendidly portrayed with rich Punjabi traditions expertly depicted in detective Vish Puri’s lifestyle.

Puri, aka Chubby, is a presumptuous foodie who heads Most Private Investigators with a controlling streak. His sidekicks are efficient and have amusing names like Handbrake, Facecream and Tubelight. They are both awed and wary of their “Boss” at the same time. Puri’s modus operandi of investigation involves sticking to the basics and going after his prey with pitbull-like determination. A thorough student of India’s age-old detection techniques formulated by Chanakya (administrator par excellence of the Maurya dynasty, 300 BC), Puri is not impressed by Johnny-come-lately detectives like Sherlock Holmes.

The mystery itself unfolds and is cracked in a way that is not typical of present-day Western novels. The primary reason is the differences in interaction amongst the primary characters in accordance with prevalent norms of Indian society. The average Westerner might find a throwback to the days when butlers, helps and cooks were commonplace while the story is actually set in the contemporary and progressive suburbs of New Delhi. With his client in jail, the police as his opponents and the media playing truant, Puri methodically puts together each piece of the puzzle and succeeds in maintaining his record of never leaving a case unsolved.

Hall does a commendable job of trying to weave multiple parallel stories, one involving an attempt on Puri’s life and the other concerning a matrimonial investigation (Puri’s flagship line of business), alongside the main plot, Mortimer-style. Vish Puri comes across as a healthy combination of Poirot and Rumpole. Let’s hope that he continues to milk his newfound market for probing serious crime.