3 Mystery Thrillers I Read Recently

I have been reading a lot recently - fiction of course- novels of mystery and suspense. For when the real world is in chaos and devoid of good news and we are cocooned inside the safety of our houses, what else can one turn to but fiction. Fiction soothes, gives solace to the mind agitated with the current times and news and social media updates. 

Mystery is my go-to genre in novels. I am always hunting for awesome thrillers, that build up the suspense and revelation towards the end is just mind-blowing. But when you read a lot in one genre, books tend to disappoint most of the times. So now-a-days I rely on the bookstagram community - I save the posts as 'to-read' for future reference. And following are the three of them that I read recently.

1. Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

I cannot swallow anything too dark, even murder mysteries. Crime fiction do not suit me, unless it is just about solving them - the investigator's point of view instead of the killer's. I shudder if by mistake I read any of the later ones. But generally speaking, I would pick an Agatha-Christie-like murder mystery any day. It always makes for a cozy read in a rainy day, because it is not about the gruesome act - rather it is about solving it - the puzzle- and also towards the end of the book what was amiss in the fictional world is set right - murder mystery is solved - justice is served - the characters get their closure. So all ends well. 

Reading the book description of this particular book piqued my interest, and I was sold completely after reading Resh's review in her newsletters. I love her newsletters and the books that she recommends. I confess, I came across all three books in this list through her newsletters first, and then from the insta book bloggers.

Malcolm Kershaw, the owner of the Old Devils Bookstore in Boston had compiled a list of the most unsolvable murders as per him in crime fiction, years ago in a blog post. Years later an FBI agent comes questioning him about a series of crimes, strangely similar to the ones listed in that post. Some serial killer is on the run, and he's enacting crime novels in real life, that too exactly those in the Kershaw's list. 

It involved old bookstores, copy cat murders resembling book plots, had enough thrilling plot twists and a lot of spoilers of decades old mystery novels. And the book has a lot of other fiction recommendations.  

Rating - 3.5/5

2. The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

Firstly, it is a translated fiction from Japan, so there's japanese culture, old world charm, rituals, family dynamics and a peep into village life in Japan countryside. Secondly, it is a 'classic locked-room' murder mystery - the murderer has no way out of the room after the act but manages to escape. It is the height of puzzle and requires brains to solve. And the investigator is clever enough to reach the conclusion who the culprit is. Reason enough to pick it up. I leave the blurb here - 

"In the winter of 1937, the village of Okamura is abuzz with excitement over the forthcoming wedding of a son of the grand Ichiyanagi family. But amid the gossip over the approaching festivities, there is also a worrying rumour - it seems a sinister masked man has been asking questions around the village.
Then, on the night of the wedding, the Ichiyanagi household are woken by a terrible scream, followed by the sound of eerie music. Death has come to Okamura, leaving no trace but a bloody samurai sword, thrust into the pristine snow outside the house. Soon, amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi is on the scene to investigate what will become a legendary murder case, but can this scruffy sleuth solve a seemingly impossible crime?"

I kept guessing till the end, successfully predicting some twists, and red-herrings. Enjoyed the read.

Rating - 3.5/5

3. Girl Made of Gold 

This one's based in Thanjavur, India in 1920s, in the old world of temples, rituals, zamindaars, devadasis, art and culture and truth be told - superstitions and temple prostitution. It is a mystery thriller as well, but we are not sure of murder -it's a case of disappearance. Kanaka - the young devadasi disappears overnight, just before her dedication ceremony and in her stead a golden statue is found near the Shiva linga in the womb house of the temple - an almost replica with braided hair, dance-like facial expressions, bend with hands together in offering. Many believe Kanaka has turned herself into gold and start offering her flowers, taking her blessing and planning the construction of a separate temple for Kanaka devi. And some are determined to search for her, while some others hold on to their knowledge and secrets that might serve as clues. 

It is a slow-burn thriller, the plot building up slowly through various character's perspectives. The unimportant side characters narrate their version first, followed by those directly concerned and involved with Kanaka. I liked the narrative - its a lot different from usual novels - it reminded me of Sharanya Manivannan's Queen of the Jasmine County, and Janice Pariat's Nine Chambered Heart. It is more than just the mystery - it is about the life of devadasi's then - the customs, the trials and tribulations that they go through from such a young age - it's about pursuing love outside of their livelihood, and freedom from the 'pratha' of temple prostitution. It's a very humane story and not just about the disappearance. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and it made me read a lot more articles about devadasis in south - seems like their degraded societal status over the centuries is different from that of the 'Maharis' in Jagannath temple, Shrikshetra Puri. But again I am not sure, and it was new information for me - through this book. Much recommended.

Rating - 4.25/5

Until next time .. 


Queeristan by Parmesh Sahani

  Queeristan (Amazon Link) Thanks to Audible Free Trial I listened to this amazing non-fiction on LGBTQ inclusion in Indian workplaces. Author Parmesh Sahani identifies as gay Indian, working closely with Godrej higher management and employees for years to create an inclusive workplace, both legally and in spirit. This book is a result of those years of experience, research, collaboration with individuals from difference spectrum of the society and organizations who has successfully transitioned into a queer friendly one.   Indian history is inclusive. From the Khajuraho temple architectures, to Konark to the Rig Veda, there is existing proofs even 2000 years ago of Indian inclusiveness of queer. It’s the draconian British law that criminalised it, which was scraped in 2009, came into effect once again following a sad judgement in 2013 and eventually was scraped off for good in 2018. I am in awe of the lawyers who fought this legal battle- colleagues and partners – Arundhati Katju

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