Friday, September 30, 2016

Forgotten Book: The Rome Express by Arthur Griffiths

Call it the romance of the railways or whatever you like but mysteries set on trains hold a special fascination for me. So when I came across The Rome Express by Major Arthur Griffiths I was all eager to read it.






A soldier who fought in the Crimean war and who later became the Inspector of Prisons, Major Arthur Griffiths was also a prolific writer who wrote more than 60 books in his lifetime. The Rome Express, first published in 1896, begins with the approach of the train to Paris. However, things are not fine as the calls for the conductor go unheard. Finally he is found snoring heavily in his bunk and hardly awake goes about his duties in a dull, lethargic way. When his knocks on a compartment get no response, he enters it and finds to his horror that the occupant has been brutally murdered. Suspicion naturally falls on the other handful of people travelling in the same car. They include two Frenchmen: a salesman and an agent; two English brother: a general and a clergyman; an Italian detective; a countess and her maid who does a disappearing act.



The investigation is undertaken by M. Flocon, the chef of the Surete, a judge, and a commissary of police. The English general and the French officials are soon at odds with each other since the latter suspect the Countess while for the general it is inconceivable that a beautiful, aristocratic lady can do anything unsavoury.



The mystery is fairly simple to unravel but it is the humour- in the words exchanged between the chef and the general; in the bungling of the French officials; in the comments by the author - that gives the book its charm. If you are looking for something light and pleasurable to while away a couple of hours, this is the book for you. This is also the opinion of fellow-blogger Prashant whose delightful review can be read over here.




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First Line: The Rome Express, the direttissimo, or most direct, was approaching Paris one morning in March, when it became known to the occupants of the sleeping-car that there was something amiss, very much amiss, in the car.

Publication Details: London: Claremont Books, 1995.

First Published: 1896

Source: DSPL [823 G822V]


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Submitted for FFB @ Pattinase. Head over there for the other entries.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Two Non-Fictional Books

MAKING HISTORY, edited by Peter Lambert and Phillipp Schofield is an interesting look at history as a discipline. Divided into five parts, the book looks at how the way history has been viewed, written, and taught has evolved over the centuries. With postmodernism and deconstruction both challenging the notion of past as we thought it to be, the entire edifice of history has been shaken, so that it has become difficult to distinguish fact from fiction and even raised doubts over the authenticity of 'facts'. Some chapters of the book were extremely interesting but I didn't like the focus which was majorly on US, England, and Germany. There was nothing about the practice of history in Asia and I'd have loved to read about how history is being treated in Greece as Herodotus, known as the 'father of history' was a Greek.



First Line: This book is about how, when and why particular approaches to making history have emerged, established themselves, changes and even collapsed.

Editors: Peter Lambert and Phillipp Schofield

Pub. Details: London and NY: Routledge, 2006

First Published: 2004

Pages: 310

Source: CL


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With time being in short supply for me always, I thought it was time I read something on Time management and so picked up this book by Robert W. Bly.



The edition that I read was a trifle out-dated as per the technological advances but there were some very good tips including what I thought was the most important: that you don't stay in bed even for a second more. Other points regarding making lists, breaking your day into segments, avoiding procrastination were good too. Now, if only I can follow them....


First Line: The ability to work faster and get more done in less time isn't slavery, it's freedom.

Pub. Details: ND; Jaico, n.d

Pages: 168

Source: OTS






Thursday, September 22, 2016

Forgotten Books: Three Vintage Mysteries written under Pseudonyms

CASE OF THREE DETECTIVES

I hadn't heard of mystery writer Leo Bruce (pseudonym of writer Rupert Croft-Cooke) till I read an extract of his at some blog (sorry can't recall the name). The passage was hilarious and made me keen to read his works, especially the one featuring Sergeant Beef, and so I started with the first one in the series: Case for Three Detectives. A locked room mystery in which the wife of the host is found dead in a room, the book is a spoof on three popular detectives: Lord Peter Wimsey appears as Sir Simon Plimsoll, Hercule Poirot as Monsieur Amer Picon, and Father Brown, under the name of Monsignor Smith. All three detectives come up with ingenious solutions to the murder but it is the level-headed Sergeant Beef who gets the right answer. I found the book entertaining and would love to read more of Bruce and Beef.





First Line: I cannot pretend that there was anything sinister in the atmosphere that evening.

First Published: 1936

Source: http://booksofleobruce.blogspot.in/2014/06/case-for-three-detectives-chapter-one.html


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THE SHAKESPEARE MURDERS

A.G.Macdonell was a journalist and satirical novelist (best known for his work England, Their England) who also wrote crime novels under the pseudonym of Neil Gordon. His novel The Shakespeare Murders begins in an interesting manner. Young, suave, and none-too-scrupulous Peter Kerrigan sees a pickpocket pick the wallet of a shabby-looking man. Peter, coolly, steals the wallet but before returning it to its owner goes through the contents and finds a letter from the man's brother, John, which hints at getting a treasure worth a million pounds. Soon afterwards, Peter lands up at Marsh Manor where John had been working as a librarian and founds himself involved in murder, theft, and kidnapping. The book begins well but soon loses its plot.





First Line: One fine spring morning Peter Kerrigan was strolling casually along the Euston Road in the direction of King's Cross.

First Published: 1933

Source: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks16/1600231h.html



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PONIES AND MYSTERIES

Mary Gervaise is the pseudonym of Joan Mary Wayne Brown, a prolific writer who wrote over 70 books. Ponies and Mysteries is the fourth in her Georgie series which sees Geogie and her friends staying with the Daneforths. Georgie sees the eldest of the Daneforth children, Rollo, acting suspiciously around a jade horse at an exhibition. When the item is stolen soon afterwards, Georgie suspects that Rollo is involved in the theft. Juvenile fiction.




First Published: 1953

Source: Purchased last year.




Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Reading Challenges: 2 Old 1 New

Though, 2016 is almost three-quarters over, I am still signing up for challenges...



Carolyn @ RIEDEL FASCINATION  is hosting a brand new challenge called CELTIC COASTS in which we read literature pertaining to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Best of all, this is a challenge meant for discovering these places so there is no minimum requirement (though I guess you must read at least one book to qualify).



If you are interested, details can be found over here.

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And now from the Celts to the Anglo-Saxons. The British Books Challenge is the one I have always finished. And though there might be only three months or so left, I intend to finish it successfully this year too. 12 books is all it takes.


Details over here.


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Diversity on the Shelf is a challenge, I have always enjoyed doing. This year, I thought, it was not being hosted and rued the fact. But thankfully I was wrong. It is still being hosted albeit at a different blog. So I am signing up for shelf level 1 which means I'll be reading 1-6 books for the challenge.
 Here are the details if you too would like to sign-up.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Krantiveer Bhagat Singh: 'Abhyudaya' aur 'Bhavishya' (Ed) Chaman Lal




One of the things that I invariably do while cleaning cupboards etc. is read the newspapers lining the shelves. Of course it tells you how tardy you have been in the cleaning (once I found the newspapers were years old and belonging to the era when newspapers in India were still b&w with no colour photos!!!!!!!!!!!!) but it is also fun going thru those past headlines and remembering events that one had forgotten. So going through this book which has selections from two newspapers: Abhyudhya and Bhavishya was wonderful though the editorials and reports and coverage of the trial of Bhagat Singh and his comrades made for some heart-wrenching reading, esp. the reports of the atrocities being committed by the police on the young men were too painful to read.

Professor Chaman Lal has done a yeoman's service to the nation by bringing out this book. Reading it is like stepping back into that era when young men and women were ready to lay down their lives for the nation, when freedom was a much cherished objective, and when publishers, editors, reporters were ready to suffer for what they thought was the right thing to do. Highly recommended.

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First Line: 14 August, 1947 ko Hindostan naam ka mulk duniya ke nakshe se mit gaya aur uski jagah usi dharti par 'Pakistan' aur 'India' that is 'Bharat' (India, jise Bharat kehte hain) ke naam se chihit kiya gaya.

Editor: Chaman Lal

Pub Details: Allahabad: Lokbharti Prakashan, 2012

First Pub: 2012

Pages: 560

Source: CL [891.433 CH 357 KA]

Friday, August 19, 2016

Mystery Challenges

Things have been so haywire this year that I do not even know the challenges I have signed up for. So there I was thinking that I had signed up for two of my favourite challenges, only to realise that no, I haven't. Well, here I am, signing up for Vintage Mystery Cover Scavanger Hunt hosted
 @My Reader's Block and My Kind of Mystery @ Riedel Fascination. For the first one I aim to read 6 books in the Golden Age category while for the second I am opting for Secret Messages which means I'll be reading 5-10 mystery books.



If like me you have woken up late, follow the links above and join the challenges. Bev and Carolyn are fantastic hostesses. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

TERROR AND THE POSTCOLONIAL (Ed.) ELLEKE BOEHMER & STEPHEN MORTON



We live in a time of terror where the war has come right to our doorstops. Thus, it was interesting to read this collection of essays which looks at the hydra of terror as a lived experience whether in its real or literary form. Divided into three parts, many of the essays in this book were engaging though a few made difficult reading. The essay on Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay in which the writer discusses the prisons as spaces of exception made for some gripping reading as did Peter Heeh's essay on the growth of the revolutionary movement in British Bengal.




First Line: Terror, postcolonial or otherwise, induces affect, as a number of essays in this book describe.

Pub. Details:  Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
Pages: 395
Source: CL [820.9 B561 T]