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Book Review: Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu by Vasudev Murthy

Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu by Vasudev Murthy

 
Vasudev Murthy's Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu
Title: Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu
Author: Vasudev Murthy
Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (January 5th 2016)
Genre: Detective, Drama
Read: Hardcover
Stars: ★★★★☆
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

Still wondering what Sherlock Holmes was doing between his reported death in 1891 and his reappearance in 1894? All the world knew that Sherlock Holmes died at the Reichenbach Falls, tumbling over the jagged cliff in a deadly embrace with his nemesis Moriarty. But for history’s greatest detective, death was only the beginning. Rumors abounded that Holmes had been sighted advising the Japanese emperor, studying with the Dalai Lama, and protecting the president of the United States, but only Dr. Watson knew the truth. From 1891 to 1894, Sherlock Holmes was dead to the world and having the grandest adventures of his career.
It begins when an Italian scholar travels from Venice to 221B Baker Street, to beg the help of the legendary detective. He carries an ancient parchment, written in the hand of Marco Polo himself. It is a rubbing made from a brass disc found in the libraries of Kublai Khan, and it was torn in half centuries ago to protect the world from a terrifying secret, one that, apparently, first Marco Polo, then another great traveler, the Moroccan Ibn Battuta, took dramatic steps to guard. Where, if anywhere, is its missing half?
Holmes springs into action. He fakes his death at Reichenbach, and proceeds undercover to Venice. A murdered scholar, an archivist from the Vatican, British imperial politics and, of course, the dire hand of Moriarty propel Holmes and a surprised but resolute Dr. Watson, playing the roles they assumed in Morocco, on a perilous journey down the Sahara to the ancient city of Timbuktu and beyond. In deepest Africa, Holmes will confront ruthless criminals, an ancient culture, and a staggering surprise.

 

My Review:

Note: Thanks Vasudev Murthy for offering me his book to read and review :)

Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu by Vasudev Murthy

Cover: Beautiful!

Paper and font: Smellishous…

Readability, language: Requires Time and Attention

Why did I choose this book: I have been a fan of Doyle’s work and Holmes is one of my all-time-favourite detectives. So, this was natural progression, plus it was Doyle who left this back door ajar…

By making Sherlock disappear for a few years Doyle created a space that has been filled by so many and so much. This is Vasudev Murthy’s second book in this space. In this pastiche Sherlock Holmes goes on an adventure that involves eternal life, Ibn Batuta, Marco Polo, Tuaregs, Moriarty and Timbuktu.

The title is clear and sets the right expectations by informing the reader that the book is about Sherlock Holmes during the years he was missing, it also indicates where he was or where this book is set. I really liked the cover which is detailed with well chosen font and colours. The little detail of Holmes pipe was a nice touch. The blurb on the inside of the jacket cover is long and somewhat complex but that is a good indicator of what to expect from the book.

The book I received was a hardcover and I must say after a long time, I’m impressed by the print quality of an Indian Book. The paper smells lovely, the font is well laid out and reads easy, and the binding makes me want to keep this book on my shelf. It’s worth noting though that this book is published by Poisoned Pen Press and printed in the USA, so my calling it an Indian Book, in all aspects may not be correct.

The plot is brand-spanking-new and not like any other Holmes novel I have read. There are clear connects with Watson’s style of narrating but Vasudev Murthy also adds his own style and goes on tangents all his own. The objective is clear right at the start, and we know that Holmes is on a quest. The story follows mostly a linear path with subplots being a part of the main narrative rather than separate entities.

The main story is set in Africa, in the environs of Timbuktu but Holmes also visits Rome and Venice. Set in the 1890’s Vasudev Murthy shines here, no matter anything else about the book, in research he gets full marks. The people, places, time and situation are described in so much detail that it’s clear the author spent good time studying his subject, he also seems to have found good subject experts.

Apart from Holmes and Watson, who to most extents are described and behave as I’ve known them, there a bunch of other characters, each described in detail so that I could imagine each one of them and even felt a fondness for a couple of them. One character though stays through majority of the book – Hasso Ag Akotey the chief of the Tuaregs, he doesn’t play a vital role but plays a constant role. There is also the Pope and Moriarty who make appearances in the book.

The story is structured well and has a streamlined flow but it’s complex. I had been warned by the author and I’m passing on the warning. This book isn’t a light read, it requires time and attention. I had to focus and pay full attention to the book, and reading fast was out of question, as I had to slow down and absorb every bit so that I would be able to put it all together as it drew to climax.

Vasudev Murthy has drawn out an elaborate plan that covers a large time and space but in it all he keeps a hold on all the ends and leaves no loose ends. The pace of the story is constant right to the end, a slow and steady pace that’s more academic than thrilling.

The story is narrated by Watson which is consistent with how Doyle went about it, though at times it’s Watson telling it as it was told to him by key characters, and at those times I felt a break in the flow and a slight disconnect. Vasudev Murthy’s hold on all the languages he uses is clearly good, well, I can’t vouch for the French, Arabic and Tamasheq but his English definitely had me reach out for the dictionary often.

In summary this is a good book but only for die hard Sherlock Holmes fans who have the time to do some intense reading. Deeply researched and well written, this book comes recommended by Roger Johnson, the Editor of The Sherlock Holmes Journal and having read the book I now see why. Pick it up at your own peril, for this is heavy and you’ve been warned. :)

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

About the Author:

Vasudev Murthy

Vasudev Murthy writes on music, humour, management and crime. A violinist and animal rights activist, Vasudev lives with his family and five snoring dogs in Bangalore, India. He has been published by Bloomsbury, HarperCollins, Editora Vestigio (Brazil), Poisoned Pen Press, Sage, Rupa, LiFi, Gamesman (Korea) and Kokushu (Japan).

Author Links:
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

 

March 3, 2016   1 Comment

Book Review: 30 Days of Daal by Pragati Bidkar

30 Days of Daal by Pragati Bidkar

 
Pragati Bidkar's 30 Days of Daal
Title: 30 Days of Daal
Author: Pragati Bidkar
Paperback: 153 pages
Publisher: Amazon Digital South Asia Services, Inc. (2 edition, 25 November 2015)
Genre: Cookbooks
Read: eBook
Stars: ★★★★☆
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

30 Days of Daal shatters the myth that cooking Indian food is complicated. The author has taken authentic daal recipes from the corners and heartland of India and made them simpler.

Whether you are a busy urban cook, or someone who is new to cooking Indian food, 30 Days of Daal will make it easy for you. The book contains attractive photos of the daal dishes and has precise step by step instructions with special notes when needed. There is also a section on how to stock an Indian pantry.

Daal is an essential component of an Indian meal, and is cherished as a source of vegetarian protein. Daal is the very soul of India. 30 Days of Daal allows you to cook and enjoy a different daal every day of the month so you never get bored.

 

My Review:

Note: Thanks Pragati Bidkar for offering me this book to read, use and review :)

Cover: Colourful

Paper and font: Easy on the eyes

Readability, language: Could be better

Why did I choose this book: Daal is my soul food, I could eat it everyday and not get bored of it. It’s what I make when I’m down in the dumps and even when I’m happiest. So, 30 Days of Daal is perfect for my first cookbook review. :)

30 Days of Daal is what the title says, 30 different types of daal from across India, in all it’s various styles and varieties. It covers daals from the simple Yellow Moong Daal to the Parsi Dhansak and Oriya Dalma.

This is a review of the first edition of 30 Days of Daal, however there is a new edition available now and things might be a bit different in it.

This book starts of with an introduction to what is Daal and explains why this simple lentil curry is so important to the Indian cuisine. This is followed by 30 recipes of a variety of daals and at the end there are details of all the lentils, rice, spices, oil, and cookware used and where you can get them. This section is specially helpful for Non-Indians or Indians who live in the US.

Daal Methya from Pragati Bidkar’s 30 Days of Daal. Daal Methya or Fenugreek Flavoured Daal with Chili Oil and ivy gourd palya as the vegetable dish

I tried out the book on my Kindle and on three ebook apps on my Android Nexus 6. I had hoped that it would be easier to use on the phone, as it would be handy in the kitchen and would be in colour, but I was disappointed by the books rendering on the phone. On all three apps the layout was bad and navigation difficult. Even on the Kindle the layout is a little off, but it worked well and was easy to use. Sadly, that meant I had to live with no colours.

Each recipe has an image of what the daal looks like, the set of ingredients needed and the method of preparation. The instructions are simple to follow and Pragati Bidkar has also added notes to make it easier for the first timer. For e.g. she reminds you that chillies splutter and that you must stand back to avoid getting splattered by oil.

One thing that was glaringly missing for me was the serving size. It meant that in some recipes I landed up making too large a quantity for the two of us and we had to eat the same daal for 4 meals to finish it. I’m not complaining too much about it, only because the daals turned out well. 😉

Smoky Black Masoor Daal with CoconutSmoky Black Masoor Daal with Coconut and banana poriyal as the vegetable dish

For some ingredients that are difficult to source outside India, special notes are added about substitutes. This helped me too (even though I live in India), as some of the ingredients aren’t easily available here too. Like Goda Masala, which is Maharashtrian and isn’t available at most stores.

I tried out the Daal Tadka, Daal Methya, Black Masoor Daal with Coconut and Tomato Daal and they all turned out well. As you can see for trying out, I choose the simplest recipes I could find but I flexed a bit and experimented a bit too with a couple. I’m looking forward to trying out the slightly complicated (to me) ones like – Daal Bukhara, Parsi Dhansak and Panchmel Daal from Rajasthan.

Over all this is a good book to have in the kitchen, as it can add much variety to a simple everyday dish like daal. I recommend it for all who love the Indian cuisine, especially if you like cooking it. 😉

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

About the Author:

 
Pragati Bidkar Pragati is the founder and creator of the vegetarian food blog KamalKitchen.com. She started experimenting in the kitchen at a young age and since then has traveled to many places and absorbed regional cuisines and influences. She focuses on using local produce and selective herbs and spices. Her next book ‘Rice Bowl: Vegetarian Rice Recipes from India and the World’ will hit the stands on March 1st, 2016.

Author Links:
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February 25, 2016   2 Comments

Book Review: Love on 3 Wheels by Anurag Anand

Love on 3 Wheels by Anurag Anand

 
Anurag Anand's Love on 3 Wheels
Title: Love on 3 Wheels
Author: Anurag Anand
Paperback: 161 pages
Publisher: Srishti Publishers (December 6th 2015)
Genre: Contemporary, Drama
Read: Paperback
Stars: ★★★★☆
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US | Flipkart

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

What Happens When Love and Destiny Come to Loggerheads?
Love on 3 Wheels is a saga of love, lust, aspirations and trickery that unfolds over a period of three days, propelling those in its midst into an unmindful frenzy.
Sargam: A young and ambitious girl misplaces a parcel purportedly containing a large amount of cash. This sets off a turn of events that are certain to leave their imprint on the lives of many.
Sharib Sheikh: An auto rickshaw driver whose fault is that he fell in love with the wrong person at the wrong time.
Dr. Abhigyan Kukreti: A prominent doctor who has more skeletons in his personal closet than a mid-size cemetery.
Ameena: A simple village girl who, like Sharib, finds herself at the wrong end of love.
Junaid: A swindler with his heart in the right place.
A Real Love Story that is bound to make your heart skip more than a beat!

 

My Review:

Note: Thanks Anurag Anand for offering me this book to read and review :)

Cover: Eye-catchy!

Paper and font: Feels good and reads easy.

Readability, language: I didn’t come across a lot of words I didn’t know, but I did find a few.

Why did I choose this book: I’ve read Anurag Anand’s previous books The Legend of Amrapali and Where The Rainbow Ends and liked them, so… well…

This a story of three people (well, actually 5 but three key people) over 3 days. Circumstances change each of their lives drastically and this is the tale of how it all comes about. Anurag Anand explores human emotions and imperfections through the story.

When I first saw the title and read the blurb I kept wondering how much the title – Love on 3 Wheels would tie in to the book, but having completed the book the title makes a lot of sense as it connects up with the auto that plays a big role in the story, it also relates to the unbalanced nature of love, something going along on 3 wheels. The cover is quite different from ones we see these days, it grew on me, plus it reminded me of covers past, of books bought from handcarts on railway stations. The cover and blurb both remind me of the good old Higginbotham days.

The plot is a many time told tale of interconnected lives and how one little thing sets off an avalanche of events in many lives. But the story feels interesting and I turned the pages in haste as I tried to find out what happens to each of the key players. Keeping the story short to events over three days is also a good ploy to keep it tight and fast paced.

Set primarily in Delhi the story moves across the city. I’m not very well versed with Delhi but it did feel like the little I know of the place. Anurag Anand has used the city and it’s people well to add to the story and give it good backing.

There are 3 key characters plus 2 main ones. Each adding to the story and weaving themselves in. The characters are described well and I felt for and against each of them. I really came to like Ameena by the end but found myself loathing Sargam for her selfish attitude and callousness, and feeling something akin to pity for Sharib, the self-absorbed lover with no trace of reality. The characters are flawed, real and I could relate to them.

Spread over three days, Anurag Anand introduces each character in turn as the events unfold. The conflict is clear in the initial part of the book and it resolves itself as the story progresses. The story winds up well too, it’s not a happy ending and yet it felt real and believable. There are no loose ends, all characters are accounted for except Dr. Abhigyan Kukreti, who just disappears.

Written in third person, Love on 3 Wheels is easy to read; there were just a couple of words I didn’t know. The language is simple yet its descriptive and absorbing. The pace of the story is good, it kept me turning the pages as the complications began. It was like watching a magician make a knot and then with a flourish unknot it. I didn’t realise when I reached the end, and after about half-way, I kept on till the end.

I quite enjoyed Love on 3 Wheels, Anurag Anand has done a good job as the book has left me thinking and mixed up in emotion. Each character has endearing characteristics, and frustrating mannerisms, their personal stories and backgrounds make a good backdrop for the choices they make and it’s repercussions.

YA & Above. I recommend this book if your are looking for a good fast read, the kind you want to take on journeys, be its bus or train or plane or even if it’s just a reading evening with coffee or wine in the cosy chair. :)

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US | Flipkart

About the Author:

Anurag Anand

 
Anurag is a banker who wrote his first book ‘Pillars of Success’ at the age of 25. After his first two non-fiction books, he has been writing in the fiction genre, and has written over 10 books.

Author Links:
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

 

February 16, 2016   2 Comments