A Yellow Winged Stranger by Imran Usman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A murder is at the core of the story. If it is a murder that everyday happens in thousands-then it would not have been raised anybody’s interest. But it was brutal, it was cruel, it seems every inch the work of a psychopath, the work of an insane. It has enough elements inside it to raise the interest of the media –and the public attention.
Because the unfortunate victim was tortured before death with a heated rod-red hot –that burnt the skin of the victim on several places.
It was exactly the modus operandi of one of the most infamous blood thirsty serial murderers in the history of the U.S.A crime-the Black Smith. Eighty three victims have died a horrible death-and without a single clue, without a single evidence. His whereabouts remained a mystery for twenty long years. His appearance is mysterious, too. Before the serial murders have started to take place-another serial killer was on the rampage-killing only when there was full moon on the sky. The murderer came into the night of the full moon- like a lone wolf-some ghostly power overriding -to quench the thirst of blood. And one day the full moon killer evaporated like camphor-and the next murder was staged on a no-moon day. And then there was no murder staged again on no moon.
Is it a Mere coincidence? Or there is some other thread to connect the two murderers?
If we classify ‘A yellow winged Stranger’ by Imran Usman as a murder mystery story then it will not identify fully the chilling novel. Rather it is a story that seeks to investigate the roots of the crime diving to the depth of human minds. The dark sides of human minds are exposed to perfection. However there is no detective to expose the crime-a most heinous serial crime that has its roots years ago-the protagonists themselves told their story-exposing us to the chill of fear-fear of a psychopath, a sadist approaching from any corner.
Matt-the lawyer standing for the defense of the alleged Blacksmith-the murder was confused throughout the case for a single reason. The suspect is thirty five –if he has been the murderer then he has to start his journey of murder when he was a boy of fifteen. And that Blacksmith started to copy the operational procedure of the full moon butcher. It implies that the suspect has started observing the murder procedure of the psychopath when he was a boy. Some threads do not add to make a fabric.
The victim was a widow who lived alone. The suspect was identified by an aged lady-who also reported the crime. And when the suspect was arrested on the basis of identification from his residence-he was quite and calm-to much quite and calm for even a great actor to hide his mental state. The method of killing was horrific-
‘The main cause of death in all the victims of both killers was exsanguinations. The killer would cut a shallow slice in the first go, after puncturing the larynx and vocal folds and severing the nerves to keep the victim voiceless by inserting a needle, the blood spilled would be slight and he would initiate the torturing process. He wanted them to suffer. Very sadistic, and then see the life drain out of them. When the victim’s body became tried of the pain and it was no fun to him anymore, he would cut a major slice cutting throughout the trachea and severing the jugular vein across their necks from left to right finally resulting in their death.’
When Matt’s turn came to cross examine the lone witness who had reported the crime and identified the suspect-Ms. Jacob-he emerged as second Daniel in the courtroom. On the face of his logical and brilliant cross examination all her statements went hazy-like the blurred vision with which she had claimed to identify Ethan-the suspect.
But was that merely a clever ploy by an intelligent lawyer? Is Ethan innocent? After all there are other evidences too-DNA sample collected from a burnt glove collected from a waste bin matched that of Ethan and in another turn of events –burnt fiber of the glove matched the sample of fiber found on the kitchen floor of the unfortunate victim. The suspect had burnt his hand.
Does two and two always make four?
If it was crime detection story-then it will be a fairly ordinary story-but at that point of time a flashback from the perspective of the suspect gave a dramatic twist to the total event. The prologue of the story which has initiated with a happy family conversation and ended in a tragic death of the mistress of the house has been linked with the past of the suspect and that made a 180 degree rotation of the entire story. It was his past where he has been raised as an orphan in an adopting family-the family members-emotional attachments with the family members- his quest for his biological father-all started to cross his mind like the slides in a projector.
He was put in a high security prison-waiting his fate to be decided. Here h came across graffiti-on the cold silent cell wall-a silent echo of the grief pain and despair of the inmates-Something that changed the destiny of Ethan-changed it forever. As if the writings were intended for him
‘The yellow butterfly was the one that had shaped my life completely. It was an object, which brought freshness back into me, it was an object which brought freshness back into me, it was an object of freedom, beauty and the best playmate I had during the course of my childhood years. It was my reset-to-default button.’
Life may be fragile-but the writings taught Ethan to rise above the fragility –writings on the wall were songs of life.
But more than every other aspect the quickly changing scenario-the motive-the plot-the twist and turns made this story a successful crime story –albeit the fact that there is no official crime buster. It is the first writing of Usman and it is commendable endeavor of a debut writer. He has analyzed the complex psychological traits of the characters effortlessly.
It is jingle all the way for Usman.
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Inside Out by Jack Kearney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Light, camera and action…..
Life is something more amazing than shown on celluloid-because real life is directed by an imaginer who can outrace the wildest imagination of the craziest director of the globe. Life can take you to new heights-life can take you to new low. Nobody can ever imagine what would happen in the next moment. Life is a game-where twist and turn occurs in every instant-enough to beat the gifted pen of the most talented thriller writer. It is the uncertainty, the improbability that makes us to embrace the life more tightly. It is the beautiful life…….
Or, the opposite………….
Hollywood-where man walks over the stars, where man talks to the stars! There seems to be a magical sensation around the air of Hollywood, where everything seems possible. Where a common man can become a superstar-where everybody can touch the rainbow! But as darkness resides just below the light-it is not all well with the kingdom of stars. Story of Hollywood is not only the story of magic, fame and stardom-but also it is the story of sweat, toil and dejection. Everyday here comes thousands-mesmerized by the shinning attraction of the silver screen, lured by money and fame, having faith in their talents and skills. Everyday thousands discover their dreams shattered-getting into darkness. There is always a dark side of the moon-where sunrays can never penetrate.
It is like discovering another Hollywood within the Hollywood we know. Inside Hollywood by Jack Kearney is the story of that other Hollywood. It is an eyewitness account of the struggle behind stardom and tnhe snake ad ladder game beginners have to face in Hollywood.
Being a struggling actor himself Jack has a fair idea of the thorny road towards stardom-where talent is not enough. His experience has been reflected towards the whole fiction-making it a contemporary chronicle of the nook and corner of Hollywood.
After graduation from one of the country’s most respected schools of drama-Danny, the protagonist of the story was all at bay. He has talent, he has six pack abdomen, gym toned body, he is dashing, attractive, handsome-in a nutshell all the successful ingredients of a successful actor are inside him. But still something does not click-even the one film credit he does usually mention in his resume’ are not exactly the credit of his own. Trying hard to float up in the turbulent water of Hollywood-our handsome protagonist soon discovers that something which is missing from his bio data is connection and reference.
He discovered such a person in a party who has the power to propel his career. Before that He got his mantra-attend page three parties , come in contact with ridiculous people-ridiculous they may seem-but will be advantageous in your long run-and yes, get publicity in the gossip magazines and tabloid the next day. So in such a party-Danny came in contact with Veronica-ex wife of studio head of Columbia picture and still a head spinning beauty at the ripe age of forty-five. And it was in the party that the lady luck smiled at him-he got a ticket to the flight of his dream-he got an entry to the audition of a play. Virtually Veronica came to him as an epitome of hope.
It was like he was walking on the clouds in the audition. The director was compelled to comment
‘Danny, it’s not often you get to see a real actor who knows his craft deliver such a rich and powerful piece…..and to think you also wrote it. I can only say that I wish I had the pleasure of watching your performance of Happy. If your monologue is any indication of the various levels you played, it must have been something to see.’ Suddenly he breaks into applauses that naturally is followed by everyone in the room.’
And his audition, too it seems a perfect one-he was well within the character and from the remarks of the director it appeared only a matter of time before he finally grab the role and he lands into his first major assignment.
Everyday billions of sperms ejaculated, fertilize the ovum-but the probability of getting fertilized? Probably it is one in a billion or less than that. So what followed may be a song of despair for Danny but not entirely unexpected. Neither he got the call nor did the series take off! But he had a net profit out of that futile transaction-he got a good agent and some assignments-seemingly insignificant begins to pour in. After all, some work is better than no work. In between the jobs he got-he had enough time to attend an acting class by Eloise-in the words of the writer she is-‘ in her midforties, and although age has not been kind to her weight ,at first glance ,one can see that she is a beauty. A classically trained actress, Ellie, as everyone fondly called her, was not the typical head of a Hollywood workshop. She looked more like a hippie that should be reaching transcendental meditations somewhere near in Northern California.’ In this class he got a proposal from his guru that entirely took him to the crossroad of life.
He got a proposal from his teacher to assist her in a project of teaching the federal prisoners acting in the prison experimental theatre workshop. She has managed her pilot project successful-which is not easy. There are hardcore criminals within the inmates and it is not easy to get response from them. And so –Danny, the struggler took the hot seat of assisting Eloise-and with considerable degree of success –managed to get both the respect and attention of the inmates.
It is indeed stranger than fiction. Danny had never imagined what life had played with him. It was not a cruel joke-it was crueler. His world fell like a pack of cards. His life was shattered.
Inside Hollywood is not only a story of hope and despair, heartbreaking and heart mending- it is a story of realization-it is a story of seeing the world through the kaleidoscope of Hollywood-with all its glitz and ugliness, with all its light and darkness. Although it has been written in a fictional format-it is a memoir-memoir of a struggling actor who has scripted the words of his life. The authenticity with which he confesses what came into his life does not only make this book a chronicle of his struggle against the all prevailing misfortune –but also a contemporary testament of the darker side of Hollywood.
A Hollywood where no red carpet is ready to welcome……………
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The Combat Zone by Jed Power
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A blind rage has overpowered his heart.
It was all the fault of the lieutenant-his comrade would have been saved. His boss let him die. Malloy kept on saying Johnny is alive and his commander kept on insisting that Johnny is dead as a stone. He kept on insisting that they keep moving.
On the battlefield-commander is your destiny. But still can you let your pal die knowing fully well-he is alive…..
When they –Malloy and his fellow soldiers mustered the strength to disobey their commander-in a desperate bid to rescue Johnny-there was not much left to be done. He was shot at point blank-bayoneted-what remain are only scattered body parts of Johnny.
That night Malloy could not sleep-a burning sensation is flowing through his veins-through his heart-and probably through his whole body. He even does not know when he entered the lieutenant’s tent, pulled out the pin of the grenade and threw it.
He will remember the sound of the explosion for the rest of the life. From the tattered tent-he discovered a human figure came rushing –screaming! To his horror-Malloy found that the figure is not of his commander’s but of a Vietnamese girl-almost nude with her clothes charred –a part of her body is ripped off exposing internal body part-and her left arm was missing. For the rest of his life- this scene will hunt Malloy in his sleep-he was sure.
From a soldier to the private investigator-so much water have flown through the Hudson in between. Malloy is now solving cases-after the dark world of crime. But has a found a meaning of his life?
The Combat Zone by Jed Power is a crime thriller with fresh plot, detailed description of the underground world and a speed that can be compared with a racing car.
This time Malloy- a soldier turned detective is on a lookout for a teenage of sixteen- a girl who has been a runway and might have lost in the blind lane of crime. Malloy has his own ideas to start with –small time drug dealer Stoney may come in handy. He has a network in the square-and it might not be hard to find Susan Williams who is now known to the people of the square as Susie Sparkle. Billy-cousin of Malloy was also a potential source for information. He is a detective officer in the Cambridge PD-he might have access to the information regarding Susan’s disappearance through Billy. And then Malloy used his own tactics-with a risk stroll down the centre of the Harvard square-
‘I saw a couple of flickers of recognition. They were just kids after all and they couldn’t hide it. So I repeated myself. ‘She’s not in any trouble. Her parents just want to make sure she’s okay.’ My gypsy analogy had been right. If they knew her, no one was talking. ‘if anyone changed their mind, give me a call.’ I passed out a few of my business cards.’
And then started the trouble –suddenly, like the bolt from the blue. It was a biker gang-who seemed to have interest in finding why Malloy has so much interest in finding Susan. And dangerous gang they were-to whom even a strong man like Malloy was proved to be no match-at least physically.
‘The blow was as hard and heavy as the last one, but this time I got it square in the gut. I couldn’t judge which punch has been worse, because the second it landed all through my left hand. My knees buckled, and I was giving up my baked haddock and beer before I hit the ground. I lay there in a fetal position, puking and feeling like someone had hacked away at my stomach with a bayonet.’
But why? Why the biker’s gang is so desperate to keep him away from the case? After all it is a case of simple disappearance-are not it? And not only the biker gang- but also the Cambridge cops seemed to be interested in the case? Two defective officers threatened our protagonist. Malloy was forced –and rightly so the depth of the mystery is deeper than he had anticipated earlier! Even Susan’s father is worried about her if Malloy further progresses into the case.
He had leave the case anyway had he not been heard the scream of the burning girl-that nightmare never let him leave the case anyway. So Malloy reached the valley of fear-a kingdom where girls are traded like commodity, a place where strip clubs thrive at the expense of the soul and body of teenage girls, a place where a pervert runs the business of porn movies and adult items. It is a place where the innocence of Susan Williams has been lost for ever…….
Can he overcome all? Can he recover the lost youth of girl’s like Susan who have lost their innocence in the crooked world of drug, sex and perversion, where death thrives at ever step?
There is another side of the story. Malloy-bleeding within himself with his past, with the nightmare that haunts him seeks to take refuge in the safe haven of the embrace of a woman who he desires-who comes every night in his dream. Now the question is whether the woman of his dream will come in his reality? Will the reel life be the real life?
Depression, desperation, despair-all forced our protagonist slowly to surrender to the imaginary dreamy world of drugs. Slowly but surely the end will come. Can Malloy muster the strength to erase his past and script a new beginning?
A crime thriller that is not a run of the mill book-that’s how the book can be expressed in a one liner. It has action sequences, filled with punch-it has unpredictability- it has surprises for reader at every step-but more than all these it deals with the emotional world of the characters of the story. Both dark side and bright side of the psychological traits have been exposed brilliantly by the writing of the writer. Story has its share of praise-but the development of characters is also praiseworthy.
After all strong characters can only perform strong works!
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Kitty Hawk and the Mystery of the Masterpieces by Iain Reading
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
And then a portion of the wall cracked open-and before anybody has a chance to have a good look at the escaping figure-dressed all black-rushed towards the front door.
Everyone presented in the room were shocked but the sudden turn of the events-but Charlie –smarter than anybody- tried to get an upper hand over the escaping figure-
However the mysterious figure was too quick to respond-what Charlie was able to do was to hit kitty and both of them made all others present in the room off balance.
Chaos everywhere and the figure left the room –safe and sound!
But the door of mystery was left wide open- mystery that is far deeper than the Mariana trench.
Inside the small secret space- there is nothing but a radio receiver, a table and a chair.
And suddenly a mechanical robotic sound starts to emit some meaningless words…….
Meaningless, are they?
Kitty Hawk and the Mystery of Masterpieces-by Iain Reading is the fifth book in the Kitty Hawk flying detective agency series is the breathtaking experience of young Kitty in the backdrop of art theft. It is an absorbing tale of international art collections and art smuggling, spying secrets, coded messages –all amid the backdrop of history.
It all started after Kitty left Ireland-involved in a successful treasure hunt-challenging and threatening and arrived in Rome. After all, all road leads to Rome. Here she has a reunion with Charlie-with whom she has an encounter with her first adventure involving another treasure hunt. It is like a rendezvous with history for the young detective-walking through the avenue of memory-memory of gladiators, memory of Cesar’s chariot returning to Rome after triumph-and it is where her next case is presented before her.
It is nothing but sheer brilliance of her power of detection that helped her to recognise an ordinary looking painting hanging on her friend’s house as one of the master pieces by van Gogh-the master of impressionism! What the picture is doing in her friend’s house-when it should find its way in a museum. And they found startling revelation with a little bit of help from the technology-
‘What is the world is it? Vega asked in growing concern as she saw the same stunned expression slowly come over my face as well.
I looked up at Matteo in utter disbelief after reading the final two sentences of the painting’s online description.
‘Stolen?’ I exclaimed as Matteo and i simultaneously spun our heads to stare across the room at the painting that was hiding the wall of their father’s apartment ‘the painting was stolen?’
Another little bit of help from the measuring devices was enough to put them under confusion-whether the invaluable painting was hanging in front of them?
Any element of doubt that was inside their mind had been evaporated by the sister of Matteo- the television programmer who had some good experience with artworks. She confirmed that not only the artwork suspected to be a Van Gogh is a Van Gogh indeed but other two harmless looking simple paintings hanging on are authentic pieces of art- from the masters of impressionism.
It is now mystery split all over. The original paintings are probably worth millions-and they are finding their way in a private house at Rome. But it is only the tip of the iceberg. The gradual plunging deep into mystery will make the reader amazed. As they were all mystified with stolen artworks- a steaming sound took away their attention. They went to the source-and the experience has been narrated at the introduction of this piece.
Now questions are to be asked. How the father of Kitty’s friend got possession of such invaluable artworks? What is his true identity? Why there is radio receiver in his room? Why it is inside a secret chamber?
Endless rows of questions-a single brain to solve all these.
Kitty shows brilliant detection power-but what is amazing for this young lady edition of Sherlock Holmes-she is also capable of seeing bright side of a dark man-or in other words positive traits of a negative character. In her detection stories- humane sides of the so called criminals get revealed. And this story is no exception-as we will see later as we progress into the story. So the room that the black figure revealed was full of mystery- a mysterious static radio making sequence of words and letters-a bunch of numbers –apparently without any sequence, meaningless and letters written in a random fashion.
Kitty this time found himself surrounded by numbers and alphabets- taking her into deep of spy secret-coded messages-decoding techniques-combination and permutation. And writer’s passion for deciphering may prove infectious to the reader too-enjoying every bit of the unknown.
Rome to Germany-the trail of the stolen artwork mystery takes Kitty from marvel to marvel- newer clues give the story new twist and turns at every corner-and the speed turns breathtaking. Here foes turn friends and friends turn foes-here the facade of a man can’t be believed –and here the history takes a tryst with mystery.
Always the story of kitty is filled up with aroma of the land and the people, heritage and culture-but this one is quite exceptional as the racial discrimination policy of fascist Germany has been expressed in a style that is enough to shake the mind of the young adult readers from the roots.
‘Arbeit Macht Frei,the gate read, work makes you free.
Those few simple words mark the entrance to one of the most notorious places on earth-the site of the former Nazi concentration camp of Dachau.
You’re probably asking yourself why in the world I would want to visit such vile and sinister place and the only answer I can really give you that after spending so many hours is sitting there in the Zeppelintribune in Nuremberg, alone with my thoughts and surrounded by the ghosts of thousands who made horrific places like this is a reality, something inside me simply had to see it.’
But the story will not end here-it will go from strength to strength- until we reach the very climax-when the most improbable will really turn most probable and the most probable will become most improbable.
After all-what we see can sometimes be proved wrong- but logical deductions are error-less.
And everything is not so elementary!
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The stage is totally dark. Suddenly enters a character inside the stage-who may have committed the crime. The limelight falls on him for the moment-then he exists from the stage. Then enters another one- the play is going to m be repeated once again. But one thing is similar for all the characters- all have strong motive for committing the crime.
This is the way of narration of the story- at least in respect of The Murder of Sonia Raikkonen by Salil Desai- at least in respect of this murder mystery of Inspector Saralakar. Frankly speaking, this is the first time I have got the opportunity of discovering the way Inspector Saralakar, homicide squad, Mumbai Police works-and I became completely absorbed with it. True, this guy does not have brilliant detection power as like Sherlock Holmes-does not play a game of elimination as our very own Byomkesh Bakshi-does not have a hunch for crime as Father Brown-but can arrive at the conclusion from logical reasoning and a little bit of homework from here and there. He is a smart, intelligent detective of twenty first century who makes ample use of technology in the course of solving the crime. It is the humane face of the detective that makes him more admirable. Sometimes he overlooks a point or makes an error-but does not hesitate to make a confession of it!
Inspector Saralakar appears to me, more a real world character rather than a fictional hero.
Let us come to the fiction part-taking away our gaze from the characterisation of the detective-for the time being. Sonia- a Finnish national was brutally stabbed in one of her visits to India. She is actually a frequent visitor to Indian soil. In the narration of the writer,
“Her assailant had shown no qualms for mutilating her tender, young body repeatedly-as if determined not to be accused of compassion or squeamishness. The grapping slashes on her torso and across her neck seemed to cruelly inspect just how deep her beauty went.
It should’ve been a quick but painful death by all appearances, yet she had bled and, and apparently lived long enough to crawl up to the garden fencing. Her fingers were clasped around the wire mesh of the fence in what seemed like a bid to raise herself, face framed against it. That’s probably when death had overtaken her, and that’s how two street hoarding workers on their daily nocturnal assignment, had spotted her, an hour later.”
Our protagonist is on a trail of finding –of who is the murderer- and he is virtually clueless- except a white sandal what has been recovered on the spot. However readers are not clueless-the writer introduced with them with the suspects –one by one. First one is her boyfriend Vaino Gradstrom- who seems to be in a hurry to escape out of India. They had a separation some days after they have arrived in India-amidst a fight! And now-“his face is free of injuries fortunately. Vano’s attention turned towards the dirt under his fingernails and he cringed. He had to clean and cut his nails. Finishing his bath he stepped outside just as his mobile begun buzzing.” why he is in a hurry?
Then enters Badri Tiwari-the cabbie. The writer with artistic precision has described the state of mind of the driver who seems to be completely unnerved and it seems he will be the happiest person on earth if someone arranges a rocket for him to return to his home village at Uttar Pradesh. Well-he is not also above the suspicion from the point of view of the reader. ‘What if by chance the happenings of previous nights had already been discovered? Wouldn’t he be walking straight into trouble and miss the train? It would be a recipe for disaster. Yet what other way was there? Badri felt a fresh surge of panic. He had to hurry.”
Or take the case of Vikram Mohla-the handsome hunk who had a sweet and sour relation with Sonia. Why a remark from one of her friends, regarding Sonia-sent a chill down to his spine? Is he too involved?
Going virtually clueless- another murder of an unidentified old man was discovered. There was a striking similarity-in respect of the pattern of stabbing and wound. Another clue is the discovery of the lost pair of white sandal from the murder sight. When two murders are linked up- it appears they are like two broken ends of the same thread.
Plunging deeper into the case our protagonist started to discover that everyone is under a facade- nobody has a straightforward appearance- nobody is above suspicion. And what appeared to be a simple case of robbery- rape and murder by local goons- gradually started to assume the shape of a complex case. Newer facts have started to get discovered and everything comes under the scanner. Even the purpose of Sonia’s frequent visit to India revealed startling facts!
A detection story full of unpredictability, full of thrill is sure to compel the reader to turn into an avid fan of Inspector Saralkar-who is a first timer to the series like me.
Well, certainly if I tell the whole story then the joy of reading will be spoiled.
A detective works with the darker sides of human mind. Sometimes ugly facts do surface. Like a scuba driver detective goes deep into the sea of human mind and discovers psychological facts that compel the criminal to commit a crime. In this sense every crime has lots of clue-if the past life, the psychology of the suspect is put under scanner.
And the writer –who creates such genius?
Well- I always wonder how they can and it remains to me still a mystery!
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