THICKER THAN BLOOD…..

A Yellow Winged StrangerA 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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Death at every step…..

The Combat ZoneThe 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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Yes,no,yes……and……?

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.
And then?
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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