Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War by C. Christine Fair

There is a famous saying about the Pakistan Army "Most countries have an Army but the Pakistan Army has a country". Right from Ayub Khan to Zia to Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan has had multiple, able and strong military rulers. Pakistan's history is full of coups by the Army and weak civilian governments who are almost always backed up the military.

The Pakistan army is the most powerful and enduring organization in Pakistan. Even during civilian rule it is the army which has controlled its defense and foreign affairs policy. No civilian leader can become a success there without the tactical help and tacit approval of the army. Pakistan's over reliance on the army has led to disastrous consequences for its economy, International standing and human rights.

The author, Christine Fair, argues that the Pakistan Army is the chief propagator of the two nation theory, which was floated by the Muslim League before India's independence the theory states that India should be split into two based on religious lines Pakistan for Muslims and India for Hindus. Pakistan Army always lives in fear of India's hegemony whether real or imagined. Kashmir is a central issue in their policies and the Pak army feels that they were cheated, when India annexed a huge part of Kashmir including the capital Srinagar. After the partition Pakistan also got the NWFP as a responsibility from the British, perhaps the most unmanageable area in the world where Osama and his gang hid for years. Pakistan Army felt cheated that they got only a fraction of resources after the partition but had to take care of the majority of problems which includes a large hegemonic neighbor, unstable and non friendly Afghanistan and the NWFP.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

From Fatwa to Jihad by Kenan Malik

Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, is perhaps one of the most controversial books of all time. Avid Muslims blame the author of portraying Islam and the founder of Islam, Muhammad, in poor light.

In "From Fatwa to Jihad", Kenan Malik chronicles England before the release of the book and its impact on the world post release. I had little or no idea about the controversy surrounding the book, it was flabbergasting to read about anti Rushdie protests in the heart of England, book burning, riots and murder attempts on publishers and proponents of the book. You expect such things to happen in UP, Kerala or Peshawar but to hear all this happening in so called civilized and progressive Europe is disturbing and worrying.

It made a sad story that Salman Rushdie who was a hero to Muslims and other minority communities in England became a villain overnight just because of one book. Rushdie was a strong critic of rampant racism in England and was a darling of the South East Asian community. Rushdie, who is regraded as one of the most gifted English authors of our time, reached infamous notoriety because of Satanic Verses.

Friday, September 12, 2014

North Korea Undercover by John Sweeny

I'm trying to expand my horizons by reading more non mystery books, I have become especially enthralled with books about Politics and History. I expect myself to read and review more and more books from this genre. I will continue to read mysteries but those are going to be rare as I have already read most of Carr, Christie and Sharadindu but will always be on the lookout for exceptional mystery novels. To the book review now...

John Sweeny, a former BBC correspondent for Panorama, travels to North Korea with a bunch of LSE students. John poses as a Professor of LSE to gain access to the enigmatic state. Free media is not allowed inside South Korea's poor cousin so John and his crew had to go undercover. BBC crew and the LSE students travel to different places in North Korea, starting from the capital city Pyongyang. All along the trip they are accompanied by minders who carefully plan their trip so the "tourists" are never able to see the real face of the totalitarian state, but that does not prevent the tourists to get a good glimpse of the horrors and absurdity that prevail in the communist nation. John keeps describing in each chapter the different places he visits in DPRK(official name of North Korea). He also keeps referencing to the immediate history of North Korea, how Kim Il-Sung took over North Korea n 1948 with the help of his Soviet allies and established a cult of personality in the country which would later be maintained and expanded by his son, Kim Jong-Il, who the author keeps referring to mockingly as "Bad Elvis" because of his obsession with Elvis Presley, the regime is now run by Kim 3, Kim Jong-Un, who according to the author is the Fat Kim.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Mystery of the Fortress and other stories by Saradindu Bandyopadhyay

I managed to get hold of the elusive "Mystery of the Fortress", an English translation of Saradindu Bandyopadhyay's stories about his favorite creation Byomkesh Bakshi. Originally written in Bengali this book enumerates 5 different stories, each a puzzling mystery one after the other. The translation has been done by Mr. Shankar Sen, and I must admit he has done a fine job of it. After a few disaster translations of Saradindu Bandyopadhyay's works like "Rhythm of Riddles" I was afraid that these fine stories would leave an indelible bad impression on the readers mind due to sub par translation.

It's been two years since I last read a story about the Seeker of truth, I hope I don't have to wait another two years to get hold of another Byomkesh book.

Following the old tradition of my blog, I'm going to do capsule reviews of the quintet.

The Invisible Triangle - A really short story of a murder of a married woman, who is an intelligent, independent business woman and has only a formal relationship with her impudent husband. The identity of the murderer is no secret but Byomkesh has to prove how the murder was done. An average read by any stretch of the imagination, good characters, good build up but a disappointing end.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie

Young Carla approaches M. Poirot for his help in investigating a murder committed 16 years ago. Her mother was accused and then convicted for killing her husband, Carla's father, Amyas Crale. Crale was a famous painter and womanizer. He was known for his artistic temperament and promiscuous ways. He had several lovers in the past but used to always return to his wife. Things were different now, Elsa, his latest muse is a sublime young beauty. The middle aged Amyas has fallen for her and now wants to marry her despite him being married and having a little daughter.

Middle aged men often fall prey to their carnal desires but this man has gone too far he is keeping his muse and his wife under the same roof. The result is that foolish painter is found poisoned. His wife is accused of murder, the evidence and the battery of witnesses against her is too strong. She is convicted and dies in prison. Carla, her only daughter believes that her mother was innocent and that now she wants closure for herself and her mother. Poirot now has to investigate a murder committed 16 years ago.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Death in Five Boxes by Carter Dickson

Dr Sanders, a forensic working on a poisoning case is walking back to his home after a long day at the office. In the middle of the night he is asked for help by a beautiful young woman who asks him to accompany her to a a certain Mr Felix Haye's flat. On reaching there he is shocked too find a gathering of 4 people who look like dummies, all of them have been heavily drugged and Mr. Haye is found murdered.

 The Police find that the guests were poisoned by someone who rigged their drinks by putting atropine in their glasses. So what's so Carr(read impossible) about this murder? Once the remaining guests are revived, their statements corroborate that no one poisoned the drinks and that the glasses were watched all the time.

Add in the conspicuous disappearance of a prime suspect, another murder and a truck load of suspects and we have a case for the Old man.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Riddle of Monte Verita by Jean-Paul Torok

"Her Face became the face of the pretty wife, and she ran out to meet her husband."

Jean-Paul wanted to write a book which ended with now the famous last lines of Carr's "The Burning Court." - perhaps the greatest mystery novel ever written? Thinking about the ending of the The burning court still makes the hair at the back of my neck stand up. Alas, we are not reviewing the master's work.

Jean-Paul, a self confessed Carr fan tries to write a novel in the fashion of those good old GAD days. That too an impossible locked room crime novel. Jean-Paul's Pastiche is remarkable work of detective fiction especially the last 30-40 pages.

Summary:

Monte Verita, situated in beautiful Switzerland is holding a symposium, where the theme is detective fiction. Recently married, Pierre is accompanied by his young wife Solange. Pierre is an erudite on the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Professor Lippi, another erudite attending the symposium, makes a speech and pokes fun of detective fiction, especially of impossible crimes, locked rooms and murders in hermetically sealed chambers. The German, Dr Hoenig and Lippi get into a raucous argument. Dr Hoenig claims that he will bring a locked room challenge in front of all present. Little did Hoenig knew that he will himself become the centre of a locked room murder. In view of two guards posted outside Hoenig's Villa, he is murdered by what appears to be a woman. The guards rush from their own villa to Hoenig's but found it locked, once they force themselves inside the killer has disappeared in thin air.