Sunday, April 26, 2015

There was an old woman by Ellery Queen

Image result for there was an old woman ellery queenMaster of Deduction debuts on my little old blog.

Ellery Queen is the name used by both the detective and pseudonym for the author pair of cousins, Danny and Lee from NY. Ellery Queen is perhaps one of the most famous names in detective fiction next only to Agatha Christie, and the Grand master of locked room murders himself(shame on you if you don't know who I'm referring to).

Enough stalling, lets get down the mystery. Cornelia Potts in the overtly dominating matriarch of the Potts family and the Potts business empire, which they founded on selling cheap shoes. Cornelia had six children, 3 from the first marriage and 3 from her second. Cornelia's children from her first marriage are far from normal, they are deranged and quirky, and her children from her second marriage are normal and even have a sharp business acumen. This sharp contrast has led her to sympathize with her older set of children resulting in her indulging them and letting them have their way in childish pursuits.

The oldest and most notorious out of all her children is Thurlow Potts, a short, stout middle aged man who spends his mother's fortune in defending the honor of his family because of imagined slights through lawsuits, which he loses one after another. Ellery Queen takes a great interest in this quirky family, at dinner one night Thurlow challenges his younger step brother to a duel to death, at another one of his imagined slights. The saner potts, their lawyer and Ellery try to talk Thurlow out of the duel but he is adamant. So Ellery comes up with a neat little trick to exchange real bullets in Thurlow's guns with fake ones, Ellery does the task himself. The next morning at dawn, the two step brothers step outside the Potts mansion for the duel, Thurlow fires and his step brother falls.

Monday, April 13, 2015

All the Shah's Men by Stephen Kinzer

Image result for all the shah's menWhat comes to your mind when you think of Iran? Ayatollah Khomeini, fatwa against Salman Rushdie, persecuted parsis or death threats to Israel and America from a horde of raging Muslims.  What about Winston Churchill? American spies? democratically elected secular government headed by a man who reached the same heights in popularity as Mahatma Gandhi. How did Iran go from being a democracy to the sponsor of terror that it is today?

The book tries to answer all these questions. The book starts with a succinct history of Iran formerly known as the Persia in ancient times. Persian empire was one of the greatest that man has ever seen, it was ruled by Zoroastrians, an ancient faith which prospered and thrived around 500 BC. There religion and empire collapsed once the Abrahamic religions started taking over the world.

Iranians or Persians an ancient and erudite race did not accept Islam in its traditional form which was the sunni sect but instead chose to follow the Shia sect, which is a kind of rebel form of Islam. To put things into context 90% of the world's population follows Sunni and only 10% is Shia, with modern day Iran being the beacon of light for Shias across the world.  The author also explains the difference between the two warring sects. So, basically If I understood this correctly, Sunni's after the death of their prophet Mohammed chose to follow his disciples(who become Caliphs, they are like religious kings) and Sunnis chose to follow his cousin, Ali, who for political reasons was over looked and did not became Caliph for a long time. Ali was assassinated, and later his son, Hussein, a rebel, was also killed and his whole family was murdered. Iranians or Persians have a history of standing up to corruption and authority, thus the Sunni attributes of sacrifice and standing up to the powerful and unjust would meant that Shia would fit perfectly with the Persian psyche.

Monday, March 30, 2015

24 Akbar Road by Rasheed Kidwai

Image result for 24 akbar road bookRasheed Kidwai is a veteran journalist who has witnessed the highs and lows of the Congress. He has been a witness to the venerable history of the Congress party from the inscrutable Indira Gandhi to the earthy Sitaram Kesari and now the prince in waiting Rahul Gandhi.

In 24 Akbar Road, the author takes us through the power corridors of the Congress. Its leaders, their lives, gossip and history. When someone recommended me this book then I was immediately on the back foot as I was not interested in the encomiums showered by some sycophant, my fears were allayed by the author. He puts forward an almost unbiased and honest account of Congress leaders, although he refrains from criticizing the Congress or its leaders too harshly.

The book begins with perhaps the most colossal leader of the Congress, Indira Gandhi, the woman who defeated Richard Nixon, genocidal Yahya Khan, Bhindrewala and even managed to check mate Henry Kissinger. Daughter of one of the most important founding fathers of our nation, Indira Gandhi was an automatic choice for the throne of the Congress after Nehru died. She would later have to fight rebellion in her own party and form the Congress(I) which was headquartered from the now legendary 24, Akbar Road. Indira Gandhi also had the dubious distinction of imposing emergency in the country and suspending democracy for a whole of 2 years. Indira Gandhi was both a force of good and evil. Her human rights record and imposition of the emergency would continue to remain a blot on the history of Independent India. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Party by Richard McGregor

Image result for the party richard mcgregorChina, the last bastion of the communists. Who had imagined that almost after two and half decades of the fall of the soviet union the communist party of China would survive? not only have they survived the CPC, Communist Part of China, has thrived. They effectively control the world's most populous and powerful state. The Party is a secret club of a select few, its tentacles are spread to all walks on life in China from the state controlled media, to the economy and the Army. The Politburo members are not elected by the citizens of China but are selected internally by the party, making China a single party system with no elections and no democracy. China is in a lot of ways an Oligarchy.

The book keeps the majority of its focus on economics and how China evolved from a third world struggling economy to the economic power house it is today. A myriad of Chinese leaders starting from Deng Xiaoping, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin have been successfully able to transform China into what it is today. Chinese ingenuity and their passion for making money was the real factor behind this success.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Men Who Killed Gandhi by Manohar Malgonkar

Image result for the men who killed gandhiIn recent months the national discourse has been about Nathuram Godse, the man who shot the Mahatma. I like most Indians have little idea about this man, except that the Hindu extreme right consider him as a savior and the left and centrists think of him as evil personified who was egged on by the Hindu right to plan and then the execute the assassination of MK Gandhi. The truth as in most cases was completely different.

1947, the year of liberation, what should have been a time of celebration and joy had turned into grief, desperation and for people in Punjab and Bengal, sheer horror! Jinnah, had called for Hindus and Sikhs to be driven out of their homes from East and West Pakistan to make partition a success and ensure a homeland for Muslims. Tens of thousands of Hindus and Sikhs were murdered, women raped and paraded naked. Millions more were displaced from their homes. Hindus and Sikhs responded by culling hundreds of Muslims in Hindu dominated areas in Punjab.

During this time of upheaval and chaos, Pakistan sent its troops disguised as tribal into Kashmir to annex it,  the Hindu king of Kashmir called on Patel and Nehru for help, India flew its troops to Kashmir to stop the massacre. This meant India and Pakistan were now officially at war.

During these times of cacophony, their was the Mahatma, the harbinger of peace. Gandhi, now touching 80, wanted Hindus and Sikhs to stop the violence and even implored them to go back to their homes in Pakistan. The refugees were dumbstruck they could not believe their ears, they came to Delhi for support and refuge instead the Gandhi wanted them to go back, to what? slaughter more rape. To compound their troubles, Gandhi went on a fast to death urging the newly formed Congress government to release 100 crore to Pakistan, this during the time of war with Pakistan.

At the other end was Godse and his partner Narayan Apte, In Pune, they both ran a nationalist news paper. They were appalled by what Gandhi was doing, as per them he was holding the nation to ransom and was anti Hindu. they also blamed him and the leadership of Congress for the split of Mother India. It was then that they deiced to kill Gandhi. They did not know how, when and where but in their head if India had to live then Gandhi had to die.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Magnificent Delusions by Husain Haqqani

Husain Haqqani, the author, is a former Ambassador of Pakistan to US. He was charged with conspiring against the Pak government and had to leave his country and take shelter in the USA. Haqqani a member of Benazir Bhutto's party PPP is an erudite in foreign affairs and Pakistani history. Having access to the corridors of power in the both US and Pak he was privy to secrets and top level Pakistani government and Army functionaries.

Haqqani elucidates the diplomatic and foreign relations between Pak and US starting from the conceptualization of Pakistan, which would serve as a home to Muslims of South East Asia and to the discovery and assassination of infamous mass murderer Osama Bin Laden in Abbotabad, Pakistan in 2011. Haqqani describes how the US has played a pivotal role in harboring, nurturing and supporting the Pakistani establishment in the form of billions of dollars in aid and arms.

The most enlightening facet of the book is how each Pakistani leader starting from the civilian rulers like Liaquat Ali Khan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to Military dictators like General Ayub to Zia and to Musharaff have begged for aid and money from the American Presidents. This is a recurrent theme in the book, as Haqqani is taking us through a tour of Pak history and its relationship with the most powerful nation in the world each new leader keeps on repeating the same things to the Americans ad nauseam, Pakistan's strategic location, its powerful military, anti-communism and the viscous machinations of India.