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.