Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: Is not one of the best Mystery Novels

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie; Is not one of the best Mystery Novels

Few mystery lovers have formally and informally asked me why the “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd “ has not been mentioned among the other best mystery novels of all time on this blog and I think I owe them a explanation. So here it goes.

Although “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” is considered one of the masterpieces of Agatha Christie and hailed by many critics as a path breaking mystery novel that set new rules and standard for mystery genre, I do not believe in this mass delusion that it is one of the best mystery novels of all time because of the following reasons.

First of all there is only one murder in the novel. Then there are too many red herrings; too much speculation by different characters instead of solid detective work by the protagonist Hercule Poirot who is supposed to be a good detective. However, few more murders are revealed by the end of the novel but by that time novel runs out of the entertainment juice.

Secondly, I don’t like the character of Caroline Sheppard at all. Anyone with a little bit of sense can spot that this character is totally fictitious. The way she is able to gather information from the social vine about crimes and hidden affairs of different people is completely unnatural and outright childish.

If gathering information about crimes or hidden secrets of people is so much easy as depicted in this novel then perhaps government must disband the intelligence agencies like FBI or CIA and recruit hawkers, milkmen, grocery store owners etc to combat crime and terrorism.

It is the good complex believable characters that make a novel worth reading, not some meddling snoopy spinster who spins too much yarn than she should.

Third, the plot is marred by too many unrelated incidents; the story drags on needlessly and at times is boring. The plot of a good mystery novel is supposed to be captivating; it keeps the reader ensnared and compels him to keep on turning the pages. Unfortunately, this is not the case with this novel. This would have been a better novel if the unnecessary matter was chiseled out and the length was reduced by at least thirty percent. 
And last, the bizarre twist at the end when the real killer is revealed and the absurd choice that Poirot gave to the killer. Since I do not want to ruin anybody’s experience with the novel I am refraining from giving any details but what Poirot did never made sense and what antagonist did, did not make sense either.

Poirot sardonically says to the killer, “It would be most unwise on your part to attempt to silence me as you silenced M. Ackroyd. That kind of business does not succeed against Hercule Poirot, you understand.” Why that kind of business will not work with Poirot? Is he a god? The above cocky line made me so angry that I wanted to jump into the novel and choke life out of Poirot with my bare hands for wasting so much of my time.

The antagonist had already killed other people, what was stopping him from trying to kill Poirot? Especially when they were alone. If the antagonist had attacked Poirot and died during the confrontation or even better had killed Poirot to elude law forever; then my views of the novel could have been a little different but sadly, it is not so.

Therefore, the murder of Roger Ackryod by Agatha Christie is just another mystery novel and it should not be counted among the best mystery novels of all time.  

Monday, 29 April 2013

The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

If you are looking for a good detective mystery novel that ensnares your senses and leave you wanting for more at the end, then this novel may be the answer of your quest.

The protagonist Sam Spade and his partner Miles Archer are private detectives cum muscle for hire who are always eager for any job until it is legit and pays well. So when the beautiful mysterious woman, Miss Wonderly shows up at their office and offers to pay hefty money for the simple assignment of keeping an eye on  a man, Floyd Thursby who allegedly eloped with her younger sister, Sam and Miles are more than happy to oblige Miss Wonderly, although Sam sense something troubling about this whole business.

Sam’s foreboding proves right. Soon Miles is found murdered and sooner than later Floyd also turns up dead. To make matters worse, Sam makes it to the top of the suspect list with the police for these murders and a little inquiry into the background of Miss Wonderly reveals that she is none that she claims to be. In fact, she could be more resourceful and dangerous than Sam ever imagined.

Moreover, other enigmatic, ruthless and dangerous men start visiting Sam, looking for a lost artifact called “The Maltese falcon”. Their offer is very simple, handsome payment in return of the artifact or deadly consequences of permanent nature if the artifact is not returned, but since Sam does not even know about the existence of this artifact then how possibly he can have it.

Now Sam must use all of his wit, skill and cunning to save his skin and solve the complicated puzzle of “The Maltese Falcon”.

This novel has an adrenalin-pumping story that delivers pure entertainment in no nonsense, to the point way. The plot is gritty, has plenty of twists and turns, and keeps you guessing until the end.

The one thing that I liked in particular about the character of Sam Spade is that he is a mean selfish kind of the detective unlike the white hat detectives found in most of the mystery novels. Sam is the kind of guy who loves money, can do anything for his survival and given an opportunity he can take advantage of anyone. He gets by each day knowing that at the end of the day he does more good than harm. This grey morality of Sam works very well for the plot and events depicted in the novel.

At the end, I can only say that from the depths of imagination and pulp fiction, Mr. Hammett has conjured up a novel, which is one of the best novels ever produced in detective mystery genre, and no doubt, it is a compulsive read.

My rating is five out of five stars.


The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

First novel in the critically acclaimed Philip Marlow series, this novel is regarded as the best work of Raymond Chandler to this date and in fact, in 2005 this book was even included in “TIME’s list of the 100 Best Novels.” The story of this magnificent novel opens up as follows:- 
Harassed by the wild adventures of his amorous, amoral, young, beautiful daughter, Carmen; the wealthy retired general, General Sternwood, employs the dashing quick witted private detective, Philip Marlow to sort out a blackmailing attempt on Carmen that may ruin the hard earned good reputation of the Sternwood family forever. During his meeting with the general, Philip also learns that the husband of general’s older daughter has vanished without a trace. Now this may or may not be related with the blackmailing business. 

To clean up the mess, Philip first decides to investigate the greedy blackmailer, Arthur Geigor who also happens to be the leader of an underground sex racket.

On a dark lonely night as Philip stakes out the house of Geigor, he sees Carmen Sternwood enter the house and then a little later he hears a blood-chilling scream followed by several gunshots. Before he can comprehend what is really happening, he watches two cars flee from the spot with lightening speed.
Philip runs to the house and discovers a disturbing scene. He finds Geigor in a grotesque state, apparently dead from multiple gunshot wounds and Carmen unconscious, posing nude in front of a camera from which the film has been stolen.

As a favor to the general, and to save the Sternwood family from great embarrassment, Philip rescues Carmen and takes her home, but when he returns to Geigor’s house to check out the crime scene, he is shocked to see that Geigor’s dead body has also been stolen. Fearing the worst, Philip too immediately flees from the house but it does not take cops long to call upon him to question about these morbid incidents.

Set in Los Angeles California, this dazzling hardboiled detective mystery is a fantastic tale of family bond, corruption, debauchery and the persistence of one man, Philip Marlow, to uncover the truth at any price. The complex plot of this astonishing novel is driven at a fast pace by powerful characters, clever dialogue, secret relationships, plenty of unexpected double crosses, and frequent dead bodies that keep piling up.

Contrary to the choice of the title name, this novel keeps the readers on an edge and keeps them from sleeping while they enjoy it.

My rating four out of five stars.


Friday, 20 July 2012

The Da Vinci Code


Dan Brown’s mystery-thriller novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’ pits protagonist, Robert Langdon, a middle-aged professor of religious iconology at Harvard University, a symbologist, an expert puzzle solver and a genius among other things, against the shrewd antagonist, known only as ‘Teacher’  who is relentlessly searching for the ‘Holy Grail’ and aims to destroy Vatican Church forever.

Robert Langdon comes to Paris to lecture on his work, a routine affair but his routine is disturbed drastically when the police comes knocking at the door of his hotel room. They inform Robert that Sauniére, curator of Louvre museum, an acquaintance of Robert, has been found murdered at the museum and they need his assistance in deciphering a cryptic message left at the crime scene.

Unaware of the complication that he is himself the prime suspect in the murder, Robert agrees to police’s request and goes to museum where Sauniére’s dead body has been put on the display by the killer in the manner similar to one of the Da Vinci’s painting, Vitruvian Man.

Police captain Bezu Fache intends to get a confession out of the Robert by confronting him on the crime scene but police cryptographer, Sophie Neveu, who is also the granddaughter of Sauniére, warns Robert of Fache’s plan.

She understands that Sauniére wanted Robert to decrypt cryptic message and that Robert has nothing to do with her grandfather’s murder, a view that is not shared by her superiors.

Robert and Sophie join forces to uncover the diabolical plot behind  Sauniére’s murder, which lead them into dark corners of church, Priory of Sion – a secret organization, hunt for the holy grail, possibility of Jesus married to Mary Magdalene – one of the most eminent disciple of Jesus and ultimately to the hidden identity of witty antagonist, Teacher.

While police and a dangerous assassin is on Robert and Sophie’s trail, Robert keeps on solving one complicated puzzle after another to finally unearth a shocking truth that changes Sophie’s life forever.

The thrilling story of the novel revolves around the struggle of Robert and Sophie to uncover the truth, Church’s attempts to block them in their quest, difficult puzzles, ciphers and labyrinths, shady characters lurking in the dark, secret pagan groups and conspiracy theories.

Dan Brown has used historical events as the building blocks for setting the stage in present time to develop the fictional story as a fact in which boundaries of fiction and reality merge to create an addictive plot.
However, some may accuse Dan of misrepresenting the history but people tend to forget that it is fictional work meant for entertainment; it is not a course material to be taught at schools so it has to be historically correct. 

Moreover, some will be appalled by the alternative life history of Jesus Christ and the negative role in which Vatican Church has been presented in the novel, but it definitely deserves a reading for having a unique absorbing story.

To sum up the review, I can only say that ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is profanely captivating and deserves four out of five stars.