A Burning

A Burning by Megha Majumdar is a powerful novel set in Calcutta tracking the interweaved stories of 3 characters – Jivan, Lovely and PT Sir

Jivan is a young muslim woman who is wrongly accused of aiding terrorists in firebombing a train when she was only carrying a parcel of old school books for Lovely. Lovely is a Hijra who is set on pursuing her career as an actress who is being taught English by Jivan. PT Sir is a PT teacher who used to teach Jivan and is now intent soon becoming politician in the opposition party.

Some ill advised social media activity puts Jivan in the frame for the firebombing when the police cannot trace the perpetrators. Someone has to be responsible and it looks as if it will be Jivan, both Lovely and PT Sir are witnesses for the defence. As the narrative evolves you wonder whether either will stand up for Jivan, leading to a good twist at the end.

Burning is a compelling read which brings an insight into the under class in Calcutta and the corruption of local politics. Read it!

4/5

How not to be Wrong

“How not to be Wrong” is James O’Brien’s latest book following on from “How to be Right”

O’Brien is the Marmite of radio chat show presenters, I am a fan but a critical one. His technique of persistent questioning and focus enables him to ridicule people he doesn’t agree with in a seemingly reasonable way. It’s entertainment but sometimes it feels cruel.

How to be Right was quite a self righteous book using sequences from the chat show to illustrate how questioning can puncture firmly held beliefs that are not backed up by evidence and fact.

How not to be Wrong is much more self reflective, O’Brien writes about his own personal crisis, going through therapy and how that process lead him to re-evaluate some of his own firmly held beliefs and to regret some of his past evisceration of callers to his chat show.

How not to be Wrong is thought provoking for all of us who are equally convinced about the rightness of our views on politics, social issues and life. O’Brien’s key lesson is that if you are convinced that you are right and are trying to persuade others of the folly of their opinions then you have to be able to change your own mind and reconsider your own beliefs as well. Seems like a good message to me and well worth a read.

4/5

The Survivors

The Survivors by Jane Harper has been described as “Outback Noir”. It’s set in a small beachside resort in Tasmania which is haunted by the impact of a massive storm that hit over a decade previously in which 3 locals lost their lives.

Kieran who lost his brother in the storm returns home with his wife and young baby to visit his parents carrying a lot of guilt. On his first night a young waitress is found murdered on the beach with some similarities to a young girl who died in the storm. As the murder enquiry progresses Kieran starts to discover more about the fateful day when his brother died in the storm and that inevitably is intertwined with the more recent murder.

This is dark, quite readable and has a good finish but it didn’t blow me away and I won’t be eagerly anticipating Harper’s next book.

3/5

Fragile Monsters

Fragile Monsters by Catherine Menon is an impressive debut. This multi-generational family drama is set in Malaysia between WW2 and the present day.

Durga returns to Malaysia from Canada to restart her life as an academic. While visiting her grouchy grandmother a series of events trigger the unwinding of the mystery surrounding Durga’s mother, the war years and family secrets. The plot switches between pre-war Malaya under British rule and the war years, the post-war reconstruction and modern day denial.

I enjoyed Fragile Monsters, I knew nothing about the process of Malaya becoming Malaysia so I can’t vouch for it’s historical accuracy. The intergenerational interplay between Durga and her grandmother is handled very well and there s a compelling pace to the novel that builds to an effective ending.

Well worth a read

4/5

Sixteen Horses

Sixteen Horses by Greg Buchanan is dark, very dark.

Set in a windswept isolated English coastal town, 16 horses heads are found buried in a field. As the police investigate dark secrets about the local community start to emerge. The rain keeps falling.

I don’t know where this went as I found it so depressing that I could not bring myself to finish it!

The Roots of Evil

The Roots of Evil by Quintin Jardine is an Edinburgh based crime novel that inevitably brings to mind Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels. But Jardine’s hero, Bob Skinner, is a very different character, a retired Chief Constable who is still highly respected in the new integrated Scottish police force.

It’s new year’s morning and a former police officer with a slightly tainted past is found shot dead in his car alongside an active officer who was also one of Skinner’s officers who also had an affair with Skinner’s daughter. Add in a complex and barely credible relationship with Skinner’s ex-wife now married to the head of one of Edinburgh’s leading crime families who has disappeared as a gang war may be breaking out and you have a plot full of twists and turns.

Roots of Evil is an easy read and quite enjoyable but somehow the plot didn’t hang together and I was eft a little disappointed.

3.5/5