Book Review(s): The Falcon, The Proof, The Witness & The Colonel

[A continuation of the book review roundup from my previous post.]

Indisputable Proof - Gary Williams-Vicky Knerly
Is there proof of life after death? A survivor of a near-death experience himself, CIA operative Samuel Tolen confronts startling revelations when he, Spanish inspector Pascal Diaz and British archaeologist Dr. Jade Mollur embark on a perilous globe-trotting adventure to recover the stolen Sudarium of Oviedo. An absolute page turner, Indisputable Proof takes a middle road between Dan Brown's breathless cliffhangers and Matthew Reilly's over the top action adventures to offer a gripping conspiracy thriller.

Whose Body? & Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers
The first mystery in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, and my first Dorothy L. Sayers. Obviously having heard a lot about her works, I picked up Whose Body? with sky-high anticipation. But unfortunately I found the mystery to be pedestrian at best (effect of reading too many whodunits maybe?). Two unconnected occurrences and the ensuing investigations by Wimsey and Parker have occasional flashes of ingenuity, and the narrative, though beautifully written, takes too much time to arrive at the conclusion.

The novel springs a surprise by dealing with post traumatic stress disorder in an interesting fashion through the character of Wimsey (that too for a novel published years after the World War I), and it brings about an element of psychological complication to the story. Not one of the best mysteries around, but not bad either. Sayers, however, is in much better form in Clouds of Witness, in which Wimsey's own brother Gerald is accused of murdering their sister's fiance, a Captain Denis Cathcart. Humorous and suspenseful till the end, Sayers's sleight of hand is impressive and the characters are a delight to read.

The Maltese Falcon - Dashiell Hammett
When Sam Spade's partner is murdered in what seems to be a regular stakeout, cops get hot on his trail and suspect him of the killing. The beautiful Miss Wonderly who employed them isn't what she claims to be, and everybody is behind a priceless golden statuette of a falcon. What makes it so valuable? Who has it? How Spade figures all of it forms the rest of the story. As a novel that marked the beginning of hard-boiled detective fiction, The Maltese Falcon offers plenty of action, adventure and a superb climactic twist. Detective Samuel Spade's cocky assertiveness may reek of arrogance, but that's what makes him even more appealing as a character. A thrilling classic!

A Trick of the Light & How the Light Gets In - Louise Penny
One place I really wish it existed in real life would be the idyllic Canadian village of Three Pines that forms the setting for Louise Penny's mysteries. If A Trick of the Light is about the murder of an art critic at Clara Morrow's party thrown to celebrate her solo art show at a Montreal museum, How the Light Gets In brings inspector Armand Gamache to investigate the death of a septuagenarian lady, a Constance Pineault.

Louise Penny's narrative wizardry aside, what makes her books very enjoyable are the realistically fleshed out characters, so interwoven into the story that one hopes to meet such lovely characters in real life! Just make sure you read the books in proper order (How the Light... is more of a continuation of a sub-plot that's explored in A Trick..., while the latter has lots of references to The Brutal Telling), and in doing so, you will be rewarded with a reading experience like no other. How does she continually top her own best works is a befuddling mystery!

A Reason to Live - Matthew Iden
Marty Singer, recently retired from police to battle cancer, goes about his solitary uneventful life until an unsolved case from the past comes knocking his door. Graduate student Amanda Lane, daughter of a single mother who was shot dead by a cop twelve years before, fears that she is being targeted by the same man who was responsible for her mother's death. And Singer, putting aside his health concerns, decides to help her out. A riveting story, A Reason to Live nicely depicts the dichotomy of life and death. Marty Singer has seen many a deaths in his career, but he is now forced to reconcile with the possibility of his own death. The mystery on the whole is fairly well-developed and the characters are endearing and engage your interest. A fascinating debut by Matthew Iden!

No One Writes to the Colonel - Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
An impoverished retired Colonel, who had served the nation during the Thousand Days' War, patiently awaits for the pension he was promised fifteen years earlier. His asthmatic wife chides him for being so naive, and yet their hopes are aroused every Friday, for it's when the mail boat arrives with the letters to be delivered. The colonel and his wife lead a miserable life with nothing else but a fighting cock left by their son who was assassinated for passing around censored material. His wife implores him to sell off the rooster, but will he? If not, what will they eat, and how will they survive? Abound with interpretations of life and death and themes of political repression, No One Writes to the Colonel is illuminating and heart-breaking in equal measure.