Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

Crime Master Alfred Hitchcock once said - “I’m full of fears and I do my best to avoid difficulties and any kind of complications. I like everything around me to be clear as crystal and completely calm.”

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino resembles more of a clever Alfred Hitchcock plot rather than a gory Stieg Larsson escapade as says the cover page of this book.

The Plot
The plot is simple. Yasuko leads a simple life as a waitress in a little diner supporting her young daughter Misato as a single mother. One usual day of work, her alcoholic ex-husband Togashi makes an appearance toppling her world. As he harasses Yasuko and Misato with his demands for money, an aggrieved Misato attacks. In the ensuing scuffle, Togashi falls dead.  Next door, an infatuated genius mathematician Ishigami listens and understands. He calmly steps in to protect his lady love and support her to get away. He weaves a brilliant story and creates circumstances that baffle the detectives and clues that lead to nowhere.

Even though the reader knows the murderer and how it was done, it makes for a thrilling read as the police investigator Kusangi tries to unravel the web that Ishigami has woven.  Ishigami ensures that the prime suspect mother-daugher duo have irrefutable alibis, and has a chain of clues that lead to absolutely nowhere and far away from Yasuko and Misato. Even as he stakes all to win Yasuko’s heart, little does he know that there is already someone else in her life. To add to Ishigami’s anxiety, comes along an old friend, Yukawa, a brilliant physics professor who has studied in the past with Ishigami. As the usually reclusive Ishigami meets with his old friend, he realizes that Yukawa is an aide to the police investigating the case and to add to the irony of the situation; Yukawa seeks Ishigami’s help in investigating Yasuko!

The emotional turmoil that the characters go through is well-placed in this otherwise fast-paced plot. Thankfully it is not really sappy or too sentimental and one can almost picture the geeky Ishigami in love and seeking to protect his damsel in distress quietly and unobtrusively while hoping she accepts him.
Elements of a best seller are a good story that keeps the readers on tenterhooks, strong characters with well delineated emotions and crisp editing. The Devotion of Suspect X had all these factors in its favor and the very unexpected twist at the end ensured that the reader will not forget the story for a long while. However perhaps it is a little unbelievable that any person would do so much for his love, especially when it is not even reciprocated or even known.  But that apart, I think most of the story was very believable, and everything stacked up well with no loose ends.

The Verdict –For a story well told, with all elements of a commercial potboiler- drama, pretty woman, damned villain, mystery, and last but the best of all, an original twist in the tale I will give 4/5 stars.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Friday, May 04, 2012

It's all in a Name!

Who is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta?  Hint – She is one of the most celebrated rock stars today.  Well, for those who don’t know her yet, this lady chose to call herself differently and her name is yet another feather in her cap for being different.

Going on with my previous obsession on names (see previous blog here), I have developed a keen eye out for everything that is named and whether or not it makes sense. Names abound in a consumerist society that is now very socially active virtually. Gone are the days when one plainly asked for a product.  Each person, each product and everything that is marketed is now a brand.  Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is a brand. She is a legend with more than 20 million followers and more fans than that.  She is better known as Lady Gaga. 

A few general observations on names that catch my fancy (or those that didn’t) - .

Can we then choose to call ourselves what we want to be known as? Can there be a world where our last names and our first names are changeable to whatever we choose them to be without the hassle and the extra work that goes into it?
All doting parents want the names of their babies to be different.  Gone are the days when the usual Rahuls, Nehas, Amits and Poojas ruled the roost. Now each name is increasingly complicated, myriad and has to have international connotations. Interpretations in different languages are sought and pronounce-ability in foreign languages tested.  As a result, again all the ‘uncommon’ names have become common! In my circle of people, there suddenly is a glut of Aryans, Aryas, Aaravs who are probably the next generations Amits!

Whatever the real identities of the people maybe, social media has changed the game. If Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta can call herself Lady Gaga, non-rockstars on twitter and blogger have changed their identities.  Many new age twitter celebrities are known solely by their chosen names. From an Outlook cover story on the new age celebrities, the ones who are featured are a Gabbar Singh, Bollywood Gandu, Great Bong, Jay Hind, Satan Bhagat, Rofl Indian and Dr Yum Yum Singh.  Who cares what their real names are.  One of my favorite bloggers is known as Cyber Nag or Zephyr Nag (visit her blog here) as she chooses to call herself. Her real name remains a mystery to most. I can’t call her anything else but Zephyr Aunty and don’t even want to know what her real name is!  More famous by their chosen names, these individuals have created their own brands and have huge fan followings.I almost think it's time to rechristen myself now!

Housing Projects
Enroute Pune on the expressway, as one nears Pune, a host of hoardings spring up on the latest best residential projects. All of them make you dream of living that foreign dream. Almost. With names like Wisteriaaa (do they think they are building a Desperate housewives set really), Pallazio, Rivieraa, Manhattan,  Liviano, Ariana, Kyra, Silver Leaf and Aria,  Pune is the new Rome or Greece or New York!  As images of Italian restaurants are conjured up, it is dismaying to enter the chaos of the typical Indian city and see that all these buildings that are supposed to be surrounded by lush green fields and resort like locales in the advertisements are in reality in concrete jungles surrounded by more buildings and once the paint starts pealing, the Ariana will be more of OhDearana!

Phones and tablets
With increasing number of mobile phone models, automobile models and new products being launched, I say it isn’t easy to boil down on that one name that has already not being taken which would resonate well with the target audience. Consider the ‘iPad’ for one. Apple has it simple now.  Anything with the ‘i’ attached to it is mostly a hallowed Apple product and sells.  The next in the series are simple 1, 2 or 3 and so on.  So we have had the ipad1, ipad2, ipad3, iphone1..iphone4 now iphone 4S.

Other companies though have had to be more imaginative with a massive range of phones in all possible sizes, configurations and features. Samsung has its ‘Galaxy’ of phones with really weird and impossible to remember suffixes of I9070, Y Duos, Pro Duos, I9100 etc. Nokia has its Lumias suffixed with the again immensely forgettable 610, 710, 810 etc. All other companies have a range of names such as Explorer, Sensation, Rhyme (HTC), Bold, Curve, Torch (Blackberry).

I have always enjoyed knowing the names of new launches. Bikes are exciting in their nomenclature. Discover, Pulsar, Eliminator, Avenger, Sprint from the Bajaj stable certainly try and bring in that adrenaline rush as it tries to outdo Hero Honda. Hero Honda has an elegant Splendor, Karizma, Passion, CBZ Xtreme, Achiever and Glamor in its repertoire that talks of looks, style and the passion to ride.

Cars aren’t left behind in the naming race either. Maruti scored with its apt ‘Swift’ with is sleek and sporty looks.  Chevrolet has a Spark and a Beat that are certainly uplifting names to own.  I don’t know how Hyundai got away with i10 and i20 even though they are not Apple products! Honda with its City has garnered plenty of urban users with its urban name.  Nissan Sunny certainly has a sunny feeling to it while Skoda with its Superb can make its owner proud.

Each brand has certainly tried to bring about speed, style or have a bright name to jazz up your mood!

Item songs!
The next hottest sought after names are in Bollywood ruled by Chikni Chamelis, Badnaam Munnis, Jawaan Shielas, Discoing Anarkalis, Silk Smithas, Dhannos and Chammos!. I wonder what is next- Rapchik Reshma, Nylon Nalini and did someone just say Cotton Kamini?!

What are some of the exciting names you have come across or thought of?