Prem Rao

Stories from a Story Teller

“The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware

I had heard of the author Ruth Ware and her debut novel, “The Dark, Dark Wood” but hadn’t got down to reading it. I was therefore delighted to get this opportunity to read and review another thriller by her called, ” The Woman in Cabin 10.”

Laura “Lo” Blacklock is a journalist with Velocity a travel magazine. She is thrilled when she is assigned a task she seldom gets, to cover a luxury cruise on Lord Bullmer’s private cruise ship, “Aurora.” Ordinarily, her boss Rowan Lonsdale would have made the trip. However, her pregnancy came in the way of this cruise and the opportunity fell, as it were,  into Laura’s lap.  It couldn’t have been better timed because she was under tremendous stress following an argument with her long-standing boyfriend, Judah Lewis. She had also undergone a traumatic experience when a burglar had crashed into her apartment when she was having a shower. The cruise along the Scandinavian coast promised to be a most welcome change for Laura.

Everyone knew that Bullmer had the blue blood and the title but the money came from his wife Anne, the Lynstad heiress. The others on the cruise were largely his personal friends, moneyed and sophisticated, making Laurar feel a bit diffident on how she could hold her own in their midst. Fortunately for her, another passenger happens to be Ben Howard who had earlier worked with her in Velocity. Welcomed warmly aboard, Lo is assigned Cabin 9, the Linnaeus Suite, which is as charming and luxurious as the rest of the ship. The trip promised to be incredibly exciting.

The trip turns out to a terrible experience for Laura when one night she sees the body of the woman being thrown overboard from the balcony of the adjoining Cabin 10. What makes it worse is her seeing so much blood on the deck which suggests the woman must have been killed and thrown into the sea. The nightmare becomes progressively worse when no one believes her story least of all Nilsson the Security Chief of the Aurora. He and the others take pains to impress upon her that neither the passenger list or the staff roster has a woman matching the description of the one in Cabin 10 Laura gave to anyone who would listen to her.

Ware deftly carries you through the twists and turns in the fast paced story. The plot is interesting and the characters believable but one I feel that Lo Blacklock was too bitter towards everyone in the world, even when there was no need for her to be so. The story reaches an unexpected climax and leaves you totally satisfied with the read.

 

 

 

 

 

“The 9.45 to Bletchley” by Madalyn Morgan

Set in Britain during the early years of the Second World War, Madalyn Morgan’s, “The 9.45 to Bletchley” is an interesting book which has elements of suspense and leads to a fitting climax. Ena Dudley is a young woman who works in the engineering firm called Silcott’s. She is engaged in top-secret work and knows that the products manufactured by their firm are contributing to the war effort, though she doesn’t quite know how all the pieces fit in. Much of what they do is governed by the war-time Official Secrets Act. Her boss entrusts her to transport her output, which he usually used to carry himself, to the secret defence establishment at Bletchley. Read more…

“Sam Giancana: The Rise and Fall of a Chicago Mobster” by Susan McNicoll

If the beginning of a book has to be good enough to grab your attention,  “Sam Giancana: The Rise and Fall of a Chicago Mobster” by Susan McNicoll has such a start. The six-year-old Sam is beaten periodically by his father, Antonio Giancana. He is tied to an oak tree in the backyard and whipped with a razor strap until he bled. McNicoll writes, ” the beatings at the oak tree were gruesomely regular, from then on but perversely, this abuse spawned in the boy a ferocious driving force. There was nothing he could not withstand, there was nothing he could not do. And the world paid heavily for the man that boy became.” Read more…

“The Unexpected Son” by Shobhan Bantwal

This was the first book I read by Shobhan Bantwal and I must say that I enjoyed her , “The Unexpected Son.” The story begins when a letter written in the old fashioned way, by ordinary mail, is delivered to Vinita Patil who has made the United States her home for the past few decades. In these days of electronic mail, this in itself was an oddity since there weren’t too many people who would write to her like this from India. Her surprise turns rapidly to shock when she reads the letter addressed to her by name by an anonymous well-wisher. The letter, in brief, informs her that her son in India is suffering from leukaemia and is not expected to live much longer. He desperately needs a bone marrow transplant which just might save his life. Read more…

“She Walks, She Leads” by Gunjan Jain

She Walks, She Leads” is in my opinion a somewhat misleading title for Gunjan Jain’s outstanding book profiling 24 of India’s most famous ladies of recent times. If not for the by line, “Women Who Inspire India” one might wonder what the book was about going just by the title. I would have opted for, “Trailblazers: 24 Women Who Inspired India” or something to that effect.

Be that as it may, this 520 page book published recently by Penguin-Viking is a trailblazer of sorts. I can’t readily recall anyone having catalogued so succinctly but in such an interesting manner the lives of 24 women who achieved great success in contemporary India, almost always struggling against great odds. Without exception all of them have become household names in India, a country where there is a huge need for role models. This book provides an intimate glimpse of the lives of these women. Read more…

“The Escape” by David Baldacci

I seldom read two books by the same author in quick succession. This time there has been an exception as after “The Hit” by David Baldacci, a couple of weeks later, I read his “The Escape.” This features the Military CID Investigator John Puller. I was coming across this character for the first time but I understand he has featured in two other books by Baldacci in the past. The book starts with a bang, as all thrillers should. In a first time ever event, a notorious captive escapes from the ultra high security United States Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth. The man who escaped did not merely vanish into thin air but left behind a body of someone whom nobody had seen before at that prison. What makes the plot more intriguing is that the escaped prisoner was a brilliant man, an expert in nuclear technology and cyber security who had been a Major in the United States Air Force until his conviction. He happens to be none other than John Puller’s elder brother, Robert. Read more…

Learn More About Writing

There really is no end to learning. Reading what others say about the craft of writing helps you improve your own writing. With this as the context, allow me to share a few articles that caught my attention over the last few weeks:  Read more…

“Chillies and Porridge” Edited by Mita Kapur

This delightful book, edited by Mita Kapur, founder and CEO of Siyahi, described as India’s leading literary consultancy sports the  cheerful title of  “Chillies and Porridge.” It is a must read for food lovers. It is not a collection of recipes, it is not a treatise on the history of food habits in the various parts of India but is a collection of anecdotes contributed by 23 well-known Indians. All of them have one theme in common : food is central to their  stories. In them, they capture through their words the sights, sounds and tastes that they relished in the course of their lives, recounting their favourite stories about their favourite foods. Read more…

“The Hit” by David Baldacci

If you like action-packed thrillers, you will enjoy, “The Hit” by David Baldacci, an acclaimed writer in this genre. The book begins with a gripping account of how a handler for the CIA, Doug Jacobs is literally shot on the job. He is killed as he directs his sniper to shoot an assigned target. Suspicion falls on Jessica Reel,  a former sniper expert in the Agency who has gone rogue. The case is assigned to Will Robie, known far and wide to be the best in his trade. Robie has to find and stop Jacobs’s killer.  Read more…

“Durbar” by Tavleen Singh

I have always liked books by Tavleen Singh and this one was no exception.  The aptly named, “Durbar” is a breezy read about Lutyens Delhi as it now is popularly called, where the high and mighty of India meet in exclusive social circles of which at one time she was a prominent member. The book is about the period from 1975 when she first became a journalist to around 1991 when Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India was assassinated.

In those days, far more than now, the school you went to, the university you attended and the way you spoke English mattered more and often determined whether you could become part of exclusive social circles. Tavleen happened to be one of those who was a part of, what we would now term a social network, which included prominent politicians like Naveen Patnaik ( who later became, and indeed still is, the Chief Minister of Orissa), and Dr Farooq Abdullah, (later Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir). They were amongst her close friends. She thus came to be part of a social circle which included the then Prime Minster Indira Gandhi’s son Rajiv, and his Italian wife, Sonia. This book, in some measure, is a story of the Gandhis of Delhi. Read more…

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