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A Vish Puri mystery set in modern day Delhi. This actually turned out to be the second book in the series.

Publication year: 2010
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2013
Format: print
Page count: 332 including the glossary
Translator: Tero Valkonen
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Gummerus

Here in Finland Vish Puri is advertised as “Hercules Poirot of India” I think that’s a good comparison if you must make comparisons. To me, the book feels like a Christie type cozy mystery where the overweight private detective walks around the city talking to various people and thus solving the mystery. No gore and no sadistic serial killers here. Hall also gives us a glimpse of the vastly different parts of Delhi: the well-off middle class who have their own servants and the desperately poor who barely have enough to live. They live in different parts of the city and have very different lives. And the food!

Vish Puri of Most Private Investigators Ltd. is in the middle of working for a client who has relocated to India from US and his horrified about the level of corruption and the money he has to pay just to get his children to school. Puri is amused by the client’s attitude but helps him, of course. Then a prominent local scientist is apparently murdered by Kali the goddess herself. The victim, Dr. Suresh Jha, specialized on bringing down the local holy men and exposing them as charlatans. The murder happened in broad day light in the middle of a laughter group gathering. Dr. Jha belong to the group where they practice laughing daily. The other members were able to only laugh and laugh while the goddess appeared in a smoke cloud, put her sword through the victim, and disappeared again. The main suspect is an extremely successful, and wealthy, spiritual guru.

Meanwhile Puri’s wife and mother go to a meeting with their female friends. They each bring a sizable sum of money which is gathered and given to one of the women there chosen with lottery. They do it once a month but this time they’re robbed and the robber gets away with the money! The police are convinced that the hostess’ servants did it and don’t even consider anyone else and even refuse to take evidence which Puri’s mother has arranged for them. She is, after all, the widow of a prominent police officer and thereby almost a detective herself So, Puri’s mother decides to solve the case herself and drags her daughter-in-law into it, too. Puri doesn’t approve of women as detective, so they leave him out of it. And Puri’s youngest daughter returns home: she’s pregnant with twins. It’s apparently traditional for her to give birth in her parents’ house.

Puri has the entertaining habit of giving his underlings humorous nicknames; thus his driver is Handbreak and another underling is Tublight and another Facecream.

Puri is very different from usual modern US PIs: he’s married with grown children and has several servants. He also considers it his duty to employ those less fortunate than himself and take care of his employees. Far cry from the usual single or divorced alcoholic PIs who work strictly alone.

His mother is a determined older woman who is also a very entertanining character. Through her, and Puri’s wife Rumpi, we get a glimpse of the lives of the upper-class women in Delhi.

Hall makes fun of spiritual gurus and magicians who seem to be numerous in India. For me, this was a very exotic element at least in the way they represent their “divine gifts.” Hall also uses a lot of native words, especially with food. Thankfully, most of them were in the glossary because I’m not all familiar with Indian food.

I haven’t read much about India and I’ve never visited there so this was a fascinating glimpse into their culture. The characters feel exaggerated and they could certainly be just as stereotypical as the people in Wodehouse’s books.

An entertaining and mostly light-hearted mystery.

“It was not uncommon for him to experience such a sense of dislocation when working in Delhi these days. The India of beggars and farmer suicides and the one of the cafes selling frothy Italian coffee were like parallel dimensions. As he slipped back and forth between them, he often found himself pondering the ancient Indian axiom that this world is but maya, an illusion, a collective dream.”

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A Modesty Blaise adventure.
Publication year: 1967
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1967
Format: print
Page count: 311
Translator: Jukka Kemppinen
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Otava

This time Modesty and Willie encounter a young man who has talents in ESP. The man is called Lucifer and an exceptionally ruthless man Seff, and his wife Regina, have acquired, perhaps kidnapped, Lucifer and are using him to their own ends. Apparently, Lucifer’s mind has fractured (he’s called paranoid in the book) and he really thinks that he’s the devil and the people around him are his diabolical servants. He has the ability to foretell who is going to die and he can also use this ability to stay ahead of his opponent in a fight. However, he’s not an evil and has no malicious intent. Seff and his crew are able to use Lucifer’s delusions to their advantage and they’ve come up with a blackmail scheme. If the blackmail subjects don’t pay, Seff’s underlings kill them. The blackmail subjects are also told about the people whom Lucifer has predicted will die and told that the subjects will die themselves if they don’t pay. Seff and his wife use very strange puppet shows to enhance Lucifer’s delusions.

Rene Vaubois, the head of the French Deuxieme Bureau and Modesty’s friend, is being blackmailed. He’s not rich but he’s a civil servant and the blackmailers want his government to pay. But they don’t. Fortunately, when Seff’s goons attack, Modesty and Willie are there to save Rene. They start to investigate the matter.

At the same time, Modesty has a new friend Steven Collier. He claims to be a metallurgist but he actually is researches all sorts of supernatural skills in humans. He’s interested in Willie’s danger sense especially when it also reacts when Modesty is in danger. However, Modesty travels to Britain in order to investigate the strange blackmailers and leaves Steve behind. But the blackmailers contact Steve because they want Lucifer to be even more accurate than he already is.

This is a fast-paced thriller where the reader knows the people responsible and enjoys the ride towards the final confrontation. Modesty and Willie are their usual almost supernaturally capable people and Steven balances that out.

However, I was troubled by some aspects of the book. Just like in the previous book, Modesty was put into a situation where she had to use sex or “allow” herself to be raped in order to save her life. She doesn’t dwell on it and treats it as just another way to survive which almost makes it more peculiar. In fact, the men around her have harder time accepting it than she which makes it even more peculiar. I don’t remember any of the comic strips using that kind of plot device but I guess it wouldn’t be possible in visual form. Also, we get some strange ideas about gay people. One of the men attacking Modesty near the beginning of the book is a crossdresser and that apparently makes him gay…

Otherwise, this is again a great ride with memorable villains.

A Modesty Blaise spy adventure.
Publication year: 1966
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1967
Format: print
Page count: 315
Translator: Seppo Harjulehto
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Otava

The second Modesty Blaise book starts with a glimpse of the enemies: a ruthless mercenary commander called Karz is gathering a large group of mercenaries, people who would kill anyone for money. Among them are the Twins, two huge men who fight like one man even though they hate each other (they’re Siamese twins who were separate later in life). Karz is looking for more lieutenants. He wants the best and has his eye on Blaise and Garvin but the two are difficult to control so he’s looking for leverage.

Meanwhile, Sir Gerard Tarrant (the head of British Intelligence) has a problem and he brings it reluctantly to Modesty and Willie. Turn out that some crackpot is claiming to be Prime Minister of Free Kuwait and saying that the current government oppresses the local people. However, that’s not true and Tarrant has a hard time figuring out what’s going on. He also knows that mercenaries are disappearing alarmingly.

Also meanwhile, Modesty and Willie have taken under their wing a young girl, Lucille, who has lost her parents and has lived on the streets. She has a hard time getting used to her new life, stealing even from Sir Gerard.

This is a very good Modesty Blaise adventure: plenty of action and violence and memorable villains. Modesty and Willie have to endure a lot and their friendship is put through a hard test. Highly entertaining! While both Modesty and Willie have to be in the biggest badass mode to get through everything alive, they’re more compassioned sides are shown.

On the down side, this was written in the 60s and it shows: Modesty is called “a girl” and other sexism, and there are some seriously strange ideas about rape. I could have done with certain scenes near the end.

I’m kicking myself for leaving it unread for a couple of years.

A short story collection centered on crimes done in the past.
Publication year: 2014
Format: ebook
Page count: 236
Publisher: WMG Publishing

Customs and laws have changed from time to time and place to place. These stories explore actions which have been crimes in the past but are no longer crimes. I liked all of these. The stories with slavery (Crowe’s and Nelscott’s stories) were the most disturbing to me. However, none of them were outstanding, to me.

“Stolen in Passing” by Dory Crowe: A slave has run away and is now looking for any safe place. However, he’s still in an area where the decent citizens are compelled by law to return him to slav-ery. With no other place to go, he runs for his half-sister’s new home. But she looks like she’s white and is already married to a white man.

“New World Gambles” by Leah Cutter: Set in Canada among the Chinese immigrants. Mei Quon is a scholar who has travelled to the New World in the hopes of a better life but the only job he has is as a companion to rich men. His current patron loves to gamble and Mei Quon has an understanding with one of the people working in the crooked gambling place. But then the Tong get involved.

“The Bank Teller” by Jamie McNabb: A stranger comes to town and quickly settles down as a bank teller. But he aims to do something quite different.
“An Education for Thursday” by Dean Wesley Smith: this is the most Western themed story in the collection. A woman rides into town, looking for revenge.

“The Curious Case of the Ha’Penny Detective” by Lee Allred: Conan Doyle wasn’t the only one writing detective stories in the 1800s. This story explores one of “Sherlock’s rivals”.

“The Horns of Hathor” by Richard Quarry: A murder mystery set in Akhenaten’s reign in Ancient Egypt! I always love those. The Pharaoh Akhenaten has forbidden the worship of the old gods and Chenzira the Scribe is sent to tell the temple of Amun-Re that the Festival of Opet is cancelled. The Pharaoh’s previous messenger was apparently killed by Hathor herself.

“Impressions” by Lisa Silverthorne: Set in London in the 1780s, a nobleman is looking for his wife who is supposedly dead. Young constable Fletcher gets clues from her death mask.

“The Raiders” by Cat Rambo: Set in a prisoner of war camp during the U.S. Civil war, some of the prisoners oppress the others and the guards look the other way.

“The Monster in Our Midst” by Kris Nelscott: In 1918 in Arkansans, black men are still being lynched and it’s extremely dangerous to investigate it. But Emerson West does that sometimes. When he receives a hair-raising postcard depicting a hanged black man, he volunteers to investigate.

“Blood and Lightning on the Newport Highway” by M. Elizabeth Castle: Making moonshine is the livelihood of some families in the Appalachia during the Prohibition. However, the Monroe family has lot of bad blood with certain Revenuer who has returned to town.

“Deathmobile” by Michele Lang: Little Rocky is just 11 years old but she comes face to face with the reality of New York in 1977, when the Son of Sam is threatening everyone.

“The Stonewall Rat” by JC Andrijeski: The main character, the Chief, works for the mafia. Stone-wall is a gay bar and the Chief is sent to find the rat in there.

A good collection with solid, interesting stories.

The second book in the historical mystery series. This is set in Chicago in 1968.
Publication year: 2002
Format: Audio
Running time: 9 hours and 38 minutes, including an excerpt of the next book
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Miron Willis

Billy “Smokey” Dalton is a black unlicensed private detective in US in the 1960s. After the events in the previous book (“A Dangerous Road”) he and 10-year-old Jimmy had to flee their home in Memphis and they’re trying to make a new life in Chicago. However, the upcoming Democratic National Convention is inciting violence in addition to political unrest. The police and the FBI are keeping an eye out for anyone who could be trouble, especially black men. Smokey is afraid that they will notice him and Jimmy, especially after his neighbor tells him that she had noticed someone watching him. Then Smokey finds out that someone is murdering 10-year-old black boys and the police aren’t interested in investigating, except for one black detective. Of course, Smokey has to investigate.

Jimmy isn’t Smokey’s son but Jimmy doesn’t really have a family and when he saw who killed Martin Luther King Jr. and people started to hunt him, Smokey took him under his wing. But they’re telling others that they’re father and son to avoid scrutiny.

Smokey has a job as a security guard but has to live together with a friend, Franklin Grimshaw, and his family. Both Smokey and Jimmy are loners but now they have to live in very cramped quarters, which makes them irritable. Smokey’s also keenly aware that he doesn’t know Chicago which makes his life difficult. He realizes that tension is rising between blacks and whites because of the political situation but he has no other place to go. Another complication is Laura, a rich white woman whom Smokey loves, but they both know that they can’t be together.

To me this was an excellent portrayal of the time period and the people living in it and a great follow up to the previous book.

The new Toby Daye book!


Publication year: 2015
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours and 47 minutes

Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal

I’m a fan of the series (obviously: this is the 9th book) so I love the writing style and characters. Of course, I can’t be objective about it. By the way, I don’t recommend this as the first book in the series: that would be “Rosemary and Rue”. This time Toby and her friends travel to another realm and they find out just how much some fae loath the changelings.

Toby and her friends have achieved a lot and have finally started to enjoy their life. Then Rhys, the King of Silences, declares war on Arden Windermere, the new Queen of the Mists, who is Toby’s friend and the boss’s boss. Apparently, the previous, false Queen fled to Silences and managed to secure King Rhys’ help with getting Mists back. However, Arden can send a diplomat to discuss peace and the diplomat has three days to do so. Arden sends her hero, Toby. Toby is horrified at first but has to agree. She takes a small retinue: her boyfriend, her squire, her “sister”, and Walther as her alchemist.

Changelings don’t have it easy in any realm of faerie but in Silences they’re born into servitude. They’re beaten and subjected to addictive substances or poisons at the whim of their masters. This of course angers Toby and her friends. In addition to changelings, King Rhys also disapproves of… well everyone except pure-blooded human looking fae. And he makes his views known loudly and often. Unfortunately, this makes him a bit cartoonish and not in a good way and a clear villain for Toby to bring down.

Like the previous books in the series “A Rose-Red Chain” gives us revelations about Toby and the people around her, although not nearly as much as the two previous books. Walther specifically is from the Silences and part of the former ruling family. That’s why the Sea Witch told Toby to take Walther with her. He also has some other secrets which were a wonderful surprise to me.

Once again, I greatly enjoyed the book. The regular cast is wonderful and we’re introduced to some new characters, as well. We haven’t seen much of Toby’s sister May lately so I was happy to see more of her. Toby also has to test the limits of her powers. On the down side, the villains were one-dimensional and I didn’t really believe that such a small realm which constantly snubs and insults potential allies could really win a war against the Mists. It could well be that we’re introduced to characters and situations which become even more important later.

A short story collection.

Publication year: 2014
Format: print
Page count: 273
Publisher: WMG Publishing

This is another of the Fiction River anthologies. I’ve enjoyed the previous ones a lot and was looking forward to reading this one, too. I liked all of the stories but only a couple of them were outstanding to me. Still, some of them are part of ongoing or planned series and if I didn’t have a physical TBR pile of over 100 books (still…) I’d be very tempted to check them out. However, they work just fine as stand-alones. Only two stories have professional detectives (and three various agents), the rest are amateur sleuths.

“Case Cracked” by Joe Cron: Frank Dumpty is a detective in the Magic City Police Department. When a troll is killed Frank finally has a chance to go against one of the more corrupt characters in the city.

“Living With The Past” by Dayle A. Dermatis: A ghost of a Marilyn Monroe impersonator asks Nikki Ashbourne for help and even though Nikki’s life has just exploded, she can’t refuse.

“All She Can Be” by Karen L. Abrahamson: This is a prequel story to Abrahamson’s Cartographer series (which sounds very interesting!). Vallon Drake has the ability to control earth. She uses it in the service of her government and this is her first case; someone has changed US’s landscape and Vallon and her (asshole) partner have to take that person in custody and reverse the change.

“Under Oregon” by Kara Legend: Evangeline’s family has just moved to Oregon but their livelihood, the crops, are in danger. Evangeline makes a potion to save them but angers a local fairy.

“Role Model” by Kevin J. Anderson: Dan Shamble is a zombie P.I. His friend asks him to go to a Cosplay Convention and he agrees. One of the Stormtroopers is murdered. Shamble is on the case and he even gets a sidekick: someone cosplaying him. This was a lot of fun.

“Death In Hathaway Tower” by Ryan M. Williams: Emily Hathaway is the young Lady of the Tower and when a dead body turns up in her library, she has to deal with it. This setting has really ethereal elves which I’m always sucker for.

“Trouble Aboard The Flying Scotsman” by Alistair Kimble: Harland Stone has just resolved the Scottish Affair for His Majesty’s Dashing Chaps and is looking forward to a quiet train ride to London. But then the conductor claims that something has sabotaged the train and only Stone can help.

“Containing Patient Zero” by Paul Eckheart: Zombies in this world result from a virus – except for patient zero. Leroy Star is a reality TV star and also a convicted serial killer who is about to be executed. Unfortunately, he’s also patient zero and Doctor Joseph Nelson is brought in to see Leroy. Fortunately, Joseph knows who can help Leroy and prevent a zombie plague. Unfortunately, that’s person unlikely to help.

“Canine Agent Rocky Arnold Vs. The Evil Alliance” by Judith Nordeen: Rocky is a German Shepard who belongs to an FBI agent. But when the agent takes her dog to the dog park, Rocky is the one who has to figure out a mystery. Another fun story.

“An Incursion Of Mice” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Five rescued cats live in one house with their two human servants. Wall T is their boss and should have caught the mice incursion.

“They’re Back” by Dean Wesley Smith: A Poker Boy story where a vanquished villain returns to torment our intrepid heroes.

My favorites were “Death In Hathaway Tower”, “Under Oregon”, and “Containing Patient Zero”. All had strong atmospheres. As a dog person I also liked Judith Nordeen’s story a lot.

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