Monday, April 30, 2018

BookMarks #40: Poirot - The Complete Short Stories

Title: Poirot – The Complete Short Stories
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Crime, Mystery
Setting: Early to mid-20th century Europe, mostly focused in Britain.
Published: 2008

The book is a compilation of over 50 short stories written by Agatha Christie featuring Hercule Poirot. Although some of the stories go beyond “short” and run into over fifty pages! The stories were published over a period of 20 years from 1920s to 1940s. 

“Mon Ami”. We all love Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective, with an egg-shaped head and a neat walrus mustache, who focuses on order and method, and makes his deduction by exercising his little grey cells, dislikes needless running around, but never hesitates to make his energetic presence felt at the scene of action. And is always in control of the situation. But the most compelling feature of Hercule Poirot’s personality is the kindness of heart, something which many detectives seemingly lack.

The stories evolve with time, which is understandable given that they have been written over a period of more than two decades. Society itself changed a lot during the era, especially given the impact of the great wars.

My favorite story was not one but a set of twelve, right at the very end. The twelve labours of Hercules, as the detective called it, making them his swansong as he goes into retirement, a happy and content man. Funnily enough, I had read these as a separate compilation long time ago, and yet they did not seem as poignant at the time. Probably because they were read out of context! After all, while all the stories are independent there is a subtle link going through them.

There are lots of references to a certain British detective who precedes Poirot by a few years. Just goes to show, how big a fictional (and real world) phenomenon was Sherlock Holmes.

Now a confession time. It took me nearly seven years to read through the compilation. Says a lot about reading speed and enthusiasm these days. Well, in my (feeble) defense, it is a nearly 900-page tome and there is no immediate urge to go onto the next story after one ends! And in the interim, a few other books jumped in the queue. But having completed it, look forward to revisiting more of Christie classics! And yes, the stories truly are "Masterpieces in Miniature"!

Previously on BookMarks – In the Name of God 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

BookMarks #39: In The Name of God

Title: In the Name of God 
Author: Ravi Subramanian 
Genre: Fiction, Mystery 
Setting: Present Day India 
Published: 2017 

Mysterious deaths occur, when a team is sent to audit the wealth in a temple. And a CBI officer tries to establish the link between different occurrences across the country. 

Why did I read the book? One of the central characters of the book is named “Nirav Choksi” and he is a diamantaire by profession. Recently we had the frauds detected at Punjab National Bank (PNB), where the key accused are diamantaires Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi. Guess that was enough to pique the interest and get a copy of the book! 

A disclaimer upfront. There is no connection to the story of the PNB fraud and this book. While the real-life case is a story of fraudulent banking practices and creative accounting, the book has more drama involving, Gods, heists, antique thefts and smuggling, murders and love triangles! 

There is too much going on in the story. A heist at a Dubai mall, leading to a search for idols, smuggling of antiques, rivalry between diamond merchants, audit of a centuries old temple, family feuds, bomb blasts! Too many characters moving around and getting bumped off. Building up tales and not following on with them. And just too many coincidences! Story could have been better if the plot had been simplified and characters more fleshed out. Although I liked how real life happenings and people have a role to play in the story as well.

Previously on BookMarks: The Gondola Maker 

Monday, April 09, 2018

MovieNotes: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Title: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (IMDB
*ing: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell
Directed By: Martin McDonagh
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Crime

Basic Premise
A mother puts up billboards to try to force the authorities to solve her daughter’s murder.

(Spoilers Ahead)

The movie has interesting character sketches, all in varying shades of grey. Some of them who don’t even let death get in the way of throwing a few punches at their adversaries. And people can and do change with circumstances.

The open ending and its unresolved issues. The movie ends, while the story does not. And we, the audience, still do not know who the culprit(s) is (are). While the characters will figure out their path forward on the ride, we are left hanging and not taken on their journey!

The movie has its underlying themes of racism, class divide and homophobia. Is it a political comment on Trump's voter base?

It is difficult to set the time period of the movie – characters communicate via landlines or in person, news is disseminated through radio and television broadcasts. Although we do see a cellphone at the end! Internet is certainly not visible. So could be 80s or 90s!

Peter Dinklage seems to be playing a modernized version of Tyrion Lannister again. Getting typecast here!

Real life impact – protests in USA have taken up the format of using three signs to deliver personalized messages to the targeted politicians.

Rating: 9/10. Brilliant acting and a good storyline.

Previously on MovieNotes: Fukrey Returns 

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

MovieNotes: Fukrey Returns

Title: Fukrey Returns (IMDB)
*ing: Pulkit Samrat, Varun Sharma, Ali Fazal, Manjot Singh, Richa Chadda, Pankaj Tripathi
Director: Mrighdeep Singh Lamba
Languange: Hindi
Genre: Comedy

Sequel to the surprise hit Fukrey. And made while retaining the entire cast and crew.

Basic Premise
Story picks up one year after the adventures of the first part. Bholi Punjaban is out of jail and seeking revenge. Matters get complicated as politicians get involved. Meanwhile Chucha’s lottery dreams have been replaced by premonitions.

Fukrey was better. Fukrey Returns tries hard, but doesn’t quite live up to its prequel.

The story is more disjointed and outlandish this time. Why the CM would be involved in carrying out a raid himself? How is a zoo closed for renovation have so much easy access? Many plot-holes abound. Yet, Choocha manages to salvage the movie from being a total disaster and bringing a sense of “deja chu” to the proceedings.

And they should stop thinking of making any more sequels.

Rating - 6/10. Funny in bits, but doesn’t match Fukrey.

Previously on MovieNotes: Black Panther 

Monday, April 02, 2018

LearnNBlog #13: Few or A Few

“The More I Learn, the More I realize, that like Jon Snow, I know nothing”. 

This LnB will be a short Grammar lesson. Difference between “Few” and “A Few” 
  • “Few” refers to zero or close to zero (reminds me of Limits in my Calculus class).
  • “A Few” refers to some i.e. not a very large number! 
A subtle difference but could be a big grammar trap, and a potential playground for lawyers as well!

That was a Short & Sweet Learning Nugget! 

Previously on LearnNBlog: The Shortest Chess Game