13 Minutes

When I first started reading Sarah Pinborough’s 13 Minutes, a psychological thriller, I didn’t have too many expectations, to be honest. I had picked up the book mainly 13minutesbecause of the intriguing cover and Stephen King’s testimonial on it.

Few pages in, it seemed more like a YA book version of Pretty Little Liars, not to put down anyone who likes the show. The book is a story of Natasha Howland, a ‘Barbie’, the most popular girl at her high school who is found almost dead by the river one morning. She remembers little about how she landed in the river to begin with, but knows one thing for sure: It was no accident. As a police case is kicked off, ‘Tasha’ battles with nightmares and suspicions surrounding her best friends that refuse to die down. As she tries to piece the clues together using her ex-friend, Becca, things take several unexpected turns. Did her friends really try to kill her? Why?

The one thing you can’t take away from the book is that it is definitely a page-turner. Sometimes the narration becomes a bit too much to take, especially when they talk in first person, but even then it seldom affects the pace of the story.

What I liked:

  • The ‘realism’. Pinborough manages to stay true to how people actually talk, whether it’s cuss words or slang.
  • The POV often shifts from first person between two characters to third person, but it’s done really skillfully. Definitely a lesson for writers who have difficulty in this area.

What I didn’t like:

  • Sometimes the drama gets a little OTT, and I had to really resist rolling my eyes where it just became too fake.
  • An unnecessary romance seems just that – unnecessary. It doesn’t add anything to the plot.

In a nutshell, this is an interesting read, even if sometimes a trudge. Even though it appears to be an OTT teenage girl drama in places, the writer manages to sketch the psyche of a seemingly-normal teenager with admirable ease and weave it into a crime fiction that’s unputdownable (is that a word?).

Title: 13 Minutes
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Publisher: Gollancz
Get it here.

The Alphabet Killer

This is a review I’ve been meaning to write for a loo…ng time. I read Prachi Sharma’s The Alphabet Killer at least two months ago, but haven’t had a chance to sit and write a prachireview. First off, let me just say: writing crime thrillers is tough, and writing a good crime thriller even more so.

The book is the story of Mia Santos, a successful author and editor of an international feminist magazine. Someone is raping and killing the women she works with, one by one, and Mia’s getting taunted and tormented by someone who claims to be the killer, a killer from her own dark past. The book follows Mia’s life and what happens when she confronts the killer who’s adamant on exposing her past and ruining her life.

What I liked:

  • The story is believable. The characters aren’t too “embellished” as they often tend to be in fiction.
  • The plot is racy and manages to retain interest at almost every step.
  • The author invests enough time and effort in fleshing out her main characters and telling the reader why they are the way they are. A mark of a well fleshed-out character is that you feel as though you “know” the person, and Mia’s character definitely comes across that way.
  • The back story. I especially liked this bit, the history of Mia. For any character’s story to have a good foundation, his or her back story needs to have substance. I will not say any more than that!

What I didn’t like:

  • The editing could’ve been tighter.
  • Some things in the novel (to me) appear irrelevant, such as the fact that Mia is writing another novel. This would make sense only to those who’ve read the book and unfortunately I can’t explain more without giving away valuable matter.
  • The dialogue between Mia and Damien (a police officer she’s working with to solve the case) feels a little stilted at times.

In a nutshell, The Alphabet Killer is worth a read. I’d recommend it for the storytelling skill more than anything else.

Title: The Alphabet Killer
Author: Prachi Sharma
Publisher: Half Baked Beans
Price: Rs. 199
Get it here.

Closed Casket

When a rich, eccentric authoress Lady Athelinda Playford, names her dying secretary Joseph Scotcher as the new heir, pandemonium erupts. The same night, Scotcher is bludgeoned to death and who should be invited to solve the murder but the inimitable closedcasketHercule Poirot? In Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah, Agatha Christie’s beloved sleuth is assisted by Scotland Yard detective Edward Catchpool to single out the murderer from a pool of suspects, each of whom has motive and is equally suspicious.

What I liked:

  • It’s no mean feat to step into Christie’s shoes a second time, but Hannah does it with ease, as far as the plot goes. The characters are fleshed out with painstaking detail and she does a tremendous job of evoking the reader’s reaction towards each of them — whether it’s disgust for the Athie’s daughter Claudia, disdain for the son, Harry or pity for poor old Scotcher.
  • Despite the graveness of it all, Poirot’s humour, peppered here and there, keeps one entertained.

What I didn’t like:

  • In spite of piquing the reader’s curiosity to find out the murderer, the motive of the culprit leaves one feeling a bit ho-hum, even though the act itself is quite brilliant.

Is it face-paced? Yes. Intriguing? Definitely. Does it leave you sated? Not really. If you’re reading this for Poirot, it’ll most probably leave you wanting for a little more of the delightful, self-deprecating, trademark Poirot wit. Still, the acclaim Hannah’s received for this book is much-deserved.

Title: Closed Casket: A New Hercule Poirot Mystery
Author: Sophie Hannah
Publisher: Harper Collins
Price:  INR 200.00