THE CHEMISTRY OF DEATH

COD-coverI was hunting for mysteries with attractive covers when I found Simon Beckett‘s first crime fictionThe Chemistry of Death“. Reading Danielle’s posts on mysteries kind of prompted me to try out this genre and so, in the spirit of adventure I decided to check this out.

The plot starts off on a macabre note really! I’m yet to read a book that starts off on a ominous note –

A human body starts to decompose four minutes after death> Once the encapsulation of life, it now undergoes its final metamorphoses. It begins to digest itself. Cells dissolve from the inside out. Tissue turns to liquid, then to gas. No longer animate, the body becomes an immovable feast for other organisms. Bacteria first, then insects. Flies. Eggs are laid, then hatch. The larvae feed on the nutrient-rich broth, and then migrate…

David Hunter, a forensic anthropologist, relocates to Manham a remote village outside London. Fueled by the grief over the death of his wife and daughter, David leaves his profession and fame choosing to practice GP in a partnership with Henry Maitland, the local doctor. Just when David believes that he is being accepted by the residents, a badly decomposed body is discovered in the woods. This discovery and the subsequent murders put David out of his comfort zone as his fame and skills drag him into the thick of the investigations. The whole experience also serves as a healing mechanism helping him look to the future.

While the plot comprises all the elements that make up a crime fiction, Beckett draws attention to the nuances of forensic anthropology. Through David’s narration and his senses, the readers are drawn into the mind of a anthropologist as he analyzes the rate of decomposition, the environment and a multitude of elements to unlock the mystery. Though the description tended to get overwhelming at times it is what distinguishes Beckett from other writers. As for the mystery itself, while the premise defines the murderer as a Manham resident, Beckett manages to place the clues at such subtle junctures that even David finds himself shocked when he uncovers the identity. And this is what helped me enjoy this fast-paced, heart-pounding book! Now will I read the 2nd book? Maybe not!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

WDGB - CoverWhere’d You Go, Bernadette is probably one of the most funniest light fictions I read this year. Bernadette Fox has everything most women dream for – known as a famous but eccentric architect, a husband who’s a VP at Microsoft and an adorable intelligent daughter. The only downside is her nuttiness and unpredictable nature which drives her neighbors not to mention her husband crazy.

The story begins with Bernadette’s escape from her home. While the key narrator is Bee, whose reminisces of her mother offers a glimpse into Bernadette’s personality, the real story is told through a series of email exchanges between Audrey and Soo Lin, whose obsession with Bernadette sparks off a chain of events that lead to her disappearance. The story, with its playful structure and entertaining conversations, hooks you right off the bat and keeps you engaged until the very end. There are 2 aspects in this book that I felt was worth pondering over in this post – 1. Bernadette’s character and 2. Relocation

As a consultant, I was often asked to travel or relocate for my assignments. While this was something I was comfortable with in the beginning, it was hard to put down my roots at any one place. The uncertainty of living in a city/town for long held me back from pursuing my hobbies and now its culminated to the point where I’m comfy at my current location and unwilling to budge around. So while reading about Bernadette’s relocation to Seattle, I could connect with her fears and misgivings considering that I lived in WC, MW and EC and had to adjust to the varied cultures not to mention some crazy neighbors.

Another interesting aspect of this book is Bernadette’s character which outshines the story itself. Have you ever come across an eccentric, thick-skinned architect who is rockers enough to name her only child Balakrishna :). Nope, not me! Although Bernadette is a protective yet fun mom, a loving if uncommunicative wife, her motives and actions are often hard to figure and questionable… especially like her trip to Antarctica or her refusal to communicate with her long-suffering husband or the totally insane act where she continues to share valuable information of herself and her family to an Identity-theft operative without heeding to her husband’s warnings. While these actions made me question her sanity, they also made me wonder if escapism sometimes is really the best solution of all. Setting all the analysis aside, what you have here is a highly entertaining story that goes off tangent at times. You’ll do just fine so long as you don’t over analyze this book.

THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton

Blogging about certain books can be a challenge at times and I believe this is one of those times. Deemed as one of the best classics in English Literature, The Age of Innocence throws light on the late 1800′s upper-class society in America..particularly the New York society. I came across this book through a lot of sources but one that particularly struck me was a review by Danielle.

The novel opens with an Opera theater where all of the New York’s elite are watching a play. Newland Archer, the hero of this story is looking out for his fiance May Welland when he spots her seated beside her infamous cousin, Countess Ellen Olenski. Rumors are astrife that the Countess is in NY recouping from a disastrous marriage to a Polish Count. Even so, the New York society condemns her decision and shows it quite boldly. At first, Archer takes it upon himself to show his support to May and her family for sheltering the countess but he finds himself in love with Ellen Olenski who also finds herself returning the affections. And then May who is all the while docile and quiet, decides to prepone the wedding, and Archer finds himself married to May Welland. This doesn’t put a dent on Archer’s affections until May makes a decision that changes the course of the story. Describing this plot any more wouldn’t do any justice for its a very difficult to blog on this particular title.

Archer is torn choosing between what society approves vs. what his heart desires. Although his first impression of May is that she meets the Society’s standards and his in every way, he gradually realizes that May and many women like her were groomed to be perfect, ignorant of any independent thoughts or opinions. Ellen is a complex character who seems to be a misfit both in NY and in Europe. She struggles the most trying to fit in with the NY society which scorns her every decision pushing her to the brink of moving back to Europe. For me, May was perhaps the most complex of all characters…She is first introduced as a docile well-bred lady and as a reader, you’ll be taken in by it all. Watch out though, for she does have some tricks up her sleeve.

Edith Wharton comes from an upper-class family herself and so her insights into New York old society’s rules and customs are well highlighted in every chapter. Whereas Europe has more liberal code of behavior and independence in thought, NY society condemns any semblance of independent thought or action. So long as a man conducts his affairs in secret and silence, he is exempted from the scorn and rejection by the society whereas a woman is literally shunned. This is another point that is brought out by Ms. Wharton. And then there are the usual theatrics associated with the society when people meet at an Opera or a Ball or a dinner. The novel has many other characters painted to life who add spice to the otherwise quiet plot but its best to explore them through the book then through a blog. For those who don’t want to read the book, I recommend the film featuring Winona Ryder and Michelle Pfeiffer.