Close Call by Stella Rimington
-by Jyotsna Raman
This has all the right ingredients to make for a fantastic espionage novel.
1. A protagonist who heads her own counter terrorism unit in the MI5, the UK’s security agency.
2. Jihadist groups regrouping under the Al Qaeda, planning a devastating attack on a football stadium.
3. An ex-intelligence official gone rogue. Yet, Close Call is unspectacular. Set during the Arab Spring, the protagonist Liz Carlyle is told to keep an eye on a shipment of arms from Yemen. The longer Liz stays on the case the more convinced she is that a top official, Jack McManus, is involved – a man she once had an affair with.
Why you should care:
The author is a former director of the MI5 and the book rings with intimate knowledge – from banter about suspects to casual chauvinism faced by the protagonist.
Why it fails:
It lacks urgency – the second half devoted to administrative procedure, which builds to a distinctly anti-climactic ending. The premise is interesting, but Rimington lets down her readers with her handling of the characters and situations. Read this for the happy ending, not much else.
Passion Flower by Cyrus Mistry
by Satarupa Paul
Even at first glance, there is something deliciously sinister about Mistry’s first collection of short stories. Perhaps it is the hardbound ink-black cover. Or the title,
, exuding a guarded excitement. Cyrus is better known as Rohinton’s lesser-known brother. But among Indian literati, he’s perhaps more loved.
And so this book has been reviewed glowingly many times. Yet, not many have read it. Maybe because its description: “seven stories of derangement”, which are “dark, mysterious and inhabited by characters that walk a thin line between fantasy and reality”, make the book sound intimidating.
In these stories, you will meet the loner Percy, who gets a new lease of life after the death of his overbearing mother; Preeti, who has a sickening urge to kill her newborn; two friends-turned-colleagues and their never-ending display of one-upmanship; Anand, who is consumed by his obsessive search for an elusive species of Passiflora. The characters are ordinary people, the plots made of ordinary lives. This book will leave you with an unsettling realisation, like an epiphany: a certain madness and cruelty exists in us all.
Life or Death by Michael Robotham
Audie Palmer is a thorough gentleman, a guy with a golden heart and a past he won’t talk about. He’s also an escaped prisoner on the run. Ten years ago, Audie was convicted for an armed robbery. In a coma and unable to testify for himself, he finds himself implicated as a key player in the crime when he wakes up. Bundled off to prison for the next decade, he braves daily prison-yard attacks and murder attempts, only to escape a day before he is to be granted parole.
“Why would a man escape from prison the day before he’s due to be released?” the book’s cover urges you to find out. And you do. Ploughing through the 430-odd pages, you uncover Audie’s history and the story behind his shocking, daring escape.
The good news:
The earnest writing succeeds in eliciting sympathy for the brave, albeit unfortunate hero.
The bad news:
This isn’t a particularly original story and therefore, not one that book lovers will appreciate very highly.
Read this if:
You like gentlemanly heroes such as Ryan Gosling’s character in
From HT Brunch, September 21
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