Friday, 31 March 2017

Book Review: A Very Pukka Murder by Arjun Raj Gaind

Book: A Very Pukka Murder

Author: Arjun Raj Gaind

Pages: 328

Read: The paperback pictured above

Read in: Over 2-3 days (total of 5 hours)

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

Plot Summary: From the borders of icy Kashmir to the shark-infested shores of the Malabar Coast, Major William Russell, the English Resident of the small, princely state of Rajpore, is renowned as a straitlaced man of rigorous habit. When his valet knocks on his bedroom door the morning after the 1909 New Year's Ball and receives no response, he and the Resident's elderly secretary eventually task the English Commandant of Cavalry with breaking it down. The Resident is dead in his bed. 

His Highness Farzand-i-Khas-i-Daulat-i-Inglishia Mansur-i-Zaman Maharaja Sikander Singh, Light of Heaven, Sword of Justice, Shield of the Faithful, sole ruler of Rajpore, is slow to rise after the night of revelry. But news of the murder galvanizes him. The fabulously wealthy Maharaja, who perforce has surrendered much of his authority to the British, is a man of indolent habit although he keeps himself thoroughly fit. A lover of luxury cars and beautiful women, his deepest passion is for mysteries. He cannot resist an enigma, relishing a riddle and the rush of resolving it. 

Like August Dupin and Sherlock Holmes, Sikander wields careful and deliberate logic to crack puzzles that leave less intelligent men confounded. Here is such an opportunity, and well timed-for the Maharaja, resigned to another year of indolence, is almost fatally bored. Abandoning the lavish comforts of his ornate palace, Sikander orders his massive manservant Charan Singh into his Silver Ghost and speeds to the insular English settlement. 

Despite the objections of the local Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police, he works the crime scene and deduces that Resident was poisoned by a massive dose of strychnine. As a clock starts ticking--the British authorities dispatch their own investigator from Simla-- Sikander overcomes obstacles, false trails, and the growing hostility of the English Establishment, while learning that Major Russell was not as pukka, as proper, as he liked to pretend. 

Will the Maharaja work through a surplus of suspects and motives before the British shut him down and cover up the truth about the Major's death? 

Things I Liked: 

1. I liked the idea of an Indian detective set against the backdrop of Colonial India in the early 20th century. I am a big fan of Byomkesh Bakshi and so, I was quite chuffed to see this first book in the series about a Maharaja turned detective! 

2. There is a lot of detail about how the fictional town of Rajpore looks like.. from the walled city, the royal palace- various rooms, durbar halls, banquet halls etc.- to the British township, the Residency, Gymkhana Clubs etc. It got a wee bit tiresome but, for the most part, I quite enjoyed all the details as it brought this world to life. The balance between details-for-the-sake-of-details and details-to-help-you-get-a-better-sense-of-the-place is a healthy one. 

3. The crime itself was quite cleverly plotted. The Resident- Russell- was found dead in a locked room and just about everyone who crossed paths with him wanted the man dead! So, there were plenty of suspects and, therefore, red herrings- always a good thing in a murder mystery. 

4. The detective- Maharaja Sikander Singh- is an interesting character. He is cast in the same mould as the great literary detectives he is inspired from- Holmes, Poirot and their ilk. More Holmes, I would say.. he is taciturn and a big believer in using science and deductive reasoning. Like Holmes, he is also bored when his mind is not occupied with an enigma or two to solve. He has promise as a detective around whom a series could be built.. but in my opinion, he needs a sidekick.. and I think perhaps a sidekick was introduced in the last chapter of the book.. let's see if that pans out when the next book in the series comes out. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. The killer was, sort of, obvious to me, but I am an avid consumer of the crime/thriller genre and so, it could just be that I have seen this formula/format before. I mean, given the victim was the Resident of this kingdom, only very few people had the sort of clearance needed to get into his bedroom and kill him.. so, I had guessed who the killer could've been but I read the book waiting for the motive to come to light.

2. The book could've benefitted from sharper editing. There is a lot of internal monologue of Sikander's, which goes on for pages at a time as he reminisces about his childhood, young adulthood etc. I understand the need to do that to build a character up and provide valuable context, but in this book, it was overdone. Like I said, sharper editing would've made the book much more engaging. 

Rating: 3/5
(This is an interesting book and unique in its premise. You could sample the first chapter by clicking on the 'Preview' button in the picture above 'Things I Like') 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Travel Diary/// What's in my Travel Make-Up Bag.


Today I want to share the contents of my make-up bag that I took to Landour recently. 
I took a few key bits of make-up. I didn't intend to put on a full face of make-up while I was on holiday but I still wanted to have some of my favourite bits incase I wanted to dress-up. 
My make-up bag is from Forever 21. 
Isn't she the cutest?! 

This is pretty much all I carried. The only thing not pictured is a small pot of foundation. 
In my make-up bag..

Maybelline Fit Me Compact 
Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara 
Rimmel Blush Trio in Winter 
Benefit Gimme Brow 
Maybelline Concealer and Highlighter 
MAC Studio Fix Powder 
MAC Eyeshadow Palette in Burgundy Times Nine 
"    Archie's Girl 
MAC lipstick in See Sheer and Fast Play 
Lakme Lip and Cheek Tint in Blush Velvet and Coffee Lite 
NYX Soft Matte Lip Creme in Abu Dhabi 
MAC Paint Pot in Painterly 

I want to use more of this palette.
I had bought it because I couldn't get over how freaking cute the packaging was. But the colours are interesting too, especially the navy blue-ish purple and the grey. 

I have idea why I carried 2 compacts! 
I did use them well..there is that! 

This mascara is fantastic. 
And gimme brow is worth all the hype! 

I've had this eyeshadow palette for a little over a year and I love it to bits! 
It's my most used make-up product. 

My travel make-up bag is certainly very MAC heavy. 
But these are some of my favourite make-up bits of the moment. 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Travel Diary: General Whimsy/// Yellow Everywhere!

My week in Landour was spent waiting for this ranunculus to bloom. It was a mere bud when we first arrived and everyday it would open a little, teasing us with promise. 
On our second last day, there it was. In all of it's glory. 
It was right out side of our room and every morning as we'd stumble out to breakfast and first check on the flower, to see if it had bloomed. 

Also, see my pretty little wool slip-ons I bought from Mussoorie. 
They are made in Kullu and are medium warm and will be a great cozy little treat during winter...not in Bombay but when I visit my parents in the hometown. 

More yellow happiness all over the property. 

Something, actually everything about yellow is so cheerful. 
You can't be wearing it or seeing it and be morose. 
I wear yellow on days I crave some joy. 
And yellow flowers are a sure shot way of feeling cheerful. 


Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Book Haul/// Books of March 2017 from Kitab Khana.


March is almost drawing to a close and I figured it's time I shared all of the books I bought in the month of March. TBH, there aren't that many books. 
I went to Kitab Khana in the beginning of the month and spent some time perusing the shelves and came back with these books that caught my eye. 
Most of these books were bought because I came across them. They weren't on my radar at all. 

Let's see what I've added to my bookshelves in the month of March. 

I saw this almost leaflet like book on the shelves and I couldn't leave it behind. Plus Orwell is certainly having a moment since the Trump administration has been in power. So a good time to read this little ditty. 

This one was bought with the express purpose of reading in Landour. 
I have already read this book and I really loved it. 
It feels like reading snippets of someone's diary and it's full of charming illustrations. 
A very enjoyable and fun reading. 
5/5 all the way. 

I read How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff in 2014 I think..and I really enjoyed it. This book has been on my TBR since then. When I saw it in Kitab Khana I had to get it. 

I won't lie...this book is a little bit of a cover buy. 
Look at the cover! 
How could I not be drawn to it?!!! 
It's gorgeous. 
The phases of the moon and the brilliant typography had me very intrigued. 
The premise sounds good too, it's about a film being made and about Kashmir as well. 
I am excited to get to this book. 

I have wanted to read something by Namita Gokhale for a while now. 
This book seems like a good place to start and it deals with a pretty scary topic of acid attack. The main protagonist is an acid attack survivor who lives behind closed doors at all time. It promises to be a very unique perspective for sure. 

My sister is currently reading this book and is nearly done with it. 
A murder mystery in the days of the Raj. A Maharaja who is a desi Sherlock Holmes. 
My sister is quite enjoying it and I can't wait to get to it myself. 

Books Bought: 

The Book of Shadows by Namita Gokhale 
Soon by Selina Sen 
Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff 
Landour Days by Ruskin Bond 
A Very Pukka Murder by Arjun Raj Gaind 
Politics and The English Language by George Orwell 

Lots of happy reading in my near future! 


Monday, 27 March 2017

Travel Diary/// Library at La Villa Bethany, Landour.


I spent over a week at La Villa Bethany in Landour and, as a bookworm, their library was the first thing I noticed as I walked into the homestay. 
This was the first room I saw as we arrived and we spent the first hour sitting there with Sunita (the owner) talking over a cup of divine lemon-ginger-honey tea. I did a quick look around and made a mental note to come check out the shelves once I was done reading the 2 books I had carried with me to read on this holiday.
Once I read my books I popped in to check out the bookshelves and borrow some reading material. 
Unsurprisingly, I stuck to Ruskin Bond while my sister picked up a murder mystery that is written by an author that has visited and stayed at Bethany. 

Let's look at the charming little library..

Cozy chairs and sunlight streaming in through the windows. 

 A look at the many bookshelves. 

The selection of books is a good mix between fiction and non-fiction (travel, business, Indian history, nature- especially, the flora and fauna of the region) and bestsellers and literary fiction. 

There is something for everyone. 

And there is also a wide collection of children's books to keep the little ones occupied and engaged. 

There is also a shelf full of books written by authors who have stayed at La Villa Bethany. Like I mentioned, my sister read one such murder mystery written by P. B. Kolleri- a review will be up soon. 

The library is a perfect spot to sit down with a cuppa tea and read the day away. Or you can do what we did, borrowed a few books and found a cozy spot on the property or around Landour and read away. 

The decor of the library is gorgeous and old-fashioned and comforting. 

This is such a happy little space that will warm the heart of any bookworm. 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Travel Diary/// Sun Dappled.


I hate the sun with a passion that is unparalleled. Most of this strong feeling comes from living in Bombay year round where the sun is no one's friend, except perhaps drying laundry :) 
But in the hills I can't get enough sunshine. 
Most of my time in Landour was spent sitting in the patio outside our room sunning myself silly. 
I read and journaled and just watched the clouds flit across the sky sitting in my favourite spot. 
I loved the sun and the sun loved me right back. 
I  am now 3 shades darker and ever-so-slightly-sunburnt in parts. 
Don't even ask. 
I kinda forgot to pack my sunscreen and didn't end up buying a new tube some 4 days into our holiday and so I am now tanned silly. 
My sister's nose is kinda sunburnt and if it weren't hilarious we'd be concerned. But nothing some soothing aloe vera gel can't help. 

The sun kissed trees and plants at the homestay. 

Tall majestic trees all over Landour. 

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Travel Diary/// Golden Hour in Landour.


I am still in beautiful Landour. 
I am still very much in love with everything around me. 
Since I last blogged, I have finished one and a half book, both by Ruskin Bond and I love them both. 
I have also taken some nice walks. 
Taken a bunch of pictures. 
Cuddled some cute dogs. 
Met some seriously fun and like minded people and had some truly wonderful conversations. 

A few evenings back I snapped some pictures of the gorgeous sunset in the hills and want to share them today. 
Golden hour at it's prettiest. 

I could see this every single day and not tire of it. 

The winter line in all it's glory. 
I love how almost lilac-ish the sky looks. 

Sir Bearington (the mini backpack) in all of this slightly morose glory! 
This has been my bag of choice while exploring the hills. It is tiny enough so that I don't get weighed down by stuff and yet roomy enough for me to carry around my wallet, journal, Kindle and a bottle of water too! 


I will be back with more glimpses of my holiday and some bookish content as well.
It's just that life is a little less about books and a little bit more about living in the moment and making the most of my trip here.