For the whole of Mar and April, I’ve managed to finish reading nine books at one go! In my previous life, I never had the time to read books and reflect on my life viz a viz syn with the reading experiences. Reading is a luxury I could ill afford when I was so busy struggling to eke out a living driving taxi for nearly 12 hours a day everyday. When I’ve given up taxi, I was put on nearly 2 months of intensive training to prepare for my new job. That gave me some breather in between class lessons and over the weekends when there was no class. It allowed me to enjoy my favorite hobby.
Not only have I managed to read all the nine bestsellers, I also acquired 7 WSQ (Work Skills Qualification) modules which will put me in good stead and will also remain with me for the rest of my working life. Whenever I log in with my Sing-pass, all the 7 WSQ courses will appear right under my name. I’ve got addicted to WSQ courses that I’ve decided to sign up on my own for another 5 courses spreading over 2 weeks in the same industry.
I’ve calculated the total costs of the 5 courses amounted to $3,244. With 95% government subsidy and whatever little balance (5% to be exact) I need to pay would be off set by the $500 skills credit given to every citizen. I virtually need not pay a single cent out of my own pocket. I’m now left with a balance of about $84 in my skills credit account. Alas! I’ve finally utilized my skills credit which was lying dormant for 2 years!
I’ll just make a cursory note on all the nine books I’ve read so far. All the books are first class international bestseller thrillers. Some of the authors are totally new to me especially those translated from the Japanese and the Chinese. You may be familiar with some of the well known American authors but not many are aware of those translated works.
1) The Whistler by John Grisham
2) Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly
3) The Crossing by Michael Connelly
4) The Borrowed by Chan Ho-Kei
5) The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
6) Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino
7) Malice by Keigo Higashino
8) Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman
9) Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
I completed the above nine books in chronicle order. The difference between The Whistler and Wrong Side of Goodbye is that the former is about a righteous lawyer going after a crooked judge and the latter about a veteran police detective going after crooks!
The Whistler revolves around a well established female judge – unknown to the public is the most corrupt judge in US history. She’s on the payroll of an organized crime syndicate swindling money out of the Indian reservation by building a huge casino and resort with luxury houses, bars, restaurants and hotels etc on a barren sparsely populated piece of Indian reservation. Her role as the circuit judge of the area is to pass judgements in favor of the mafia syndicate on lawsuits brought about by some of the inhabitants living on the reservation who are against the casino.
But then, those people in the native reservation got jobs, livelihood, pension, hospital, schools and also monthly pension from the immense revenue generated by the huge casino. The Whistler refers to one disbarred small time lawyer (with monetary reward) giving information to the state investigation bureau specializing on nipping malpractices judges. Those investigators in the bureau are actually lawyers, not real police officers. Hence, this thriller is about a tenacious lawyer going after a crooked judge until she was nearly killed with her partner dead – a pre-arranged what look like a hit and run accident by a huge truck on their car when they are lured to meet an informant in one ulu part of the Indian reservation.
Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly is about the lively Harry Bosch as a volunteer crime investigator, with workaholic detective instinct in a small district when he was unceremoniously terminated by the LAPD. He is paid a pittance but he needs the police badge to carry out his private investigation job on a freelance basis. It is much easier to have a police badge when conducting his private investigation. He is headhunted to search for any heir, if any of a dying billionaire who has reached the end of his lifespan. He had a brief fling when he was a young man serving in the Vietnam war. With so little evidence and information, he is assigned with this task – a near impossible mission.
Running parallel to his private investigation, he is also pursuing a serial rapist known as The Screen Cutter. Unexpectedly, the heir tracing proves to be much easier than apprehending that elusive Screen Cutter who happens to be an ex-police officer. Every police crime investigator on this planet knows that if the criminal happens to be an ex-police officer, the odds will be stacked against him. It becomes doubly difficult to track and capture such an ex-police officer criminal who has gone over to the dark side.
When I hit on another Michael Connelly thriller, The Crossing, I got dizzily intoxicated on another level as if I was high on drugs. I didn’t realize that this novel is even thrilling and exciting than Wrong Side of Goodbye. OMG! 7 murders by 2 serving anti-vice police detectives in LAPD!
A hundred pages into the novel then only I realized why the novel is titled The Crossing. I was wondering what the heck with The Crossing? It actually refers to a police officer crossing over to the other side ie the defendant side. No police officer on earth would help a criminal especially if he’s a confirmed criminal to exonerate him of the crime.
In this case, Harry Bosch (most of Michael Connelly novels revolve around Harry Bosch character he created) has a half brother who is a lawyer. His half brother convinced Harry Bosch that the convicted murderer he is defending is innocent. That guy did not mutilate and rape a celebrity. But the fact that his semen was found inside her private parts is an iron clad evidence (matches with his DNA) that he could not simply explain it away. Therein lies the langgar predicament that Bosch has to handle!
As fas as Bosch is concerned, if that guy his half-brother is defending is innocent then another criminal (murderer) is out there running free! Since he was terminated by LAPD for some lame excuse, the half brother proposes to engage this 30 over years experienced homicide detective to uncover the truth. Of course, he is paid for his expertise. Reluctantly, Bosch took over the case. The more he probes into the case, the worst it gets resulting in a trail of dead bodies and more murders committed by the 2 rogue cops just to cover their tracks!
When news got around that Bosch has crossed over to the other side – helping a condemned murderer to clear his name, all his brother officers ostracized him with nasty phone calls, hate emails and even that kind of accusing looks in their eyes. He was publicly lynched by his brother officers, some of them happen to be best frens! Go find out for yourself how Bosch manages to crack the iron clad incriminating evidence of the supposed murderer and shot dead both the rogue officers towards the end when the noose is tighten round their necks.
Like I said earlier, I hit to dizzily intoxicated state when I read The Crossing. But when I dived into the translated HK detective stories in The Borrowed by Chan Ho-kei, I was near hysterical. I meant extreme excitement over the series of short stories in that novel. As with all the books mentioned here, my good fren Lohcifer strongly recommended that I read this book. He even took the trouble of buying a brand new copy from JEM Kinokuniya for me. He simply said to me. Just look at the publisher. Kinokuniya is a book store selling books but in this case, it published The Borrowed. It shows that it must be a darn good book to read. True enough I never regretted reading it. Sadly, that book in Kinokuniya is not selling well. There are many unsold copies there. Maybe not many readers are aware of it.
I feel that Kwan Chun-dok in The Borrowed is the re-incarnation of our world famous Sherlock Holmes. Yup, he must be the classic Sherlock Holmes resurrected by the awesome award winning author Chan Ho-kei. Kwan is given the nickname, “Eye of Heaven” by fellow police officers in HK. He rose to police detective superintendent from an uniform police constable bearing service number PC 4447.
Even though he’s officially retired from police force, the commissioner still insists that he remain as a part time consultant to the police force until his very last breath. Yes, even as he is lying on the hospital bed with coma, he still manages to solve a murder case sacrificing his life! Before he lapses into coma after suffering from terminal cancer stage, he tells his protege Inspector Sunny to let him go and not hold on to the life sustaining machine. But before that, use his remaining breaths to the fullest if possible.
That’s exactly what Inspector Sunny does at the start of the novel. The author skillfully links up all of Heaven Eye’s exploits in a series of stories with the last ie the end of the book describing how a young PC 4447 manages to prevent a car bomb attached to the petrol tank of the official car of the Commissioner of Police. He saves the life of the Police Commissioner and many others especially VVIPs from UK if the CP’s official car is allowed to proceed to the official function.
I was enthralled by the story when ONLY Kwan Chun-dok aka Eye of Heaven manages to see through how one rogue detective Inspector cleverly uses an opportunity where an on-going police operation of apprehending the most wanted gunman to his favor when he kills the notorious gunman and other innocent people including his lover in a small ill repute hotel to cover his tracks by pushing the blame to another detective Inspector (rival suitor of the CP’s daughter)! The latter is put on no pay leave, suspended from duty pending internal disciplinary charges. Wow! Really Kwan saves that innocent police inspector and also nabs that rogue but brilliant and brave crack shooter detective Inspector. When he is confronted with insurmountable evidence of his crime by the Eye of Heaven, the rogue detective Inspector commits suicide by using his own revolver.
It’s rather sad for Kwan cuz he feels that a great talent is wasted if only his character isn’t flawed! Never had I read such beautifully thrilling story for a long time. I started at a frenzy pace and I went slow towards the end hoping against all hopes that the story will never come to end and pray that it keeps moving. But it was not meant to be. As in nature and in all things, everything must come to an end! It really made my day reading that unforgettable book.
With the Eye of Heaven, I thought I hit climax. No other thrillers would tempt me further. I had the same feeling when I completed Steig Larsson’s thrilogy – The Millennium novels. I was proven wrong when I discovered Kwan Chun-dok. Yet again, I was proven wrong when I delved into Japanese author Keigo Higashino. I read 3 of his novels at one go! Reviewers are saying that he is the Japanese version of Steig Larsson. If you read Steig Larsson novels before, you would definitely want to read this guy’s works.
Just to sidetrack, Steig Larsson, a Swedish wrote only 3 novels – The girl with dragon tattoo, The girl who played with fire and The girl who kicked the hornets’ nest – all became international sensation. Unfortunately he died of a heart attack at age 50 yrs after the publication of his 3 novels. There won’t be any more novel by him. He envisioned 10 novels in the series with outlines but his early demise killed that plan. Link
Back to the Japanese Steig Larsson, Keigo Higashino. I’ve read 3 of his many works so far. I plan to read more of his books. As usual, Lohcifer bought 3 brand new Keigo Higashino novels for me. He gave instruction on the order of the 3 novels I should read. I followed his instruction faithfully without regrets. In one sentence I shall comment on each novel. Link
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino – The perfect alibi
Let me elaborate a little on each of the comment on the novel. In the first novel, a brilliant Maths school teacher falls in love with a divorcee with a young daughter when they shift in on the first day to introduce themselves to the neighbours including that ugly round expressionless monk face living next door. Actually, he is quite depressed living alone having trouble with the school management, lack of girlfriend or other friends cuz he spends his time after work in his room solving complex Maths problems. He even thinks that a certain Maths problem would take him the earliest 20 yrs to solve or he might not even able to solve it in his lifetime! He compares himself with the world’s best mathematician and even refutes some of their solutions etc. When he is about to hang himself, the mother and daughter come knocking on his door. The moment he sees them, he is in love with the pretty divorcee. From that day onwards, he vows to take care of them.
When the ex-husband comes over to harass her resulting in the woman accidentally killing the ex-husband, they are at a loss what to do. The eccentric Maths teacher steps in and saves them from the police. He uses Maths to solve the problem. In fact, the whole novel is all about Maths and formulas, equations, geometry, calculus etc. This brilliant Maths teacher creates the perfect alibi by killing another guy on the next day to look like the ex-husband. The real husband is killed on the 9th March is being systematically disposed off in 6 body parts dumped on 3 days in 6 different locations using weights to sink them into the bottom of the river.
The Maths teacher then gives step by step instructions to the mother and daughter – as if solving a Maths problem when the police come knocking on their door. This is what the Maths teacher tells them to do. Go watch a movie with her daughter after work. Keep the movie stubs. After the movie, go to the karaoke and have supper in a cafe. The daughter should discuss the movie with her frens the next day etc. When the police keep asking what she does on the 10 March (not 9th March), the suspect relates about the movie, karaoke etc. She is telling the truth. She is not lying. The police checking on the movie and even the daughter’s frens in school confirm their solid alibi. As such, it is an iron clad alibi. There is no way to link her to the death of her supposedly ex-husband on 10 March which the police are led to believe. (Actually her ex-husband was killed on 9th March). That is why I said “The perfect alibi”!
Only another equally brilliant physics professor Galileo from Imperial University also happens to be the schoolmate of the Maths teacher and the police detective, could crack the case! The university professor is a consultant to the metropolitan police force.
Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino – The perfect crime
Young Japanese middle class couple got married one year ago. They live in an exclusive well to do neighborhood. The husband is a well to do CEO of a big company. Just before they got married, the husband tells the wife that if after one year, she is not pregnant, the marriage is over. Wife knows that she can’t conceive but proceeds with the marriage anyway thinking that surely her husband’s love is much more than that.Unknown to the husband, the wife already made plans since the first day of marriage just in case the husband really carries out his warning. Wife puts arsenic in the water filtration below the tap in the kitchen sink.
For one complete solid year, she guards and ensures that no one turns on the water tap. There are 2 taps but the poisoned one is out of bounds. Husband never wanders to the kitchen. Wife always does the cooking. No helper in the house. Exactly one year when the husband mentions about separation due to the wife not able to conceive, she gets very disappointed and decides to kill her husband. She tells the husband she’s going to the northern part of Japan, so much further away from Tokyo to visit her aged parents over the weekend. Husband alone at home turns on the tap with the arsenic poison to make coffee. He is killed instantly by the poison once he drinks the coffee. The husband’s mistress who is pregnant with his child discovers the death first.
Question is who kills the man? Wife is so far away with a solid alibi. Problem is that no traces of arsenic poison found in the tap or water filtration system cuz the wife keeps draining water from the poison tap to water the plants in the balcony when she comes back home after she’s informed of the husband’s death. Whatever traces of poison found inside the water filtration has been drained out by her. The police are at a loss. Again, that brilliant Imperial University Physics professor Galileo manages to solve the case. He is able to crack “The perfect crime!”
Malice by Keigo Higashino – The perfect motive
It is common knowledge that every murder has a motive. One doesn’t commit murder or pre-mediated killing – without any motive. In Malice by Keigo Higashino, the suspect commits murder with the intention of apprehension by the police. Before he commits the murder, he painstakingly creates and builds up The perfect motive. What a langgar motive? Odd is it? You are wrong if you think likewise.
You see, the suspect is dying of stomach cancer anyway. His days are numbered. But he dreams of being a famous novelist. He’s only children books author! That made him envy and jealous of his best fren’s success as a well known author. That is the crux of the matter when his classmate and childhood fren becomes a famous novelist in Japan. The suspect creates manuscripts and fabricates evidence in such a way to make the police believe that he kills his best fren cuz he’s being blackmail by his scandalous relationship (not true) with the wife. He tells the police that is the motive for killing his best fren. He presents himself as the victim to the police and that he has no choice but to murder him. Really KNN!
The police believe his lies initially but not the main investigator who finds loop holes in his written confession and some of the fabricated evidence. This smart and brilliant detective is able to see thru his deviously conceived motive and established his real motive. The suspect not only wants to take the entire credit of his best fren’s many bestsellers but also to destroy his reputation for being a plagiarist! How evil is that guy!
Usually the police will rest the case once the culprit is arrested and close the case. But not for this relentlessly tenacious detective who takes the trouble to demolish his Perfect motive thereby exposing his true evil intention. Or else the suspect would have died a hero winning so much sympathy from the general public. They say the public court of opinion rules. If it remains unearthed by that duty bound police detective, the innocent man would not only have lost his life and all his honor but also his reputation bringing shame to his family as a plagiarist! The story line is very original here. The suspect is arrested very much early in the story. Three quarters of the story revolve around the suspect’s confession on his falsified motive which the detective takes pains to uncover his lies.
Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman is an easy going smooth reading fiction with a surprise twist in the ending. So many lives lost due to a “fake” ruby. Actually it’s not fake. It’s just a lousy huge spinel ruby thought to worth hundreds of millions but only a paltry $4.5K! Can’t blame those who lost their lives cuz they aren’t jewelry experts! Heartbreak Hotel is Jonathan Kellerman’s latest novel. One has to get used to the American language and way of talking to read it. I would prefer reading novels in standard English like those novels written by Jeffrey Archer, Wilbur Smith or Ken Follet etc.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is the most heartbreaking novel I ever read. I’ve finished most of it but I couldn’t bear to finish it. Only 200 odd pages but I’m so sadden by this brilliantly abnormal young man’s obsession with the Alaskan wild that I could hardly carry on reading. I’ve reached the part where the 80 yr old man who’s grown so found of him hitting the bottle once he found out that he’s dead.
That young man’s adventure immediately after college (he scored 3.72 in History and Anthropology), renounces everything to “live off the land” and “hit the roads!” He’s anti establishments, changes his original name to hide his real identity and renounces his upper middle class past, hate man’s irksome rules and civilization in general. His only wish to see the sunset and daybreak on different parts of the vast wild landscape! He travels around looking for any odd jobs or he simply forages for wild berries and what not to survive in the desert, ravines and faraway ulu towns etc. He meets all kinds of people on his travels in the vast American hinterland.
Like that 80 yr old man who is lonely and grown so attached to him after spending some time together even offers to adopt him as his grandson! That old man prays to God to protect the young man but now disappointed with God (when he found out that the young man dies of cold and starvation in the wild Alaskan no man land), that the devout Christian denounces God and turns into an atheist. He’s heartbroken to the point of inconsolable despair. My eyes got misty when I read the old man whom wanted to adopt him as his grandson sunk into bottomless pit of sorrow and despair!
They say reading defines the man. Fact is nowadays people don’t read novels anymore as evidenced by the many closure of bookstores. Think Borders and the many other smaller bookshops. By sharing what I’ve read here I hope some of you will be persuaded by the joy and fun of reading. Why not try one of those bestsellers mentioned? May you read and broaden your perspectives in life.