Month: August 2015

Whodunnit?

This is my review of Serial, the podcast researched and narrated by Sarah Koenig.

This podcast has a novel premise- it’s a serialized presentation of the narrator’s investigation of a real life murder. So the events aren’t presented linearly, like a story; facts are revealed in the order that Koenig uncovered them. This is interesting because the murder took place fifteen years before this inquiry began. Many memories are blurred, witnesses must be tracked down, and the accused’s main defense lawyer has died!

The case itself is deceptively simple. Hae Min Lee, a high school student in Maryland, USA, goes missing. A few weeks later her body is found in a park. Suspicion falls squarely on her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed. His friend, Jay, claims that he was a witness to Adnan’s planning and execution of this murder, right down to digging the grave. So where’s the loophole, you ask? Jay is inconsistent; the details of his story change drastically each time he tells it. New eyewitness statements also make it seem difficult for Adnan to have committed his crime within the time frame.

Adnan Syed was convicted of the murder of Hae Min Lee, and is in prison at the time the podcast was recorded. A desperate plea from a family friend of his got Koenig involved in the case. In the absence of forensic evidence, Koenig’s hunt feels similar to those of Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot- cross-question, judge character and put all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together.

But I do have some issues with Serial. For one, Koenig seems biased towards Adnan almost from the very beginning. She describes him as charming, and expresses doubt that a person so nice could be responsible for a cold blooded murder. Secondly, there is no satisfactory conclusion to the investigation. The only evidence for or against Adnan is purely circumstantial and wouldn’t stand up in a court of law. So however convincing you and I find the arguments presented, the case remains the same.

4/5. Listen if you like whodunnits and Agatha Christie-esque investigations. Avoid if your curiosity  tends to get the better of you.

 

 

 

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What’s the opposite of Chick Lit?

You might be familiar with the concept of chick flicks- Hollywood romantic comedies targeted towards the segment of society that paints its nails to match its clothing. You may even have heard of chick lit, which is basically the literary version of the same thing (but slightly more intellectual, because reading). Both of those things, to me, are good entertainment but not really works of art.

This is my review of High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. I’d seen this book recommended several times on Reddit as a light, amusing read and decided to give it a shot.

Our narrator is Rob Fleming, a thirty-something former DJ who now runs a record store. He and his colleagues (whom he doesn’t seem to like too much) spend most of their time making Top 5 lists, but they manage to scrape by. Rob’s just gone through a breakup, which prompts him to list his top 5 most painful breakups to stop himself from obsessing about the most recent one. Which is amusing, but doesn’t seem like a great idea…

Rob soon goes back to obsessing about his relationship, and the next-door neighbour that his ex seems to be shacking up with. And then about his unsuccessful career. And then about how his parents have a more lively social life than he does. And then about his commitment phobia. Spoiler alert: A lot of obsessing happens in this book.

He does have some pretty insightful views on life and relationships. This isn’t a romance per se- there are no confessions of love or weddings or epiphanies- but that’s what makes this book a 1000x more realistic than all the other fluff out there. ‘Cause everyone feels like a loser once in a while, and I doubt real life happy endings are accompanied by cheerful pop music.

Read this, if you want a light story with a good narrative style. Or if you want to read the male version of Princess Diaries– overthinking and self improvement plans everywhere! 3/5 from me.

PS: The answer to the question posed in the title is apparently “dick-lit”. The Internet is very, uh, educational.