crime

Anglophilia

I haven’t been reading much at all, but I still have the compulsive need to express opinions. Sorry.

I’ve recently fallen down the rabbit-hole of British TV. It went something like this: “Netflix wants me to watch Broadchurch. Machine learning? Please, it’s clearly a marketing strategy. Mustn’t let them get to me. Oops, finger twitched. Might as well watch. Hey this is pretty good! …. (Several days later) Welp, back to work. Those actors are pretty good, wonder what else they’ve done? Oh, Amazon wants me to watch Doctor Who. Not falling for those tricks again. Hmm, but I have that hugely important exam tomorrow! How else will I procrastinate?”

Rinse and repeat.

The results of my inefficiency, for your consideration:

  • Doctor Who

This is definitely one of the most popular series from the BBC. It has an interesting history as well- it started out in the 60s and was immensely popular, but got cancelled for a decade or two before being revived in 2005 or thereabouts. It’s BBC label means that it must be clean and family friendly (and low budget). Given that I grew up watching the weekly Mahabharatha on DD1, this show is very impressive.

I started out with the 2005 episodes, because NewWho is more readily available for streaming.

Doctor Who is essentially a Sci-Fi/Fantasy show with standalone episodes (more or less, some character development happens over time). The Doctor is a Time Lord who navigates space and time and fights baddies. His low-budget equipment of choice is a time machine, the TARDIS, that looks suspiciously like a phone booth, and  a nondescript LED torch, the Sonic Screwdriver.

Since the show has been running for SO long, it has seen quite a few showrunners (basically writer/producer) in its time. Oh, the Doctor also has the ability to regenerate, thus allowing the actor, and his overall persona, to change periodically. This lets the BBC experiment a bit and keep the stories modern. It’s also an interesting reflection of viewer demographics and culture- while the older Doctors were middle-aged white men, the 9th-11th Doctors have been much younger and more energetic. The 13th Doctor is tipped to be female or black. I’m excited to see what direction they’re taking the show, because there’s a new showrunner next season as well!

Recommended for the young at heart.

  • Broadchurch

Broadchurch is another series by the BBC. It’s primarily a crime-suspense-whodunnit, and I really liked it for the lonely scenery and the amazing acting performances. Olivia Colman is brilliant.

There are 2 completed series- one deals with the murder of a young boy, and the second is a follow-up of the court case. The third series is currently airing in the UK. The murder mystery plot was excellently done. The only gripe I had was that there wasn’t nearly enough foreshadowing before the culprit was revealed- but there were red herrings and unresolved threads galore. They sacrificed the smoothness of the plot for shock value.

I would still recommend this to anyone who likes suspense and mysteries.

  • Bletchley Circle

This was another unexpectedly good show, albeit short. It’s about a group of women codebreakers at Bletchley Park during WWII. What happens to them after? Well, they’ve been sworn to secrecy, but still have apparently superhuman mathematical skills. Which they use to… solve mysteries? I’ll take it.

The first series has a very likeable main character who balances pragmatism with the stereotypical ‘genius’ impracticality. Unfortunately, the subsequent series have a much more Nancy Drew feel to them. I’d have liked to see more than 9 episodes though!

Recommended for anyone who likes historical drama and feminism.

  • Black Mirror

This show has become very well-known in the past year, and its popularity is well deserved. Each episode is a standalone dystopian thriller. While I love this genre, these are dark dark stories. Binge watching is impossible, because of the shock value- it makes sure you have food for thought. Which is a good thing!

The sci-fi hits very close to home- I can imagine some of these issues coming up in the next decade or two. Social media for keeping tabs on people’s behaviour?  Already exists. Crazy murderous drones? Possible. VR hell for people convicted of crimes? Why not?

Watch this if you don’t shy away from serious television.

Crime Club

This is my review of Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.

Yes, the same Gillian Flynn who wrote Gone Girl, that masterpiece of mindfuckery. And this novel is much of the same.

Libby Day is a bitter woman with a terrible past that has left her scarred, both mentally and physically. As a child, her brother Ben murdered the rest of their family, and was subsequently thrown into prison for life. She has lived most of her life as a hermit, getting by on donations from well wishers. But now she’s short on funds, and willing to do anything to make a living (except, God forbid, get a job). She becomes involved with a group of oddballs who get their kicks from solving crimes that have received a lot of media attention- and they’re convinced that Ben Day is innocent.

They pay Libby to help them with their investigation, and she is forced to revisit repressed memories and approach estranged relatives. Eventually, all is revealed and the magic *DNA evidence* saves the day (pun intended).

Gillian Flynn’s writing style really stands out in this book- the gritty, dreary atmosphere is palpable. She strings the reader along with vague, improbable clues, revealed just when it seems that Libby and co. have reached a dead end.

Overall, this one isn’t as good as Gone Girl, but it makes for a good weekend read. Recommended if you are a fan of gloom, doom and crime thrillers. 3.5/5

The Perfect Murder

This is my review of Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith.

I really liked The Talented Mr Ripley, and had my eye out for another novel by Patricia Highsmith. Managed to acquire this book legally online and devoured it in a sitting. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a semi-abridged textbook edition of the story. As they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

This book has a very interesting plot- two men meet on a train and trade murders. Charley Bruno is a playboy who has had a disagreement with his father, and Guy Haines’ ex-wife is trying to sabotage his career as an architect. There is no motive, no acquaintance even, between the murderer and victim. And so they will escape without any trouble, or so they hope.

This is more like a psychological thriller than a murder mystery. While the psychopathic Charley murders Guy’s wife promptly without any qualms, Guy finds himself forced into a corner with no alternative (and a creepy stalker).

While the story itself is interesting, the execution and pace of the novel is not great, possibly because of the editing/ censorship of the version I read. I’d recommend the movie instead, you can’t go wrong with Hitchcock. 3/5.

Fantasy-Crime-Thriller-Romance-Mystery

Whew, quite a mouthful. This is my review of Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher. As the title says, this is a very mixed-genre book that’ll appeal to anyone who isn’t a literary snob.

Harry Dresden is a wizard. In the mortal world, he makes ends meet by offering his services as a private investigator. He’s also a consultant for the police force, working on cases that have supernatural involvement. Think Psych with magic.

One day he receives a house call from a woman whose husband has gone missing without a trace. Almost simultaneously, he’s called on to investigate a gruesome double murder.

The best part of this book is its fast pace. Both the mysteries (plus a false framing, some flirting, comedy, and a spirited demon) are wrapped up in under 150 pages. The literary equivalent of a 20 minute sitcom episode. It’ll take longer than 20 minutes to read it, but you get the idea.

The worst part of this book is its predictability. No part of the story will evoke even the mildest surprise. It’s about as original as a Hardy Boys book. But I’d love to see this series on the small screen.

4/5, would read the rest of the series if super bored.