December 18th, 2016


Book Critique 2016 – 08/14/2016: Murder, She Wrote #23: The Maine Mutiny

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books under Murder, She Wrote series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: If you want an easy and quick murder mystery pick it up and you will enjoy it.

The Maine Mutiny is the 23rd book in the Murder, She Wrote series by Donald Bain and fictional writer Jessica Fletcher based on the popular TV Show of the same name. The book was published in April of 2005. This time the plot is set in her very own town of Cabot Cove, Maine.

The plot begins with Jessica Fletcher stranded on Spencer Durkee's lobster boat "Done For" and not knowing how she got there or how far she was from land.  And she is not alone. She is with the body of a very dead man. Who is that man? How did Jessica get on to the boat? What happened the previous night or day? As we are pondering on these thoughts the plot goes two weeks back in time to the time it all began. (Phew! ;))

The town of Cabot Cove decides to have a Annual Lobster Festival to promote their main street and help boost the businesses there, and also perhaps start a new tradition. The activities preparing for the festival are progressing in full-steam. But the hiccup was the lobstermen itself. They are tight-lipped when anyone is approaching them with the hopes of writing up an article about them in the Cabot Cove Gazette for the festival. Lincoln "Linc" Williams, the head of the local lobstermen's association who thinks himself as a man of great importance and so do his fellow lobstermen, takes a stance not to speak for the article. So Jessica takes up the task to help Gwen and hoping that the lobstermen would be more keen to talk to a long-time resident as opposed to a new person.

Promptly she seeks out Mary Carver  to ask her husband Levi Carver to talk to Linc Williams about the article. But then the troubles start as the lobstermen feel they are being cheated by holding off the catch for the festival. The catch is low in number comparatively and the prices are up. However, Henry Pettie - the loan shark and the dealer for the lobsters - is taking this chance to make profits by paying the lobstermen lesser money than promised. Spencer Durkee had signed the agreement between the Chamber of Commerce and the Dealer, representing the Lobstermen Association. Some of the lobstermen are angry with Spencer for being the representee and give him trouble with his boat. Then Ike Bower gets his share of trouble the day after he voices out that Pettie was cheating them. Someone is trying really hard to ensure that the lobstermen don’t go on their own and stick to Hettie. Is that Linc? Does he want to stay as a president and rule as a Hitler? Is he reaping any side-benefits from Pettie?

The troubles for the lobstermen seem to increase and Jessica pokes her nose in unknowingly in the effort to help them. Then Barnaby Longshot gets beaten up badly around the time he was supposed to meet Jessica and tell her about the trouble that Ike had. The same night after Barnaby was taken to hospital Jessica sees someone going into Spencer's boat and she follows ending up in the boat hit on her head by someone. The plot comes to present time where it had originally began. The dead body that Jessica sees in the cabin is of Henry Pettie. Who killed Henry Pettie? Who had knocked her out? How will Jessica come back ashore with a boat that is practically not working? Will she be rescued? As always Dr. Seth Hazlitt and Sheriff Mort Metzger aid Jessica when she finds herself in a bind as the investigation proceeds along. The plot continues through quite a few surprising turns and eventually unravels the entire lobstermen mystery.

As the plot thickens we get to meet a lot of interesting characters along the way - Gwen Anissina (event planner), Barnaby Longshot (a slow learner and does odd jobs for everyone around), Mayor Jim Shevlin, Roger Cherry (retd accountant, former president of chamber of commerce), David and Jim Ranieri (owned Charles Department Store), Evelyn Phillips (new editor to the Gazette), Matilda Watson (owner of The Cabot Co ve Gazette), Audrey Williams (wife of Linc Williams), Abigail Brown (a beauty peagent contestant that Evan Carver is interesting in), Ike Bower (another lobsterman), Brady Holland (another lobsterman and Linc Williams' nephew) and Alex Paynter (another lobsterman).

This was one book that it took a while for me to get through, a slow read to start with. Perhaps a whole chapter about lobster trapping put me to sleep and perhaps I am not a fish person, but either way the plot proceeded very slow for me to read, unlike other books. Somewhere around the time I reached Chapter Ten I got hooked to the plot like with any good book and enjoyed the rest of the story thoroughly.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Jessica remembers the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coolridge while stranded on the boat. How apt to match the scenario.
2) As always interesting language usage - whirligig (a spinning toy like a pinwheel),
3) Jessica reminisces about Dr. Truman Buckley and their trip to Key West with Dr. Seth Hazlitt and the Metzgers. The tale is told in the book Dying to Retire, the review of which I wrote here
4) The author mentions about green lobsters….I always thought lobsters were orange or rather red. Never heard about green lobsters.

Movie Critique 2016 – 08/15/2016: Kranti

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  4 / 5
Recommendation: A very beautiful movie depicting a revolution and how it turns the lives of people around toward the right path depicted through the eyes of leaders and soldiers of the 19th century.

August 15th is the day that India celebrates its Independence Day - their freedom from approx 400 years of British reign over the country. This year marked the 69th anniversary. Are we truly free? That is a question for another day as it would lead to a lot of discussion about injustice, crime and corruption that goes on till date with advancement on the side going at a pace slower than needed killing the good along. This is not the forum for that, yet! However to honor the great leaders - big and small, famed and nameless, soldier and king , everyone alike - who had fought to bring freedom to this great country that has history that goes centuries and eons to the beginning of time, I would be posting review of this revolutionary film.

Kranti ( = Revolution) is a 1981 Indian Hindi revolutionary film directed by Manoj Kumar. It starred Manoj Kumar, Hema Malini, Dilip Kumar, Shatrughan Sinha, Shashi Kapoor and Parveen Babi amongst other myriad of characters - some fame and some nameless just like our great leaders from the past. The film is set in 19th Century British India and shows the story of the fight for independence from British during the years 1825 and 1875. The story revolves around four men who lead the war against British Raaj ( = Rule) - Bharat (portrayed by Manoj Kumar), Sanga - a revolutionary (portrayed by Dilip Kumar), Shakti - a prince (portrayed by Shashi Kapoor) and Kareem Khan - a freedom fighter (portrayed by Shatrughan Sinha).

The plot is told in flashback by Sanga to a woman and a boy with a few minutes of to the current time in the plot with a fitted finale.

Raja Laxman Singh (portrayed by P. Jairaj) ruling the Kingdom of Ramgarh is forced to accept the handshake that his brother Shamsher Singh (portrayed by Pradeep Kumar). Shamsher Singh want to rule the kingdom but he cannot because of his brother still being the king. So he conspires with his brother-in-law Shambu Singh (portrayed by Prem Chopra) and Sir Thomas (portrayed by Veeru Devgan) - a British General - to have the Britishers allowed in for fair trade but with the hidden agenda of getting inside arms and ammunitions and taking out precious jewels instead. Sanga - the leader of the farmers - comes to know of the conspiracy and when confronting Shambu Singh and Sir Thomas, Sanga gets beaten. When he reaches to Raja Laxman Singh to make him aware of the atrocities, he finds him murdered and Shamsher Singh and Shambu Singh capture him on the charges of murder. He is sentenced to death. But Sanga escapes the jail but not before he chops off the hand of Shambu Singh - the very hand that had lifted against his son and wife.

In the meanwhile Sanga's wife Radha (portrayed by Nirupa Roy) gives birth to another male child. The whole family of Sanga and his close friends decide to leave the kingdom and go away. But they and many others are caught and Sir Thomas ruling the kingdom now on behalf of Raja Shamsher Singh order the old and children to be killed and young captured as slaves. In that chaos, Radha ensures that her second son is tied inside Sanga's blanket and drifted away in a wooden basket on water but she gets captured. The child reaches the shores of Queen Charumathi - sister to Raja Laxman Singh - who had just delivered a still baby. The mid-wife and Charumathi decide to adopt the child as their own hiding the fact that she never gave birth to a child and announce to the world that he is the crown Prince of their kingdom. Sanga's older child escapes the massacre with one of Sanga's farmer friend and grows up in their family as Bharat along-side. Not knowing that his family was alive, assuming dead, Sanga takes his remaining farmer friends and kills the Britishers and his troops. And forms a revolutionary group Kranti fighting his way inch by inch against Britishers and paving way for the path to future leaders towards freedom. Sanga comes to know that another factional group also apes their group name as well as the similar way they are also eradicating the Britishers. Sanga doesn’t have an idea who this group was.

On the other side, Bharat has grown-up into a revolutionary himself and with his adopted family and the followers of his group he moves in the same direction as Sanga - albeit Sanga isn't aware of it. Bharat comes to know that another freedom fighter Kareem Khan is captured by Raja Shamsher Singh. He reaches the court in-time to save Kareem Khan. To get rid of Kranti (not knowing who that is), Raja Shamsher Singh appoints his sister's son Shakti as his Commander who oversees the King's armies. And Shakti's responsibility is to capture Kranti. Yuvraj Dheeraj Singh - Crown Prince of Ramgarh Kingdom - (portrayed by Dheeraj Kumar) is set to get engaged to Rajkumari Meenakshi (portrayed by Hema Malini) - daughter of the King Gangadhar of the neighboring Kingdom Shivpur.

All the players are in place now and the plot proceeds to show how they all meet, form together a coalition and work on inch by inch removing the Britishers, the traitors Shamsher Singh, Shambu Sing and their families from the Kingdoms of Ramgarh and Shivpur. A myriad of characters aid in this revolution - Surili (portrayed by Parveen Babhi) - daughter of one of the Farmer family who joined the revolution); Sheetal (portrayed by Sarika) - daughter of the Pujari who is part of the Bharat's revolutionary group) and many others.
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My favorite freedom fighter has (is still) always been Bhagat Singh - a short time of his life but entirely dedicated to the country and its people till his last breath. However this time I wanted to pick a different leader, different setting and a totally different theme. Thus review of Kranti happened.

The movie is well-made tying up all pieces together although a few gaps are there. Also there are definite editing issues - perhaps on youtube but for sure there are. A revolution that I believe we need even today if not getting freed from someone else's rule but to get freed from all the atrocities and crimes. Karnti always lives only soldiers are needed. What better movie than this to pay homage to all those leaders.
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