Book haul: Giggles – Biggest Little Bookshop, Chennai

“Book Haul? Not againnn!” you might think, Reader. but deep down, you know how we are. I visited a book shop, so how could I not buy books? Would it ease my guilt if I call this my birthday present to myself? Questions…questions… but what’s done is done. Enough about myself, I’m here to tell you about this classic Indie book store that I visited recently. Giggles – Biggest little bookshop is located just behind Spencer Plaza, in the premises of Vivanta by Taj which is undergoing renovation presently so I had to step around rubble and debris to get to bookshop.

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Did you know Giggles has been around for 43 years? How it has escaped my knowledge all these days, I will never know. I got to know about the shop through Instagram, found some news articles after digging around and have been wanting to visit ever since. The bookshop is run by Ms. Nalini Chettur with whom I had a chat couple of times over the phone before actually visiting the shop – she was an inquisitive, well-read, gracious lady. She already started referring to me as ‘customer’ even before I visited the shop for the first time. 😀

When I finally got round to visiting, I found that, although it was a small space, Giggles houses so many new Indian titles that I have not come across even on Bookstagram or the blogosphere yet. Unlike big bookshops that display only the fast/best selling titles, Giggles has a handpicked collection that is sure to tempt even the casual browser into buying a few (ask me how I ended up buying 5 books 😂) Ms. Chettur quizzes you about your taste in books and then suggests you books accordingly. Her lifelong passion for books shines through when she talks.

I even got to meet one of the regulars at the bookshop – Nanditha, who handles the Facebook page of Giggles. When Nanditha mentioned this book  – Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn, a collection of ghost stories based on Japanese lore, I expressed interest in buying it. Giggles did not have a copy of the book but Ms. Chettur contacted the nearest distributor and made sure I had a copy in hand within 20 minutes just so I don’t have to make another trip for this one book! Color me impressed! ☺️ Suffice to say, I spent a happy evening browsing through the dusty bookshelves and chatting about books.

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I bought these wonderful titles that I’m really excited to read (while I pretend my TBR’s not already overflowing with unread books)

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I was sad to learn that they might close up shop soon due to issues with space and even if they move to a different venue, Ms. Chettur may not be able to run the shop single-handedly anymore. As much as I would like the shop to keep going, can’t help but feel like the spirit of Giggles might be lost if someone else takes over…

However, pulling down of the shutters is not imminent so you should definitely visit this store if you’re in Chennai and up for discussing/discovering books over some chai. I understand they have plans to hold some book exhibitions soon, do keep an eye on Giggles’ social media pages listed below for more information on the same.

Pro tip: Make sure you call ahead before visiting, they are open only for a few hours in the afternoons and closed on Sundays -> you can find Nalini Chettur’s mobile no on their facebook page.

Giggles’ social media: Instagram page || Facebook page

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Have you chanced upon any interesting meetings/conversations at book stores? I’d LOVE to hear! Do share in the comments. 🙂

Happy Reading!

~ Mathangi

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Review: It Must’ve Been Something He Wrote || Nikita Deshpande

Author : Nikita Deshpande
Genre : Contemporary Romance
No. of Pages : 272
Publisher : Hachette India
My Rating : ★★★★ / 5

synopsis

When obsessive book-lover (ahem, book snob) Amruta – Ruta – Adarkar arrives in Delhi to work as a marketing executive for Parker-Hailey’s Publishing, she learns that the world of books is not as cozy as she’d imagined. Her eccentric taskmaster of a boss expects marketing miracles to happen on shoestring budgets and in record time, and surviving the job (and the city) means she’ll have to master the local art of jugaad really fast. Worst of all, she’s stuck being a publicist for Jishnu Guha, protein-shake lover, serial selfie-taker, and bestselling author of seven cheesy romance novels, the kind she wouldn’t be caught dead reading.

As Ruta struggles between work and life in a new city, she finds, much to her annoyance, that she needs Jishnu’s help more than she cares to admit. But with her own parents getting a divorce, can Ruta dare to fall in love, especially with someone who’s so impossibly different?

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What drew me to this book was that it was set in the world of publishing, because which bookworm doesn’t like to read about something / anything related to the publishing world? Another was that the heroine is just the type I can relate to and like to read about: a clueless millennial struggling to make her mark in the world. Suffice to say I wasn’t disappointed. I got all of this and more. I loved the humour in this book; really, there was something to elicit a chuckle in every page. The writing style was so breezy and easy to follow. I loved how Ruta is not only a book-snob but also highly opinionated about EVERYTHING! #relatable 😀

Sample this quote here ↓ She’s taking a jab at a Marathi wedding ritual that lets the groom’s family rename the bride (wtf????? but really I’m not surprised at all considering how patriarchal most of our wedding rituals are *eyeroll*)

Because marriage in our culture is akin to buying a puppy at a pet shop and saying, “I am your new owner, and I shall call you Fluffy”

I enjoyed how Ruta’s personality shines through her interactions with her aunt, her best friend Jyo and her cousins. I love how hard she tried to make her cousin rethink her life decisions. She is idealistic, but not without flaws. Jish even calls her out on her bullshit once or twice.

Now, I’m not a big romance reader at all and I truly appreciated the minimal amount of romance in this book. Most of the fluff is in the latter part of the book and even my bottomless, black hole of a heart declared it cUTE!!😍

Based on the blurb, I imagined Jish to be more of an assholey, I-let-the-fame-get-to-my-head sort of person. But guess what!! yes well done, you guessed it. He wasn’t. Under his carefully made-for-camera personality, there’s this big-hearted, genuine fella. The kind of guy who would come without question if you called at 3 AM. I super-enjoyed the conversations between Jish and Ruta and how they help bring out the best in each other and in turn bring out the fuzzies in the readers!

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This was a quick and breezy read for most part and I don’t have complaints, except that the pacing seemed to lag a little once we’re two-thirds into the book. Or may be it just felt that way because Jish disappeared in that part of the book, I don’t know. 😅

I’d be lying if I said the book-snob in me didn’t ever-so-slightly cringe at the use of regional-accented English in some places, although I think it was done to show the reader the kind of language Jish employs in his books and how it explains their appeal ’cause so many people speak that way as well.

That brings me to my last point: there are some, not many, but some Hindi phrases used throughout the book and I would have liked a footnote with the meaning added wherever needed. Not that they were hard to understand, given the context but I don’t want to feel like I’m missing out on some inside joke every time there’s a Hindi phrase. This is not the first book I’m noticing this trend in – remember having the same problem with Glitter and Gloss (my review)

There’s an appeal to the authors and publishers: please include footnotes for any language other than English, just to be safe (not all of us know elvish OR Hindi😂) it would help capture a wider readerbase too.

Would ya look at that, I have rambled on too much as usual! Here’s a TL;DR: basically this was a cute, entertaining read and I definitely recommend. Look forward to more books from Nikita Deshpande!

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Do you like romance novels and to what degree? let me know! I’d say the romance in this book was my threshold, can’t handle more than that. 😂

~ Mathangi

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Review: Glitter and Gloss || Vibha Batra

Author : Vibha Batra
Genre : Contemporary Romance
No. of Pages : 184
Publisher : Bloomsbury India
My Rating : ★★★ out of 5

Synopsis :

Misha is a make up artist who, after a series of mishaps and twists and turns, falls madly in love with Akshay who reciprocates her love with ardour. The only hitch in this perfect romance is her prospective sister-in-law who thinks Misha is everything a Bahu shouldn’t be: garrulous, geeky, gawky, gainfully employed (especially the last bit). The questions is will Misha win Didi (and the Kha-Pee Panchayat) over with her Stepford Wife Act? Will she continue to be the poster child for the inherent evils of the Bahu Brigade? Or will she learn to ‘lau’ herself before the whole world and its wife can do the same?

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Misha, the protagonist of the book, could not have been more relatable. I’d call her the millennial-next-door: a self-deprecatingly funny, hyper person with self-esteem issues and struggling to carve her own niche in her professional life. I definitely saw a bit of myself in her. When she meets the charming Akshay, she definitely dreams of a whirlwind romance, but what she could not have dreamt of was dealing with his possessive and over-bearing elder sister. That’s the problem with Indian marriages: you gotta charm the pants off the entire family!

As if that isn’t bad enough, what does one to do when your would-be in-laws expect you to change your entire *self* in order to be accepted into their *honourable* family?
To Misha’s credit, she tries her hardest to dodge some bullets and take some head-on. What follows is a comedy of errors that is equal parts entertaining and engrossing.

I really liked that Misha’s professional side isn’t glossed over either: there is a lot of details on the kind of products she uses and I, a total make-up noob, found it informative.

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My only gripe was that the narrative was peppered with colloquial Hindi phrases which I could not follow, on account of not knowing the language. I get the feeling this book would have been a lot funnier to me had I understood all of that.
Annnnd as cute as Misha and Akshay’s romance was, it was all a bit too insta-lovey for my liking. I get why it was rushed through though, for Akshay was merely a third wheel in the action between didi and Misha. 😀

Glitter and Gloss is a refreshingly cute, hilarious read and I’d recommend this if you’re struggling with a reading slump; this book is guaranteed to pull you right out of it.

Thanks a tonne to the author for entrusting me with a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review. 🙂

Happy Reading!

~ Mathangi

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Review : What Kitty Did || Trisha Bora

Author : Trisha Bora
Genre : Contemporary
No. of Pages : 305
Publisher : HarperCollins
My Rating : ★★★.5 out of 5

Synopsis :

Kitty Roy has more troubles than she can count on her fingers. Her love life is wonky, her paycheck is shit. She has badly behaved hair and struggles with a sugar addiction. To top it off, her pushy mother has set her up with a gorgeous but stuck-up guy who is sending her mixed signals.

When a diplomat’s celebrity wife, Roxy Merchant, falls dead during dinner at their posh central Delhi bungalow, Kitty’s boss gives her a chance to write a profile piece and the hint of a promotion. As she works on her article, Kitty realizes there’s more to Roxy Merchant’s death. She’s on to something big, and it can, perhaps, change her current life forever. But Kitty also has a knack for bungling things up majorly.

Set in the winter of her discontent, What Kitty Did is an irresistible caper zipping through the streets of Delhi.

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I’d just say this is a good book, or I could tell you that this book begins with a recipe for a rich Chocolate cake and then you’d know. It doesn’t stop there, there’s plenty other delicious baking references to make the reader hungry.

What Kitty Did is everything it’s said to be — witty, clever, and entertaining. Kitty’s voice is hilarious what with her ridiculous similes like “pale as a demure bride’s lingerie” the book generously peppered with such imaginative phrases, I don’t think I stopped smiling!

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Ketaki Roy, as an English Lit grad struggling to keep her job at a fashion magazine – is a very relatable character with her millennial age problems. Oh, how I chuckled at the shade she threw at English lit 😀 It made me feel a little better for not picking that as my major (and then I realised, Eng lit or not, I am a corporate slave either way. See, what I meant about relatable?) She struggles to keep afloat at her job, due to, ahem her drinking problems and general reckless behaviour, but then gets to work on an article on the late celebrity Roxy Merchant which could make or break her career. NBD. However, this task gets more complicated when Kitty discovers that Roxy didn’t just die of heart attack, she was murdered. So far, so good.

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Now, after that revelation, I expected details. More details on how the victim died and what happened afterward, what are the police thinking? and so on. I know this isn’t a detective book, but Kitty being a journalist, it was natural to expect her to get involved quickly to uncover vital details. But sadly, I felt like the book lacked a proper flow on the narrative front. As I read, there were some places where I thought Kitty’s getting warmer with the case, but suddenly she’s going shopping in Sarojini nagar or getting drunk senseless OR visiting a tarot reader!? The book could have easily done without 50-70 pages and fewer characters. With Kitty as the lead, the murder sub-plot wasn’t even necessary; if it were a book just about her getting her shit together and figuring life out, I would read the heck out of it.

Even with the shortcomings, I’d say give Kitty a chance. Her misadventures would make for a perfectly entertaining, lazy evening read. 🙂

Although, it’s probably wise not to read this book when hungry… unless of course you want to end up stuffing your face with cake. Then go right ahead, Kitty’s got your back!

PS I wanted to give this 3 stars but I HAD to add a .5 for that blink-and-miss Doctor Who/TARDIS reference 😀 I just really love Doctor Who okay bye


Thank you HarperCollins India for providing a review copy through the blogger program!


~ Mathangi

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Review : The Englishman’s Cameo (Muzaffar Jang #1) || Madhulika Liddle

Author : Madhulika Liddle
Genre : Historical Fiction
No. of Pages : 281
Publisher : Hachette India

Synopsis : Muzaffar Jang is that rare creature in Mughal Emperor Shahjahan’s Dilli – an aristocrat with friends in low places. One of whom, Faisal, stands accused of murder.

When the body of Mirza Murad Begh is found stabbed in the chest, lying in a water channel in the Qila, poor Faisal is the only one around. But what of the fact that, right before his demise, the victim had stepped out of the haveli of Shahjahanabad’s most ravishing courtesan? Could not the sultry Mehtab Banu, and her pale, delicate sister Gulnar have something to do with the murder?

Determined to save his friend, Muzaffar decides to investigate, with only a cup now and then of that new-fangled brew – Allah, so bitter – called coffee to help him….


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Set in 17th century Shahjahanabad (Delhi or Dilli under Mughal Emperor Shahjahan’s rule), this book follows Muzaffar Jang who is an aristocratic young man, but unlike his counterparts who only mingle with upper-class folks and like to amass and display their wealth, Muzaffar isn’t a classist snob – he likes to hang out with all kinds of people, appreciates a quiet life with good books, good food, and less extravagance (wait that sounds wrong – is there a nice, intellectual-sounding word for less extravagance?)

Basically, Muzaffar Jang is a man after my own heart.

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The setting is gorgeous! Madhulika’s writing unravelled the 17th century Dilli alive in front of my eyes. I didn’t pay enough attention in history class to know if the book was historically accurate, but it read like the author has done her research. Be it the picturesque’s havelis, or Mehtab Banu, the courtesan, folding paan with her henna-clad hands or the boat rides on the river yamuna – I could picture it clearly, hell, I could practically feel the dust as if I were on the shores of river yamuna myself. Full points for the evocative writing. This was my first proper historical fiction read and I’m glad I picked this one.

Muzaffar is a smart and likable (and handsome, like the other characters never stop telling you) protagonist with scope for solid development. I see that this book is the first in a series so I think his character would get better as the series goes on.

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I felt like the pace of the book was very slow. 50 pages into the book, you still haven’t learned much other than what the blurb tells you. Then there was the info-dumping. The author took her time with Muzaffar’s background but then all of a sudden you get his whole childhood and family details in a matter of two pages.

Despite being the brother-in-law of the town’s police inspector, when his friend gets arrested on suspicion for murder, Muzaffar decides to do his own investigation privately. Smart and well-read as he is, Muzaffar is not a detective. He is only an inquisitive, young man with friends in many places so as you can imagine, his investigation was slow. He asks questions, tries to put two and two together, tries to break into places and sometimes get caught, sometimes finds a small piece of evidence – you get the gist. I’m not saying every protagonist in a detective/mystery novel should be like Sherlock Holmes and make deductions in a matter of seconds – in fact I liked Muzaffar’s style. The problem was, the whole book is from his perspective and so we get to the bottom of everything only when he does. The titular Englishman and his cameo (which is apparently the name for an oval pendant – I didn’t know this) didn’t turn out to be as ominous as I’d expected but I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing.

Oh, and I really felt like they should have included a glossary for all the urdu words used in the book. The whole book is peppered with them which really adds to the feel of it, sure. but even in India, not all of us know hindi or urdu, so a key would have been really helpful.

My Rating : ★★★ out of 5.

Don’t be put off by how I’ve written more for what I didn’t like. I would recommend this book for its setting, the language, and the feel of it more than for its mystery.

~ Mathangi

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Review : Toppers by Aayush

Author : Aayush Gupta
Genre : Young Adult
No. of Pages : 300
Publisher : Penguin Random House India

Synopsis : How far would you go to be the best?
At the elite school of Woodsville, manipulation and lies reign supreme. In the quest for the coveted spot of Head Scholar, stakes are raised, sides taken and the student body turned into a pawn in a vicious game played by the toppers of Woodsville.

Witness an intense battle of wills, where the toppers overcome their demons only to unleash those lying in wait within others. Chaos and mayhem become weapons in their hands as the facades slowly begin to crumble.
But in their fight to be the best, they forget one thing . . . there’s always someone better.


I have read more than my fair share of YA (Young Adult) books by various international authors, but somehow never one written by an Indian author OR one that is set in India. So, saying I was excited to read Toppers would be an understatement. And the book did not disappoint me.

Given the title and the fact that it is set in an Indian school, I naively assumed the focus of the book may be on the academic rivalry in school. But, to my delight, it was apparent right from the Prologue that I’m in for something much darker than I could have hoped for!

The prologue of the book opens with a scene where two students are engaged in a scuffle, and just when you are wondering for what and who they are, the fight escalates and comes to a serious, shocking end. You are left dangling and dying to know more details.

My Thoughts :

A good book never gives away its secrets prematurely. The first chapter of the book gives no hint as to what went on in the prologue. Rather, it proceeds to introduce the key players in the book  and gives us a peek into their thought processes. The story builds up slowly thereafter.

Woodsville Scholars International is essentially a school for the best of the best students in the country. The alumni of the school are expected to lead the country in the future and as a result, being the Head Scholar of the school is a mighty big deal. Not only the post would give you considerable power over the students, name and fame outside of the school, but your higher education will also be sponsored by the institution itself. Naturally, it is a much-coveted post for all students of class twelve.

When Dev Bhushan, the blue-eyed boy of the school’s director Walia is made the Head Scholar without contest, Aniket Jain is livid. As a competitive topper, he believes he deserves the post more than anyone. He openly challenges the authority of the school director by proposing an election. The unassuming Himanshu Pathak is also pushed into the race for the post. The suave rajput prince, Rikkhe however, isn’t one for democracy. Taking the role of the Election Commissioner, he has other plans.

All the drama and rivalry is only the tip of the iceberg, as the worst comes in the form a mysterious 13-year-old prodigy Ramanujam.

I found the boy’s character to be very interesting because orphaned child prodigies are often written as modest, quiet little things, with heads buried in a book. On a refreshing contrary, Ramanujam here is a ruthless, selfish sociopath who would go to any length to get what he wants. And what he wants is pandemonium in the school.

Soon after Ramanujam comes into the school, he identifies a formidable opponent in the 17-year old Rikkhe Rajput and takes him head on. All the fun and games could only go on for so long until it gets out of either player’s hand.

At about 60% into the book, I was still not sure how I felt about it. The build up of the story is slow but when it reaches crescendo, then comes twist after the unexpected twist. This is where the book gets really edge-of-the-seat. Unspoken alliances are formed, unexpected sacrifices are made and the end of the book is shocking yet satisfying. I have to say though, even while reading the slower chapters, the prospect of getting to the bottom of the events in prologue kept me going steady.

Writing Style :

The language was evocative, yet simple and easy to read. The story had a good flow to it. I enjoyed the ambiguity the author has lent to his characters. No one is strictly black-and-white; I’d say it made them feel more real. There was, however, a noticeable lack of well-fleshed out girl characters in the book. Except for the smart and feisty Vishaka Sahdev, other girls were mere plot devices or in the case of Lisa Chauhan, a mere arm/eye candy for the boys.

Having read a lot of single person POV books, the narrative in Toppers took me sometime to get used to as it incorporates the point of view of multiple characters.

That said, as my first Indian YA read and also being the debut work of the author, this book was very well done. Kudos to Aayush Gupta. I will keep a look-out for the future works of Aayush!

My Rating : ★★★.5 out of 5.

My Verdict:

Toppers is a well-written, dramatic, and entertaining thriller. Go for it!

TL;DR : I also wrote a short and slightly spoiler-y review on Goodreads


My thanks to Vivek Tejuja and Penguin Random House for providing me with a review copy.


~ Mathangi,

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Review: The Masala Murder by Madhumita Bhattacharyya – #DiverseAThon 2017

I had wanted to be a detective. Crime fighter extraordinaire. Equal parts Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot in a fetching female frame.

Author : Madhumita Bhattacharyya
Genre : Mystery
No. of Pages : 292
Publisher : Pan Macmillan India

Synopsis :

Reema Ray is a 26-year-old who writes about food in an entertainment magazine for a living, but Reema is also a private investigator who has her own little detective agency  in North Calcutta. Writing pays, but detective work is where her true passion lies. After studying crime in the US, she comes back to India to set up a detective agency in her home town Calcutta.


I stumbled upon The Masala Murder in the recently concluded Chennai book fair, and the cover and title immediately caught my eye. I do not read a lot of books by Indian authors because the ones I have read were full of cliched bollywood tropes and bad writing.

Madhumita Bhattacharyya may have just restored my faith in Indian authors. The plot aside, the writing was really expressive and the choice of words, clever. I liked that she had also planted small details in random parts of the book for an observing eye to catch on. The author has capitalised on her main character being a food writer and strewn the book with several delicious descriptions of food throughout. I don’t even know how to pronounce most of the Chinese food (involving meat) mentioned here, but it all sounded delectable – and this despite me being a vegetarian, so that’s something right?

A girl’s gotta eat, and as long as that remains true, she might as well eat as well as she can.

My thoughts :

Being a detective is not all murders and catching mobsters, Reema realizes soon after setting up her one-woman agency. What little cases she gets are mostly the unexciting infidelity-related ones. But she does not give up on her passion just yet. Reema is also part of a group which she calls the CCC – Calcutta Crime fighters Club where they discuss unsolved crimes from the public domain that could be solved and raise funds to keep the club going. Her involvement in the club provides her some sense of purpose and drive but being the only woman in this little motley group of people (consisting of lawyers, a police inspector, and a PI) has its disadvantages. Like not being taken seriously.

To Reema’s credit, she’s good. She’s actually studied crime in an University, is ambitious and tries hard to stay true to her passion despite the discouragement she faces. She even knows kickboxing.

When confronted with the dilemma of whether to give up on detective work and become a journalist full time or give up the writing job that actually pays, not one but two interesting mysteries come Reema’s way.

One, her ex-boyfriend Amit is a prime suspect in the alleged kidnapping of his wife Aloka and he seeks Reema’s help to find Aloka before Aloka’s father pins it on him.

Two, a prominent food provisions supplier Prakash Agarwal whom Reema has interviewed as part of her work, ends up dead under suspicious circumstances.

Through the rest of the book, we follow Reema as she interviews the persons of interest to find the motive, sweeps crime scenes; her investigations dig up an almost three-decade old sexual molestation case which leads to surprising revelations. With some help, she solves the crimes rather efficiently.

That said, the book was not devoid of cliches. Be it the mother-hen of a best friend who wouldn’t stop trying to set up Reema with a man, or the very mysterious tall-dark-handsome gentleman who charms the pants off our girl right. at. the. first meeting. However, the real problem areas for me was the predictability of the crimes and the pacing of the book. It could have been at least 30-50 pages shorter. One more very noticeable thing was the lack of humour in the book. A funny moment here and some witty exchanges there wouldn’t have hurt.

I may verge on nit-picking here but there were a few inconsistencies, like the part where it is implied that car’s driver seat is on the left side of the car. In India, the driver’s seat is on the right and I feel like it’s something the editors should have picked up on.

My Rating : ★★★/5

My verdict : Though mild on the masala, The Masala Murder would make a good, lazy Sunday afternoon read.


Read this book as a part of the Diverse-A-Thon 2017.


~ Mathangi.

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