Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sirens Spell Danger - A Review

The name is Bond - Jane Bond
 couple of years ago it was rumoured that there was a Bond movie coming out in which the Agent 007 was female. I certainly remember reading a number of articles about Halle Berry being considered for the coveted role. The news however died down as fast as it had caught fire.
Sirens Spell Danger, from the looks of it, promised something similar. That, and the thought of Halle Berry as Agent 007 spurred me to read these three stories - to check their credentials.
Femme Fatale 
- C Suresh
Femme Fatale is a rather filmy kind of story but nevertheless has some unforgettable characters. Vikram, who comes to Bangalore for a job interview, learns that he has successfully cleared the Indian Police Service. Naturally he throws caution to the wind and decides to celebrate with a drink. Being alone, he gets more than what he wishes for - he gets picked up by a sexy, beautiful and oozing-with-attitude siren who leaves behind her hotel room number. When he opens the door of the room, his dream of an amorous evening turns into a nightmare of murder, terror plots and close encounters with death.
While he is cursing the girl for throwing him between the devil and the deep sea, who should turn out to be his knight on a white steed but the very girl who had led him into the trap -Tanya. He has a hard time figuring out what exactly is going on, and she has an equally tough time saving his life by a whisker each time. The plot is completely Indian with politicians, intelligence officers and foreign terror experts each trying to outdo the other, using every pawn available to advance their game. The difference: the wannabe IPS officer is the damsel in distress who is airlifted out of danger time and again by Ninja Tanya.
The story is unique, the writing quite laudable. It keeps moving at the right pace. It is also imaginative, for example, how Vikram manages to extricate himself out of the ropes tying his hands and legs. Of course there are the regular cliches like when Vikram is locked up in a room, there just happens to be a wardrobe where he can hide in times of an emergency, and how, when he even gives himself up for dead, Tanya arrives like Batman in the nick of time.
In spite of everything the story is anything but boring. There is action, emotion, romance and thrill. Whether intentional or not, the story has twists and turns at regular intervals, and though you don’t keep gasping for more, you kind of enjoy the going while it is good. And it is good for most of the time.
 Bella Donna
-   Radha Sawana
Serial killers all have a pattern. So sayeth the Masters of Investigation from London to Mumbai and Washington DC to Mombasa.  Once the pattern is decoded, it is easy to nab the murderer.
Someone is murdering men who matter and they all seem to be walking into their graves without any coercion or force. There are no fingerprints, no traces of violence and injury and traces of cyanide but with no clue of how it entered their bodies. Who is leading them to their serene deaths?
Radha Sawana takes the reader through a roller coaster ride of the unexpected. With a plot that could leave even the veterans of whodunits guessing, she superbly pours murder, suspense, forensic science, herpetology, arachnology and human frailties into a test tube which releases a deadly tale. I have never read a murder mystery written by an Indian which has no loopholes, except this one. And what’s more, she has sprinkled a couple of sentences which actually give the reader a hint but unless one reads the prose with concentration, it can easily be missed.
The story also introduces some very strong and interesting characters - Inspector Shardul Reham who hates rains but braves them in the line of duty, Sub-Inspector Harsh Mehta whose meticulousness opens many a closed door, Rajinder Sharma the director of the State Forensic Laboratory who has devoted his entire life to criminal science and of course Detective Superintindent Ajay Rathore - the hard taskmaster who drives his deputies crazy till they get the results he wants. The involvement of the characters’ personal traits as well as their private lives takes the story to a completely different level. You can guess something about the killer even from this review, but if you haven’t figured out at least that one clue, it should be enough inspiration for you to sit down and read the story.
I have a doubt though - I have not heard of any position called Detective Inspector or Detective Superintindent in Indian Police. We have ranks like Commisioner of Police (Crime); Deputy Superintindent of Police (Crime) etc. So I wonder if this is a hangover of reading too many western crime novels. But it’s easily forgiven, because most of us have grown up with Frederick Forsyth, Jeffrey Archer, Sidney Sheldon, Agatha Christie, P D James, Mario Puzo and the father of all crime stories Arthur Conan Doyle. Do I need to say more?
 - Karthik L
Have you ever wondered why all secret agents chase beautiful girls? Maybe it has something to do with their job. They are never in one place, so they can never marry and ‘settle’ down as they say. Like the number 13 which is lucky for some and unlucky for some, most people believe secret agents are lucky because they can travel business class, taste the best wines and live in the swankiest of hotels but the agents themselves (after the honeymoon period) think they are unlucky because they have to avoid bullets, squeeze through sewage tunnels and crawl under barbed wire fences. Taken separately, one can perhaps go through the rigor but the task is difficult because the locales change instantly. Now you are sipping alcohol in a plush seat at 33,000 feet; now you are trying to escape 25 people running behind you with swords to cut you down. Is it any surprise if they fall for feminine guiles when not on duty?

Except for the fact that a secret agent is never off-duty. Karthik L picks up an IB agent Jay who is sitting in the sun on a Goan beach ogling at bikini-clad women through his goggles. His boss in Delhi throws at him the mantle of looking for a missing (read: dead) CBI agent and “something” that is going to happen on the night of the 25th with the connivance of the ISI. With this truckload of information, he travels by plane to Bangalore and from there by train to Bellary.

He meets a beautiful woman in the plane and another one in the train and falls for both. He becomes suspicious when after meeting the women, he has to fight with goons who are trying to act smart. However the second encounter lands him in jail, with the woman leaving him stranded.

When he had just about accepted that it was impossible to avert whatever “something” was going to happen on the 25th, things start rolling and he finds himself in the midst of a political-cum-religious juggernaut, with the powerful deity of Bellary, Balla, baying for Jay’s blood. From here the story turns to the supernatural and how Jay faces the wrath of Balla.

From the beginning, the writer establishes that Jay is no James Bond. But he works meticulously, keeps himself fit and ready for any eventuality. He does not wilt under pressure and over the years he has built up a reputation for himself in his department. A well crafted character. 

The climax is a bit of a let-down. So much hype is created around Balla but everything happens in the background and the reader can only have second-hand experience through sounds and light effects. The writer shies from bringing Balla out into the open and endowing him with some kind of superpower which Jay cannot match. That would have made the duel more interesting.

The language is simple and fluid. There are enough hurdles thrown in the path of Jay and it is interesting to read how he comes out a winner.

One thing common about these stories, apart from the women involved, is that none of the male protagonists performs any extraordinarily heroic feats. Even the fights described are realistic and the hero is in as much pain as the victims after the fight.

Sirens Spell Danger, true to its title, has in its stories women as the cause of the troubles faced by the protagonist. However, it is only in Bella Donna that the female character is in the driver’s seat. For the other two, the women characters are strong but the climactic portions show the men taking centrestage.

I want to mention the cover page, which is quite symbolic. A red-saree clad woman hiding a bloody knife behind her, as she overlooks a busy flyover of a city with the red siren of the law caught in a web of traffic. Kudos to the designer, whose name will always be where very few will read it.

Well, I enjoyed the book. Though it did not provide me with my anticipated Jane Bond, it did give me three extremely entertaining stories.

Come to think of it, if I was a producer, I’d cast Abhay Deol as Vikram and Deepika (can’t help, she’s my favourite) in Femme Fatale, again Abhay Deol as Inspector Shardul in Bella Donna with Pariniti Chopra in a special appearance and in Bellary I would opt for Farhan Akhtar with Vidya Balan and Kalki Koechlin.

If I ever were to meet Suresh, Radha or Karthik, I would like to ask them one question – doesn’t the idea of Jane Bond excite you? 

Sirens Spell Danger 
C.Suresh, Radha Sawana & Karthik L

The Blurb

There are sirens and, then, there are sirens. Some warn you of danger and some lure you into danger...Lured by a sexy siren, Vicky is mistaken for a secret agent, kidnapped, tortured and slated for death. Will he survive and save Bangalore from going up in flames?...There is a serial killer loose in the city leaving mysterious messages around the bodies of the victims. Are the messages a challenge to the police or a siren call to lure another victim...Jay is sent to Bellary to investigate a possible ISI plot. Was it merely a murky political plot or was there something more sinister in the offing? And why were two women suddenly singing siren songs of love?...Three tales of nerve-racking suspense and pulse-pounding action.

Buy it @

Meet the Authors

C. Suresh
(Femme Fatale)

Fiction has been an addiction but the need to make a living took Suresh through Chemical Engineering and an MBA at IIM-Bangalore and, from thence, to a long 16 year stint in the area of finance with specific expertise in fertilizer subsidies and a further two years as consulting expert in the same area. That, in his words, about sums up the boring part of his life, except for the people he was privileged to meet.

Otherwise, he can be described as a mess of contradictions – a bookworm but avid trekker; alone but never lonely; enjoys solitude but loves company; lazy but a perfectionist, the litany is endless. Trekking, which side-tracked him from the writing for which he quit his job, is a major passion and he does, at least, one trek in the Himalayas every year in addition to numerous local treks.

He reignited his passion for writing with a fairly popular blog and, currently, also has a short story – A Path of Thorns - published in a collection “Uff Ye Emotions”. His short stories The Gates of Hell and Yesterdays and Tomorrows have won contests. You can read a sampling of his fiction here.

Stalk him @

Radha Sawana
(Bella Donna)

Radha Sawana is part secretive, part playful, part ambitious, part indolent, and as a result, completely confused. She has been a bookworm as far as she can remember, and so it came as no surprise to her when suddenly the thought of starting her own blog occurred her. Thus, in the 4th year of her education in BITS Pilani, she started her blog ‘Entropy’, the name paying homage to her subject of specialization – chemistry. 

Entropy began with the random thoughts of her mind and before she realized it, she had started writing short stories too. Her first stories – The Late Goodbye and 48 Hours – were widely loved. Her personal favourite on her blog is her still untitled collection of three short pieces called Harakiri, Saisei and Wind. She is currently writing a seven-part story called Seven. 

Stalk her @


Karthik L

Karthik, a management consultant by profession, has always had fondness for stories from his early childhood when he used to keenly listen to stories told by his grandfather. Over the next twenty five years, he has been voraciously consuming fiction starting with Enid Blyton and moving on to Arthur Conan Doyle and then Isaac Asimov. One fine day he decided he had heard enough stories and he start telling them instead and so he started his blog ‘Lucifer House Inc.’ in 2008. He has been continuously been striving to entertain his readers through his blog posts over 5 years, winning some blogger awards as well in the process. The blog has a Google page rank of 3 and figures in the Top Indian blogs directory.

Do click on these links to check out some of his short stories.

One of his stories ‘Nootropic Egress’ won the best story award under science fiction category in a story telling contests and was published in multi genre anthology ‘Ten Shades of Life’. He has recently started another blog ‘Three Realms of the Mind’ to share his passion for his three favorite fiction genres – science fiction, fantasy and historic fiction with the rest of the world. He dreams of being a bestselling author in one of these genres. Last but not the least, he shares alma maters (IIT and IIM) with some of the most popular contemporary Indian authors and hopes he can share their success in garnering readers as well.
You can Stalk him @


Blog Tour Schedule

(19th Jan- 25th Jan 2014)

19th January '14
Sonia Rao (Spotlight)

19th January '14
Rubina Ramesh (Spotlight/ Review)
The Book Club

20th January '14
Janaki Nagaraj (Review)
Memoirs of A Homemaker

21 st January '14
Byrappa (Spotlight)
Byrappa's Notes

21st January '14
Flaming Sun

22nd January '14
Sridevi Datta (Spotlight)
The Write Journey

22nd January '14
Jaibala Rao (Spotlight / Interview/ Review)
My School of Thoughts

23rd January '14
Sumeetha Manikandan (Review / Interview)
Book Reviews by Sumi

24th January '14
From the Heart - Neel

25th January '14 (Review)
Dola Basu Singh

25th January '14 (Interview)
The Tales Pensieve

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Life is Beautiful*
*conditions apply
 used to read Mills & Boon romances around 2 decades back. My male friends used to make fun of me for reading those mushy mushy girly novels and my female friends used to lend me their favourites. In those days everyone used to say that if you read one M & B you need not read the second and if you read the second, you could easily write the third. I know that's easier said than done, and I'm glad Sundari decided to write this one. 
Frankly, I began Sundari Venkataraman’s Double Jeopardy expecting the same run-of-the-mill boy and girl stuff. But I wasn’t ready for what I got. Society has changed, and so has today’s romance novel, of which ‘Double Jeopardy’ is a living example. It weaves a romantic tale of three individuals, Sanya, Arth and Ansh, and their dreams and ambitions in a world where the male is no longer the alpha male and the dreamy-eyed young woman has to grapple with the realities of a city which is quite different from what it was ten years ago.
Arth and Ansh are identical twins with differing personalities. Sanya hates Ansh for his brashness and loves the ever-so-caring Arth. Her feelings keep on growing in her subconscious even after she has to move to London with her parents. Unable to forget Arth even after a long gap of ten years, she returns to Mumbai, confident that Arth will reciprocate her feelings.
Her detestation for Ansh resurfaces the moment she sees him at the airport, but he surprises her with such charm and elan that she wonders if this was the same Ansh who once treated her with contempt. Arth, on the other hand, has become a workaholic and hardly has time for Sanya.
At one stage the story tapers into a typical triangle -- Sanya longs for Arth but is unable to resist Ansh; and Ansh takes full advantage of Arth’s absence to flirt with Sanya.
This debut novel, however, has the reader in for an unexpected twist and it is this twist that gives the novel its usp. As a reader, I could completely identify with Sanya’s motivation to return to Mumbai to find the love of her life. Ansh’s sudden soft corner for Sanya had me perplexed and I longed for Arth to reciprocate Sanya’s affections. The writer has played with the three characters extremely well to make the book a page-turner.
However, I felt that after the suspense is revealed, everyone except Sanya accepts the situation without any resistance. There should have been a storm before the calm, some deeper introspection by the supporting characters as the question here is one of uprooting centuries of a set of beliefs. Especially as there was enough space for the writer to explore more, one is left with a feeling that a lot was left unsaid. It could have made a full-fledged novel instead of a novella.
Sundari’s writing style is more visual than verbose, and I imagined Deepika Padukone as Sanya, and the Ranveer Singh as the twins. I wonder who you prefer to see as those three characters?


Double Jeopardy by Sundari Venkatraman

The Blurb

Sanya doesn’t just have trouble, she has double trouble. Twins Arth and Ansh Sharma, are rich, sexy and sinfully handsome – what’s a girl to do?

Sanya last saw the twins when she was ten years old. Now, all grown up, she has come looking for gentle Arth, the twin she has loved ever since she can remember. But instead, she is confronted with fiery Ansh, who is hell-bent on seducing her. And what’s worse, she can’t seem to stop herself from responding to him.

As she chases Arth and is chased by Ansh, Sanya finds herself on a crazy roller coaster ride with no way of getting off. How will she deal with these two very different men in her life? Will she be able to convince one twin that she loves the other?

Meet the author

The Author's Thoughts

Even as a kid, she absolutely loved the ‘lived happily ever after’ syndrome as Sundari grew up reading all the fairy tales she could lay her hands on, Phantom comics, Mandrake comics and the like. It was always about good triumphing over evil and a happy end. Soon, into her teens, she switched her attention from fairy tales to Mills & Boon. While she loved reading both of these, she kept visualising what would have happened if there were similar situations happening in India; to a local hero and heroine. 

Her imagination took flight and she always lived in a rosy cocoon of romance over the years. Then came the writing – a true bolt out of the blue! She could never string two sentences together. While her spoken English had always been excellent – thanks to her Grandpa – she could not write to save her life. She was bad at writing essays in both school and college. Later, when it was time to teach her kids, she could manage everything from Science to Mathematics and History & Geography. 

When it came to writing compositions, her kids found her of no help at all. All this changed suddenly one fine day in the year 2000. She had just quit her job at a school’s office and did not know what to do with her life. She was saturated with simply reading books. That’s when she got home one evening after her walk and took some sheets of paper and began writing. It was like watching a movie that was running in her head – all those years of visualising Indian heroes and heroines needed an outlet and had to be put into words. That’s how her first novel, The Malhotra Bride, took shape. 

While she felt discouraged when publishing did not happen, it was her husband who kept encouraging her not to give up. There was no looking back after that. While publishing took a long time happening, Sundari continued to write novels and then short stories and had them published in her blogs. Her luck turned when Indireads approached her to write for them and Double Jeopardy was born.

You can stalk her @


Blog Tour Schedule

1Jan-11 Jan 2014
(The Blog links will be live as and when the posts come up)

2nd Jan 2014
Adite Banerjie  (Spotlight)

3rd Jan 2014
Jaibala Rao (Review/Interview)
My School Of Thought

5th Jan 2014
Sridevi Datta (Review)

7th Jan 2014
Vishwas Byrappa (Review)
Byrappa's notes

7th Jan 2014
Tales Pensieve (Interview)

7th Jan 2014
Ruchi Vasudeva(Interview)
Ruchi Vasudeva Author's nook

8th Jan 2014
Sonia Rao(Interview)

9th Jan 2014
Neelesh Gajanan Inamdar (Review)
From the Heart - Neel

10th Jan 2014
Dola Basu Singh (Spotlight)

10th Jan 2014
Sumeetha Manikandan (Review)
Book Reviews by Sumi

11th Jan 2014
Rubina Ramesh (Review/ Interview)
The Book Club