Rogue Lawyer

10/05/2017 at 4:26 AM (Books, Mystery, Uncategorized)

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham was a bit stale compared to works like The Firm, a very interesting read, The Pelican Brief, a legal thriller heavy on suspense and A Time to Kill, which was different in its setting. The main character, Sebastian Rudd,  the main one, is built well making the book a pleasure to read and very reminiscent of John Grisham’s Gray Mountain. Gray Mountain is set in Appalachia after the Great Recession and follows third-year associate Samantha Kofer after the Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, when she becomes a legal clinic intern in Virginia‘s coal mining country.

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The lawyer character is interesting because the cases weaved throughout the book across different cases he is entangled in makes the plot move forward at a fairly fast pace. The custody battle between the protagonist and his ex wife for their son Starcher is both infuriating and sometimes relentlessly entertaining because the people defended by this “rogue lawyer” ends up sometimes involved in his family life. The protagonist is a lawyer named Sebastian Rudd who works out of a bulletproof van after his last “real” office was firebombed. He has one employee, a bodyguard and general assistant, who drives him from appointment to appointment and attempts to protect him from large numbers of people on both sides of the law who would like to do him harm. He has an ex-wife to whom he was briefly married before she left him for her gay lover, Ava. But the two did manage to conceive a son that Rudd gets to see for a few hours a month, and one of his main legal challenges is to ward off his vindictive ex-wife who prefers that Rudd not get to see their son at all. Sebastian is also invested in a young cage fighter who appears to have a very bright future but things go pear shaped when a cage fight gets far too rowdy and the defendant is far too cocky.

His characters move forward into the plot shaping up with each word and act. I couldn’t put the book down. For me, the power of this book came through the characters, and the fantastic dialogue. I found great pleasure in this book. Grisham wove well-researched plots except for the Arch Swanger case, which irritated me. Grisham’s Rogue Lawyer, the novel, gives me what I need, in the sense of disappearance from reality.

Interesting Cases to Follow:

  • Doug Renfro and ambush by local cops on a misguided ecstasy raid
  • Arch Swanger and the return of Ms Kemp after being part of a trafficking in humans gang
  • Zapate’s court case against Sean King after a vicious cage fight

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In Search of a Distant Voice

04/09/2012 at 8:40 AM (Books, Fable, Mystery, Romance) (, , , , )

I picked up this book by chance. It was the extra book you toss in your library bag when you are running short of good selections. All the books I wanted were on reserve so my last-minute choice turned out to be a surprisingly good read. Apart from Harry Potter and LOTR, I’m not a fan of anything close to science fiction (exception being Jules Verne) or fantasy.

In Search of a Distant Voice Book Cover

Written by Taichi Yamada, In Search of a Distant Voice has a grim start with foreboding overtones. The main character, an immigration enforcement official by the name of Kasama Tsuneo, has to track down some Indian “illegals” without visas in a graveyard. Subtle references are made to his dark past in Portland, Oregon which gives the impression that there is a secret to unravel which drives the plot along for a while. It is made clear that he wants to put the past behind him and be ordinary. He was an illegal in the US himself so the job he has in Japan bothers his conscience. In the course of his work, something unusual happens – he gets overtaken by a “force of erotic pleasure” while he is about to capture his quarry in the graveyard and hears a woman’s voice in his head. I must admit that took me by surprise.

It seems some sort of telepathic connection has occurred between the mystery woman and Tsuneo. Then it starts getting bizarre but Yamada does a good job of persuading the reader to stick around to find out who the woman may be. Meanwhile Tsuneo tries to figure out whether he is crazy or if this woman actually exists and how such an occurrence can happen. In description, it sounds silly and unfathomable but the handling of punchy dialogue, prose and skillful interweaving of side plots such as an arranged marriage and the revelation of the secret bothering Tsuneo intrigues a reader enough to continue to the end. The narrative voice also switches between subjects and tenses in a clever enough way to make the content of the book seem distinctive in style since it could be either one or all of the following: a story about truth, a story about repentance or in the most basic sense, a ghost story. But when we reach the end, we are as illuminated by the identity of the woman as when we began.

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The Mayor of Casterbridge (Film)

10/13/2011 at 2:24 PM (BBC Drama, Books, Classics, Historical, Mystery, Romance, TV) (, , , , , , , , )

I first fell in love with Thomas Hardy novels after reading The Woodlanders. If you are familiar with tales by Hardy, you’ll know this guy probably would have been the master of soap opera storylines if television had been invented in his days but it really is his descriptions that you can’t go beyond due to his skill with evocative prose. Recently I watched The Mayor of Casterbridge, based on his novel of that name, adapted for the silver screen by David Thacker, starring Ciaran Hinds as Michael Henchard, who delivers a stellar, heartbreaking performance in the pivotal last scenes. The captivating and beautiful score set against the lush country backdrop does not hurt. By the way, Casterbridge is a fictional town representing Dorchester. Do note though it is a long production with a running time of almost over three hours so only start watching when you have enough time to spare.

It all begins in a small town where a young hay-trusser named Michael Henchard sells his wife and infant daughter for five guineas, in a bid that begins as a joke but turns serious, after having too much to drink. When he sobers up and realises his folly, he makes an oath not to touch alcohol 21 years, the number of years he has lived, and builds a good life for himself.

Nineteen years later he is a successful agrarian and the mayor of Casterbridge – a town not far from the fair where he sold his family. When his wife Susan (Juliet Aubrey) returns with his daughter Elizabeth-Jane (Jodhi May) because her other “husband” Newson was lost at sea, Henchard is tormented because while he has a chance to atone for his wrongdoing, he is paranoid that his past transgressions will be discovered by the townspeople. His deep-seated need to protect his reputation from past improprieties soon leads to a complex web of deceit and lies involving Henchard, his “mistress” Lucetta (Polly Walker) and his wife. Poor Elizabeth-Jane is an innocent but cannot help being caught in the middle of the ensuing drama.

Meanwhile on the same day his family returns, Henchard meets a Scotsman, Donald Farfrae (James Purefoy), who has developed a technique to restore bad grain.  The mayor persuades Farfrae to become his manager and confesses his secret to the young man. Luckily for him, although his secret is ousted later in court when he is judging a case, Farfrae is an honourable, just and trustworthy man unlike the mayor. So the mayor turns bitter and jealous when his new manager consistently outdoes him.

Like most other works by Hardy, the plot is full of secret revelations, hidden romantic entanglements, family feuds, complicated tangles of lies and business rivalries. What makes this story so interesting is that Henchard, his wife, and his mistress are not bad people but each makes terrible choices of which the aftermath is horrible. There are many themes in this story but the recurring theme is deception. In the end the people who hurt the most are the ones who give rise to it. Henchard’s behavior makes him difficult persona to admire mostly because of his hostility to Elizabeth-Jane after Susan’s letter provided the truth but because in sudden bursts he will do the right thing or tries to enables the audience to feel empathy for him especially when we hear his final will and testament.

I think that was the last straw for me because I felt stinging in my tear ducts and let out the waterworks. If you can stand tragic melodrama, enjoy classics and are able to endure the screen time, you’ll love this production if you can forgive the farfetched plot.


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The Sign

09/09/2011 at 12:36 PM (Adventure, Books, Environment, Mystery, Politics, Religion, Thriller) (, , , , , )

The Sign, the third book written by author Raymond Khoury, combines a tale of politics gone awry and the realities about the impact of global warming into the plot of a thriller. In the modern world depicted by the writer, the joint forces of pollution of the earth and arising political upheaval gives rise to big arguments between those who believe in evolution and those who believe in creationism. The sign which appears over Antarctica, during the collapse of an ice shelf, as a shape-shifting globe and then vanishes are claimed by the latter group as a divine sign from God. The sign itself was able to arouse my curiosity but all the squabbles regarding its “divinity” put me off. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think this a Bible-thumping book at all but which way you lean politically is likely to effect how you perceive the book. The Sign seemed too technical and science focused for me to like it at first until the thriller part came into play with scientist Danny Sherwood’s escape attempt.

This sign’s appearance is witnessed by Gracie Logan, a science reporter who’s at the right place at the right time. She is boarded on a scientific vessel to cover the breakage of the ice shelf. Deciding to follow the story of the sign and investigate what it means, she is led to Egypt after a tip-off from a priest called Brother Ameen. Her crew sees the sign drawn in a Coptic cave inhabited by a Catholic priest called Father Jerome who is widely regarded as a Saint. The catch is that these images were drawn seven months earlier before the appearance of the sign in Antarctica. In regard to Gracie and her TV crew, I feel the descriptions were just too long and the debates on creationism versus evolution were too much on the preachy side to be enjoyable. Those characters became marginally of interest only after the death of a main crew member in Egypt in shady circumstances.

The Sign Book Cover

Image from: booksellers.penguin.com

Once Boston’s Matt Sherwood, reformed car thief, was added to the equation after learning about the possibility that his brother’s death was a murder from his best friend, the plot becomes more action-packed and the pace begins to accelerate significantly. The short chapters and simple to read prose keeps you turning pages more because you are interested in where the plot will lead rather than because the characters arouse your sympathies. This is a plot-driven novel which doesn’t really care much to endear the characters to you. This is all about the characters going from Point A to Point B and to Point C in pursuit of the ending. Perhaps this is because of the writer’s credentials as a screenwriter – it is a lot easier to imagine this as a blockbuster with a lot of action. This book may have the pace of an adventure written by Dan Brown but because it considers much deeper subject matter such as global warming and environmentalism in almost lecture mode, I feel it’s more of a science fiction about corruption in religion and politics rather than the plot of a religious thriller featuring religious figures from myths and legends of the past. It almost feels like you’re reading something academical when reading bits of the book not involving Matt’s physical encounters with the Bullet as he tries to find out what really happened to Danny Sherwood, his kid brother.

This book will bring enjoyment for a fan of quickly moving adventure thrillers if you don’t mind lectures with an agenda sneaking into your fiction. For me, this detracted from having a wholesome reading experience. If a book claims to be a thriller, I have different expectations of content rather than politics and the possible dangers to humanity through global warming. This is not a religion-bashing book either as the final solution to the corrupt plans by the state and the military who are at odds with each other seems open-minded. But while I didn’t dislike this book, I believe it could have been written a lot better.

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Little Dorrit (Film)

08/16/2011 at 11:43 AM (Books, Classics, Mystery, Romance, TV) (, , , , , , , )

I have been a little distracted as I’ve been catching up on reading a lot – think I read about eight books in the past week (look forward to more book reviews). But I did manage to find some time to watch Little Dorrit directed by Adam Smith – starring Claire Foy and Matthew MacFadyen – based on the novel by Charles Dickens. Given her timid personality, ‘Little Doormat’ could have been considered more appropriate nomenclature.

Little Dorrit was born in the Marshalsea, a debtor’s prison after her father’s business failed and he was unable to pay off his creditors. Born a gentleman, Mr. Dorrit can’t stand being so low in regard and manages to cultivate a position as the father of the Marshalsea with the aid of the head turnkey, Mr. Chivery (senior). His son, John, is in love with Little Dorrit although her real name is Amy. Her older sister, the snobbish and beautiful Fanny, has a job as a dancer at the theatre while her idle brother, Frederick, is a young wastrel who keeps on losing his positions due to gambling and laziness. Amy finds employment as a seamstress at the old dilapidated mansion called the House of Clennam, run by a cold-hearted, grumpy, paraplegic matriarch called Mrs. Clennam, despite her father’s objections that she is a lady and should not have to work. Meanwhile Mrs. Clennam’s son Arthur returns bearing a gold pocket watch and a message – Do Not Forget. His father has requested this as his final wish before his death. Perplexed Arthur asks his mother about the mystery but is cruelly turned away when he discloses that he does not wish to be involved in managing the family business. Before leaving, Arthur notices Amy and wishing to do her some kindness makes some enquiries about her present situation and what can be done for her.

In contrast, we have two side stories which connect with the above plot. One involves the Meagles family who have a beautiful, young daughter of marriageable age. She also has an adopted sister, a coloured child, named Harriet but she is called Tattycoram by the family. Their natural daughter has felt an attachment to Mr. Gowan, an artist, and despite their efforts to unite her with the good-hearted Arthur Clennam, they do not succeed. Meanwhile Harriet feels ill-treated by the family as she’s asked to fetch things, perform tasks and in frustration turns to the mysterious Miss Wade, who seems to be present every time Harriet feels anger at the way she is treated, for friendship. The Meagles do not like this as Miss Wade is widely perceived as someone with a bad influence. We realise this when it turns out she even associates with a French murderer by the name of Rigaud (played by Andy Serkis of LOTR‘s Gollum fame) who gives her some possessions to keep regarding Little Dorrit and her inheritance as well as the truth about the birth of Arthur Clennam so he can blackmail Arthur’s “mother”, Mrs. Clennam.

Little Dorrit book cover image

Rigaud escapes from his prison cell with Italian inmate, John Cavaletto. He takes the name Rainier and commits another murder, a barmaid. He makes the acquaintance of Flintwinch who has decided to disobey his mistress, Mrs. Clennam, and obtains the copies of documents stating the truth about the events of the past. Flintwich has lied to his mistress about destroying the documents but her old maid, Affrey, hears it all and when he discovers her spying, she is threatened. Meanwhile Cavaletto escapes the company of Rigaud and finds a residence at the home of a kind-hearted family who is always being squeezed for rent by Mr. Pancks but we discover someone completely different is the true manipulator.

Arthur employs Mr. Pancks as an investigator and finds that Mr. Dorrit is heir to a fortune. So the Dorrits resume a life of cultivation but ashamed of his past, Mr. Dorrit cuts his connections to the prison and wishes his children also do so. This includes the Chiveries, Arthur Clennam and Maggie, a dimwitted woman-child who likes to eat a lot. Used to being a caring, motherly person, Amy finds the adjustment to a life of leisure difficult unlike the others and keeps communicating with Arthur in secret as she knows he has done a great deal on behalf of her family. She also makes an acquaintance with the Gowans as she realises who Mrs. Gowan could have been. In any case, she’s in love with him while he is getting over Mr. Gowan getting married to the girl he loved. She is rebuked by her father constantly causing her much unhappiness as she used to be his favourite child, mostly due to the influence of Mrs. General, the formal etiquette trainer. Frederick, her father’s musician brother is regarded in the same manner as Amy due to their uncultivated mannerisms. Fanny, on the other hand, thrives and makes a union with the fool Edward Sparkler, a fool she can rule over with her iron thumb much to the irritation of her mother-in-law, Mrs. Merdle, who had scorned her when she was poor. Meanwhile Mr. Dorrit makes a trip to England to invest his capital in the bank belonging to Mr. Merdle and Mr. Clennam who has since become a partner with Mr. Doyce, an engineer who is having trouble finding investors as he is a foreigner, decides to put the company capital into the bank to gain interest on the advice given by Mr. Meagles and Mr. Pancks while Doyce goes off to Russia to develop his inventions. Mr. Dorrit returns to Italy (after giving a not so cordial reception to John Chivery who had the audacity to visit him even after his proposal had been rejected by Amy when she was poor) but his trip to England has unbalanced his mind and after returning to Italy, he embarrasses himself in public and finds peace in death. So does his brother, Frederick.

When Mr. Merdle commits suicide after borrowing a penknife from Fanny, it turns out that the bank was conducting major fraud by embezzling and shuffling the funds of different depositors. The tables turn for Fanny’s mother-in-law as she finds herself at the mercy of her daughter-in-law. Meanwhile Little Dorrit finds peace again in her poverty because she can start taking care of others again. She finds Arthur Clennam at the debtor’s prison and the roles are reversed when Rigaud entrusts her with the truth. Arthur’s mother makes a miraculous recovery to get up from her wheelchair and after telling the truth to Little Dorrit herself asks for forgiveness which she does and dies. Meanwhile the House of Clennam tumbles down taking Rigaud to his maker but Flintwich and Affrey escape. Amy explains the mystery to Arthur and when she explains that she has no fortune any more like him, the insensible fellow is happy to accept her love. But then Doyce returns bearing no ill will and best of all, good news.

Meanwhile Pancks has his revenge on the man who posed as a figure of benevolence while being crafty in secret, the father of Arthur Clennam’s childhood sweetheart, Flora. The Meagles family tell Henry Gowan’s mother what they really think of her son and Tattycoram returns with the documents that were in the possession of Miss Wade after discovering them. So we have a happy ending for ‘Little Doormat’, sorry I meant Little Dorrit.

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The Devil’s Foot

07/18/2011 at 1:15 AM (Books, Mystery, TV) (, , , , , )

While Holmes and Dr. Watson are on vacation in Cornwall , the intrusion of a local vicar, Mr. Roundhay, makes sure that their break is cut short. Mr. Mortimer Tregennis, a local gentleman estranged from the rest of his family due to a family dispute, found his brothers under a strange derangement and his sister, Brenda, dead after a friendly visit. The housekeeper had found them and on seeing their state had fainted. Tregennis says he saw his brother looking out through the window and adds he had seen “movement” outside. He then attributes the bizarre event as the work of the devil. The ghastly look of horror on Brenda’s face is a complete mystery. The summoned doctor came to the conclusion she had been dead for six hours and he too collapsed into a chair after arrival.

After attending the affected residence, Holmes kicks over a watering pot; the action is in fact a deliberate accident. The feet of all get soaked. Holmes notes the remains of a fire. Tregennis explains it was a cold, damp night. New questions arise when Dr. Leon Sterndale, a famous hunter and explorer, makes a visit after hearing of the tragedy. He is played by Denis Quilley, who has an amazing voice. The Tregennis family members are distant cousins of Dr.Sterndale.

Soon after, the vicar delivers the news of the death of Mortimer Tregennis; it was in the same manner as his siblings. Rushing to the room of the dead man, Holmes and Watson find the air smells foul and stuffy despite an open window. In addition, a lamp is burning. Holmes scrapes half of the ash from the lamp, leaving the rest for the local police. It is clear he knows how the victims met their deaths. He tests his hypothesis and is pulled into a stupor of madness. In my opinion, this was done rather cheesily. The quick thinking of Watson who resists inhaling the poison saves him from near peril. It turns out burning of the powder was the key to solve other complications.

It turns out there were two guilty parties in this tale: one was motivated by greed and the other by love. The poison is called Radix pedix diaboli – Devil’s Foot in Latin. This is how the adventure, found in the story collection His Last Bow, derives its name.

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The Adjustment Bureau

03/16/2011 at 3:37 AM (Action, Books, Fable, Inspired, Movies, Mystery, Romance) (, , , , , , , , )

When I went to watch The Adjustment Bureau last night, my preconception of the film as the general suspense thriller flick was blown away. Based loosely on the Philip K. Dick short story titled Adjustment Team, the film starring Matt Damon as Dave Norris, a popular politician running for the US Senate and Emily Blunt as Elise the dancer he meets by chance after an oversight by one of the bureau’s case workers is a refreshing work with the year of the sequel phenomenon approaching.

The work of the adjustment bureau is to ensure life goes according to a plan which is traceable in a book written by the head of the organisation named the “Chairman”. It works out according to the plan, Dave and Elise were not meant to meet the way they did. So the case workers who ensure people follow their fates without diverging from their true paths do their best to put obstacles in the way of Dave. But a quick kiss in the men’s stall after Elise crashed a wedding and he was practising his concession speech connects them and manages to make their paths intertwine again because of their recurring chemistry for each other.

Thompson (John Slattery) who is built as the villain of the piece who is determined to thwart their relationship exposes the bureau to Dave and warns him that if he breathes a word of this that his will to think would cease. Interestingly, this movie raises a lot of questions about how much we have an affect on our individual fates and how much of it could be guided for us by a higher power giving it some repressed theological ground. When Dave is informed by Thompson, his chase of Elise would not only have a negative impact on his ambition but also on her dream of being a famous dancer, he abandons her feeling that he is making a sacrifice for her sake.

Later, he spots an article saying that she is to be married to her ex-boyfriend and feels in his gut something is wrong. Harry, a case worker more sympathetic to his cause than the others, provides him the use of his hat which allows him to open doors through New York without the control of his choices being affected. He finally reunites with Elise and when she is tested for her conviction in him, despite initial hesitation her trust in him is repaid with both of them allowed to use their free will.

While the film had an interesting storyline and it was directed well by George Nolfi who succeeds fairly well with his intention of creating it to raise questions but since it leaves a lot open to interpretation and deconstruction by the viewers themselves, it could either be a hit or miss depending on individual personalities and their takes on fate.

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