Shades Of Words


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The Mystery of the Blue Train

Every once in a while I like to immerse myself in a good British mystery novel. And the “The Mystery of the Blue Train” was just that.
It begins with the initial several chapters of introduction of seemingly distantly related characters each with their own nuances, dark secrets and ambitions. The tone for murder is set early and if you have read enough of Agatha Christie you can easily predict the following things

-> The murder will happen in/on/at the “subject” mentioned in the title ( Blue train)
-> Several of the aforementioned characters will also be in the vicinity of the murder
->  Timing of the murder will be extremely crucial
->  What actually happened and what a witness saw would be different
->  The murderer would definitely be the least suspected character and if you were paying enough attention you could figure out how

In spite of all the above trademarks that make a cozy Hercule Poirot mystery, Blue Train is an interesting enough story where the fun part is actually discovering clues along with Poirot and sort of putting them together. It’s quite complex and I believe its better than some of the recent Agatha Christie’s that I have read

The premise is simple – Mrs Kettering, an heiress, is murdered for priceless rubies as she travels on a train to meet her lover in France. Several people would have wanted her dead – her husband – who stands to inherit her millions OR her lover – who is famous for swindling women in high society OR  a Frenchman- who is interested in her jewels OR just a train robber who knows that the jewels are aboard. Who could it be?

Poirot is also on the train, and graciously offers his services to the French Police to help with the case. Which he does. To find out more read the book!!

Poirot has never been known to be modest but in this book he is so far from it that it almost seems out of character. He actually states somewhere that – ” he is the greatest detective in the world”. Found that a little weird.’

Verdict : I really enjoyed it and it was one of the better Poirot mysteries

PS – Check out Zoya’s review at http://silvermists.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/mystery-of-the-blue-train/


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A Traveller’s History of Turkey

When I started reading From the Holy Mountain by William Dalrymple, I struggled to put things in context as it covered the history and the current existence of Christian monasteries in the countries of Turkey. I figured to make sense of it all, it was important for me to read the history of  Turkey – Wikipedia wasn’t going to be enough. I chanced upon “A Traveller’s History of Turkey” in the library.

This books is a text-book version of Turkey’s history. It starts at the very beginning – at the start of civilization in the Neolithic Age in what is present day Turkey.  At the end of the Bronze Age, around 2000 BC Antolia was dominated by the Hittetes. It is around this time,  a series of squabbles started with the Greece, which will continue till the early 19th century, for the land and trade  supremacy in Asia Minor.

Many large cities were established during the time of Hittete’s with the fabled Troy being one of them.  As the book states, the empire collapsed due to being constantly at war and lack of administrative control over its many fragments. This fragmentation and continuous warring and subsequent exchange between smaller territories is something that would define the political and cultural landscape of Asia Minor.

After the Hittite Empire, followed period of unrest and some incidental cultural growth, but the next major defining chapter in the history of Turkey was the Persian empire. A period of great cultural growth and territory expansion came with the rule of the young Macedonian King Alexander. Unfortunately, after Alexander’s death, there really no one to take charge, and Alexander’s generals split his kingdom establishing their own dynasties.

The book then narrates the advent of Christianity in Asia Minor and the establishment of the Byzantine Empire. Some of Turkey’s greatest architectural heritage is from this Roman Empire.  The Byzantine Empire ruled Asia Minor with constantly changing borderlines for over a 1000 years. The Byzantium capital of Constantinople, became one of political, religious and cultural megapolises of the world. Somewhere, in the early 11th and 12th centuries, the Holy Crusades plundered and pillaged through Byzantium, breaking it apart. By late 14th century, Byzantium was weak, fragmented and just ready to be torn apart by the waiting armies of the Ottoman Turks. It is the Ottoman Turks that gave the country its name  “Turkey” and make up for most of its ethnic population today. How that came into being is another story.

The book is a collection of facts, very neutral with no political overtones.  Sometimes that makes for dry reading and the over cautious stand ( especially with respect to the Kurdish question and the Armenian genocide can be a little annoying).

A Traveller’s History is at its best a text-book or a quick history guide. It doesn’t really give any perspective on the history of Turkey. So I would recommend this as a starting point if you want to read about what happened and not why it happened