Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Confessions of a shopaholic - Sophie Kinsella

Date of Reading: 28/05/2012
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Alter Name: The Secret Dreamworld of  a Shopaholic

          Recently I have got this Shopaholic novels mania; must have started after watching the film. I have collected the first five books and two are already finished. So here is the first . . .
          Rebecca Bloomwood lives in Flat 2, Burney Rd., London SW6 8FD with her best friend Suze. She is a financial journalist at Successful Saving though her own finance is a bit out of joint. As for her dark side, she is a shopaholic; her boring job doesn't pay much and dismal letters from Visa and Endwich Bank - informing her of the bills unpaid - chases her and are hard to ignore. She tries cutting back and to make more money, with no avail.
         So when her credit cards are frozen, she transforms the bank manager Derek Smeath into a stalker and retires to the protection of home and parents. There another drama is going on; her neighbours, Martin and Janice Webster are tricked by a mutual fund - Falgstaff Life - from some windfalls they deserved. The justice lady inside her is aroused and she writes an article on them in The Daily World.
         Unfortunately the public face of Falgstaff Life was maintained by the PR company of Luke Brandon, the multi-millionaire who has once helped her to buy a precious Denny and George scarf. This pisses him off and when the TV program Morning Coffee gets the scent, they organises a debate. Everyone including Becky herself, expects her to be crushed under the genius of Luke, but when she explains the case using the metaphor of shopping, surprisingly he agrees.
          Everything runs smoothly after that; She gets a part as a financial adviser in the show, uses the money to pay her debts and . . . well, it goes without saying she got a rich boyfriend.
          I hate shopping, especially dresses, but faces the same problem of Becky when it comes to books. So no verdict from my part. After all everyone will have some obsession or other. . . mmm, if you say 'no' you are lying. It may not involve money as in this case, but time is as precious as cash.
           Film is also wonderful, it has absorbed the comic spirit of the book completely. It is actually a combination of the first two books and the story and characters are somewhat twisted too. But that makes it much better as this story itself won't make a successful movie. The script writer has done well indeed, and so do Isla Fisher (as Rebecca) and Hugh Dancy (as Luke Brandon).
From the same author:



Sunday, 27 May 2012

Adam Bede - George Eliot

Date of Reading: 01/07/2007
Author: George Eliot
Publisher: Collier Books
Place: New York
Year: 1962

          Why do some writers use tough words? Do they think harder the work, then greater is the enjoyment? I don't agree, and it is hard to imagine George Eliot was living in the same age of Dickens. I won't recommend this novel even to a classic lover, but as it is read , a review is to be written.
          Setting is 18th century England. Adam Bede, the carpenter, lives in the village of Hayslope with brother Seth and mother Lisbeth. He is attracted to the charming Hetty Sorrel of Hall Farm, who in turn has her eyes on the young squire Arthur Donnithorene. But a marriage is unthinkable due to the difference in their social status. Dinah Morris, Hetty's cousin, is the other important female character; she is a Methodist preacher.
          When Adam finds out the relation between Arthur and Hetty, Arthur is compelled to flee to join the army; he leaves a letter for Hetty explaining the ridiculousness of their situation, on the insistence of Adam. Hetty is now left with no other choice but to marry Adam. The bomb drops when she is found pregnant; she flees home and abandons the child after its birth. The child dies of exposure, Hetty is tried for child murder and is sentenced to death. Dinah becomes her only consolation. Arthur when he comes on his uncle's death, manages to have the sentence commuted to transportation. But damage is already done and he returns to army.
          Adam and Dinah marry and they have two children; story ends when Arthur comes back after nine years.
          Story may sound good, but the narration is quite dry. Adam is not a lovable character and Dinah comes from the cult of immaculate ladies who exist only in ideas, and consequently doesn't seem real.

Also by the same author:


Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Undomestic Goddess - Sophie Kinsella

Date of Reading: 23/06/2007
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Publisher: Readers Digest (selected editions)
Place: Australia
Year: 2006

          This is my first Sophie Kinsella book and so will always remain my favourite (though Twenties Girl proves a great rival). This edited version has cut down some of its comic elements, but the story is still good. And now I know her style for sure.
          Samantha Sweeting, a 29-year old, is about to be made a partner at Carter Spink, one of the largest law firms in London. She spends all her waking hours at work, has no home life and has never had time to learn to cook or to sew a button.
          When she realises that she has made a horrendous mistake that is about to cost her law firm fifty million, she panics and runs away. Mr. & Mrs. Geiger mistakes her for the expected house keeper, gives her refuge and the 'job'.
          Nathaniel, the gardener, understands that she is a fraud but offers to help, seeing that she means no harm. His mother teaches her to cook and a promising relationship is underway. She still doesn't reveal the true story as Nathaniel hates lawyers. One of them has indirectly caused his father's death.
          Book takes pace when realisation dawns on her that she has been tricked by Arnold Saville, one of the partners. Other partners are soon informed of the treachery and Samantha is offered her dream job. Much to the dismay of others, she prefers the house keeping work where she has found peace and happiness, and rejects the offer.
          Papers celebrate this news and to stop further nuisance, she reconsiders hoping things might have changed. But on boarding the train she realises that life in the Geiger household has changed her and returns to Nathaniel.
          I would have liked the ending to be a little more polished, but I like it anyway. . . a really nice and comforting novel; won't even take one day to finish.
          Usually Kinsella novels are adaptations of Cinderella tale -- a not that hot or rich girl getting hold of the wealthy guy. This time the role reverses and that's better though there might be a feminist problem. But as Samantha says, " this is not about feminism, but about my life" (my apologies if this is not the exact quote).

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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Guide - R. K. Narayan

Date of Reading: 20/06/2007
Author: R. K. Narayan
Publisher: Indian Thought Publications
Place: Chennai
Year: 2007 (63rd reprint)

          Railway Raju is a disarmingly corrupt tourist guide, who lives by his wits and falls in love with a beautiful dancer named Rosie. More by chance than skill, he seduces her away from her husband, Marco, a lonely writer who is obsessed with local rock carvings, and transforms her into a celebrity courted by wealthy and influential dignitaries wherever she performs.
          Meanwhile Marco has been risen to fame through his book; he writes a letter to her demanding her signature for the deliverance of a jewel box. Raju who was in charge of the correspondence, forges her signature and later finds himself in jail.
           After two years of imprisonment, he sits on the river step beside an ancient shrine wondering about his future. Velan, from the village of Mangal, approaches for advice mistaking him for a Holy Man. Word soon spreads and more and more people come to get a dharsan of the saint. Raju accepts the role gratefully as he does not want to return to Malgudi disgraced.
          Once a drought and famine shook the village; discontented villagers starts to quarrel with others. To put an end to this discords (which may also call the attention of the police) Raju decides to fast until they stop. But his message gets misinterpreted and everyone believes he is going to fast till the coming of the rain.
          Trapped, Raju confesses his story to Velan who remains steadfast even after hearing the truth; he declared that the story will be safe with him. Touched by this loyalty and innocence, he decides to be the role that he has chosen. With the media publicising the event, a huge crowd gathers around to get blessings. On the 11th day, he goes to the riverside to pray as part of his daily ritual, where his legs sag down and he feels the rain falling in the hills. Ending is ambiguous; the question of whether Raju dies or whether the drought has really ended is left unanswered.

Rating: Very Good

          Narration is not linear; this was a little troublesome as I frequently turned the pages to know what happens to the saint Raju. Like all his other novels, there are no powerful women characters; Rosie is weak and is constantly at a conflict as whether to choose her husband or lover. The interesting part, as always, is the life in Malgudi -- the village school, coming of the railway station, Mempi hills etc.
--- novel brought RKN the 1960 Sahitya Academy Award for English.
--- the film Guide was released in 1965, starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman.

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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Date of Reading: 14/06/2007
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: P. B. D.

           There is quite a lot of summaries in net on this book, and so I don't want to linger long. Story concerns the lives of five Bennet sisters -- Jane, Elizabeth (Lizzy), Kitty, Mary and Lydia. Their mother has (quite unfortunately) nothing to do except to worry about her daughters' marriage. When Mr. Bingley comes to stay at the village of Longbourn, she sees a suitable match for Jane; it goes well as expected until Mr. Darcy (our hero) intervenes. He is Bingley's friend, quite rich and is well-known for his pride; Bennet family according to him has no material prospects and so a marriage is quite out of the question though he himself has an attraction towards Elizabeth against his desire.
          Elizabeth has no such day dreams as she is prudently warned by Mr. Wickham (the villain) on Darcy's evil streak; she rejects Darcy's proposal and he conveys his innocence through a letter which turns the tables against Wickham. He has misused Miss Darcy's intimacy, but she is timely saved by her brother. This opens Lizzy's eyes and when she visits the Darcy mansion with Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner, the uncle and aunt, . . . la la la la. . . the love blooms.
          News comes that Lydia has eloped with Wickham; Darcy manages to suppress the scandal by giving some money to him and thereby arranging a marriage with Lydia. The wedding of himself with Elizabeth, and Bingley with Jane follows and gives a happy ending.

          I must have read this at least five times, but the charm still remains. First half is a huge bore but after the middle it is hard to lay the book down.
          There are numerous film and T. V. adaptations. My favourite is BBC 1995 version, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. 'Bride and Prejudice' by Gurinder Chadha, starring Aishwarya Rai is a Bollywood adaption which I would rate as "not bad" for a modern version of the story.
--- Austen has begun writing this at the age of 21, and it was initially titled as 'First Impression'

Monday, 14 May 2012

Gallows Wedding - Rhona Martin

Date of Reading: 16/06/2007
Author: Rhona Martin
Publisher: The Bodley Head
Place: London
Year: 1978

          Marked as an outcast from birth, Hazel loses her mother at the age of thirteen and is driven from her home by the fear and superstition of her neighbours. They consider her as a witch whom to be burned alive. There is no sanctuary at the monastery she seeks refuge in, for the King's commissioners have been there before her; the monks are scattered and the great empty buildings house only a colony of beggars and criminals.
          Tim Kettle, the man who gives her refuge, rapes her and she gets pregnant. She saves Black John, the outlaw from hanging on May Day by the gallows consenting to marry him. It is a tradition that a man can be saved from the gallows by marrying, though it is not as legally binding as Hazel thought it to be. She gives birth to a boy with John acting as the midwife, and names him Angel.
          Black John's real name is John Pengerran; he was a lord once but cheated by his cousin he loses even his wife, Lady Edith. Love buds between John and Hazel and she promises to help; he sells her to Lady Edith as a servant. But the battle brings no victories and to get Hazel back, he breaks into the place and both of them get caught.
          Hazel is ordered to be burned alive and John is sentenced to death. He kills Hazel himself before they can get her and the angry mob burns him down. John's daughter born on Lady Edith survives and vouches revenge; she and Angel joins with Tim Kettle.
          Gallows Wedding is a powerful portrayal of the private suffering and the public confusion caused by Henry VIII's dissolution of monasteries.

Rating: Wonderful Book!

          This is Rhona's debut novel and I have heard that there is a sequel. Better to read this after your teenage -- some parts are really brutal. Though at that time this made my head revolve, I still remember this even after four years and I am closed to anger at this time also. Its a pity that nothing much good happens to Hazel, except for that time with John; she is only fourteen . . .

--- Winner of the first Historical Novel Prize in memory of Georgette Heyer

Saturday, 12 May 2012

The Gatecrasher

Date of Reading: 09/05/2012
Author: Sophie Kinsella (writing as Madeleine Wickham)
Publisher: Black Swan
Place: London
Year: 1998
Rs. 399

          Fleur Daxeny is beautiful, unscrupulous, and has a large wardrobe of black designer suits. With the help of The Times announcements page she gatecrashes the funerals and the memorial services of the wealthy, preying on rich, vulnerable men. She charms her way into their lives (or to their beds) and onto their platinum credit cards, takes what she can, and then moves swiftly on. We can call her an upperclass prostitute. She is forty, and the money thus earned supports her child Zara in the boarding school.
          When Richard Favour, a dull but wealthy businessman, meets Fleur at his wife Emily's memorial service, he is bowled over. He has two children. Philippa, aged 28, is married to Lambert who works for Richard and Antony at 15 is studying. Emily's elder spinster sister Gillian also stays with them. All lead a dull, monotonous life with their own private problems where the root cause was Emily.
          Emily was a complete mystery to Richard which made him ashamed; she had never loved the children. Philippa is constantly reminded of her ugliness and is forcefully married off to Lambert; Antony is hated for his birthmark over the eye and Gillian is totally suppressed and is more like a servant in the family.
          So when Fleur enters the arena all these lives change. Gillian takes her to the heart as she is treated with kindness and she begins to go outing and for playing bridge; Antony gets his long awaited companionship from Zara -- he even wins the Golf Cup. Philippa, influenced by her begins to assert her position to Lambert (who has married her for the sake of money) and even attempts a suicide to get some attention. She applies for a divorce. 
          Meanwhile Fleur also faces problems from Zara's father Hal Winters, who was until then was unaware of a daughter's existence. When Richard proposes Fleur had to think twice. As most his money has already been bequeathed to the children, she decides to leave with whatever she can take. But Zara who is too attached to Antony to leave the place, persists and she comes to an agreement. Fleur won't marry Richard, but she will stick around. Zara is allowed to meet her father too.

Rating: Excellent

           Sophie Kinsella is the pseudonym of Madeleine Wickham. She has written seven novels under this original name. Her first novel under the name of Kinsella was submitted to her existing publishers anonymously and was enthusiastically received. She revealed her true identity for the first time when Can You Keep a Secret? was published in December 2005.
           I have read most of the novels of Kinsella and it is hard to believe that both are same. Kinsella novels are pure comedy, while Wickham is serious to the core. Here this is an omniscient narration with multiple points of view and in Kinsella narration is done by female protagonist.
          From the beginning itself we know how the story goes. Well, that is the case of all love stories right? Pleasure here is not from the suspense but how the author treats the familiar theme. A love story concerning people above forty itself is exciting. Setting of funerals (most unlikely place for the blossoming of love) is also a novelty. . . I like it on the whole and love the coverpage too.

External Link:
  Official website of Sophie Kinsella.

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Thursday, 10 May 2012

First Among Equals

Author: Jeffrey Archer
Date of Reading: 12/06/2007
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Place: UK
Year: 1984

Brief Summary:
         In the 1960s four ambitious new MPs take their seats at Westminster. Raymond Gould and Andrew Fraser in the Labour Party and Simon Kerslake and Charles Seymour among Conservatives. Novelist describes their political struggles over thirty years, in government and in opposition as their lives cross in the battle for power.
           Their aim is one - to be the Prime Minister, a goal attainable only to one man. Towards the end Raymond and Simon become their party leaders; Charles drops his ambition and chooses to be the Speaker; Andrew leaves the party, forming another group - Social Democratic Party or SDP.
           The 1991 election opened the chance for a hung parliament as the Conservatives and the Labour differs only in one seat; SDP which has the strength of 47 seats, supports Raymond Gould and he be the first among equals.

Rating: Excellent

           I hv sided with Raymond in the beginning; his school speech is enough to make him endearing. But towards the end one might be a little split minded between Simon and Raymond; both deserve the post.
Jeffrey Archer with his book
          Narration is in multiple point of view and more than the political struggle, it is the family set up of the candidates that is interesting.
          Simon is a devoted family man, married to Elizabeth; Andrew's history is the most engaging - his only child Robert, who is born after successive miscarriages, is run down by a car and killed. Then they adopt their daughter Clarissa who is Black; Raymond's is not a happy marriage, he is constantly unfaithful but always manages to sweep the slate clean; Charles' love is his son. He was almost devastated when his ex-wife implies that Harry might not be his child, luckily the DNA test confirms his fatherhood.

--- book is adapted into a Granada Television miniseries that is aired on ITV in 1986.
--- In the US edition the novel is rewritten to eliminate the character Andrew Fraser, as the publisher didn't believe the American audience would understand a multi-party political system. Here Simon Kerslate becomes the PM.

--- Nithya, I am indebted to you for lending me this.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Third Girl

Date of Reading: 09/06/2007
Author: Agatha Christie
Publisher: Collins
Place: Great Britain
Year: 1966

          Hercule Poirote's breakfast is interrupted by a dishevelled girl who announces that she may have committed a murder; but appalled by his age, she leaves with her story untold. His detective novelist friend Mrs. Aridane Oliver collects the details. She is Norma Restarick, a third girl ie, she shares the flat with two other girls in 67 Borodene Mansions. Her companions are Claudia Reece Holland and Frances Cary.
          Norma's father Andrew Restarick has left the country with his lover Louise Birell; this worsened the relation between him and Norma's mother. Louise broke the relationship after a year. With the chunks of money that he has made abroad, Andrew returns to London when his brother Simon dies. He has another wife now - Mary. Norma's mother was dead and the stepmother is not in her taste. She is even accused of poisoning Mary.
           Poirot meets Norma's boyfriend David Baker and also comes to know the suicide of Louise Charpentier in the same flat; he suspects this as a murder. Norma is put under the care of Dr. Stillingfleet who finds out that she is being given drugs without her knowledge. She leaves the place without warning and the news comes that she has killed David.
          Poirot intervenes, unfolds the mystery and Norma is saved. Andrew Restarick was dead and the impostor is Robert Orwell; only Louise who has known Andrew well is not fooled by the act. They kill her Mary also murders David who was their helper turned blackmailer. Mary was none other than Frances Cary, the flatmate. She has given Norma drugs to put the murder charges on her head. Dr. Stillingfleet marries Norma.

Rating: Good

          Sorry, its hard to love Poirot after reading Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps my choice was bad; feel free to suggest a nice work of Christie.
--- novel is noted for being the first in many years in which Poirot is more or less present from beginning to end.
--- book is dedicated to Nora Blackborow.

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Monday, 7 May 2012

Jacquot and the Angel

Date of Reading: 31/05/2007
Author: Martin O' Brien
Publisher: Readers Digest (selected editions)
Place: Australia
Year: 2006

Crime 1 : Martner family including Dr. Martner and his wife, their daughter Ilse, her daughter Kippi are murdered in their own house.
Crime 2 : Gilles de Vausigne and his lover Grace Bartolome are killed in a fire. Her husband Guy Bartolome is found dead in his home.
          Daniel Jacquot, the chief inspector takes the case. Marie - Ange Buhl, a psychic girl who can hear voices is his helper. What they uncover is a secret that goes back more than half a century.
          During the war between France and Germany in 1944, Dr. Martner a German doctor was posted in France. Comte de Vausigne's son Albert is in the French defence force; he is loved by two women -- Helene and Sandrine. Helene who later marries Gilles de Vausigne, the step son is disappointed as Albert loves Sandrine. To destroy Sandrine, she secretly transmits the French plans to Germans but fails to keep Albert by her side on that day. Albert is killed and Sandrine escapes.
          Dr. Martner who is aware of this treachery uses the opportunity well to blackmail her. Being tired of this pest, her son Antonine kills the Martners. Helene has come to know of her husband's relationship with Mrs. Bartolome and their decision to marry soon. So she kills them both and also Mr. Bartolome to cover up everything.

Rating: Good

           The reference to 'Angel' in the title is a little misleading as I thought the story concerned with some supernatural beings. On the whole this is an OK book.
--- books in Jacquot series:
1) Jacquot and the Waterman (2005)
2) Jacquot and the Master (2007)
3) Jacquot and the Angel (2005)
4) Jacquot and the Fifteen (2007)
5) Confession (2009)
6) Blood Counts (2010)
7) The Dying Minutes (2012)


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Tyrannosaur Canyon

Date of Reading: 15/05/2007
Author: Douglas Preston
Publisher: Readers Digest (selected editions)
Place: Australia
Year: 2006

          Tom Broadbent heard some gun shots on driving home and finds Stem Weathers near to death. He has discovered a treasure and his book with secret codes is given to Tom to be handed over to his daughter, Robbie. Jimson Weed Maddox, the killer, gets enraged at the absence of the notebook but finds an interesting rock sample from the body. Dr. Iain Corvus, Maddox's employer, convinces a lab assistant, Melodie Crookshank to examine the stone in secret.
          Meanwhile Tom approaches Ford Wyman, a former CIA cryptanalyst now turned monk. It is found out to be a sequence of ground-penetrating radar readings which when processed form the image of a fully intact Tyrannosaurus; this was the treasure. Tom goes to Arizona to find Robbie and Ford is after the treasure.
          In his desperation to get the book, Maddox kidnaps Tom's wife Sally. Melodie also unravels the truth from the rock sample, but her phone call to Corvus is intercepted by NSA. They initiate a black op led by J.G. Masago to cover up everything.
          Masago kills Corvus and collects the information;  Tom has saved Sally but they are pursued by Maddox and his rifle; Masago kills him too. To escape from the government assassins Tom, Sally and Ford gets into a cave where they finally encounter the Tyrannosaur relic. Ford's wise move kills Masago and they are saved.
          Melodie has put her research findings on the internet and government has ordered for further studies; the Tyrannosaur is christened 'Robbie'.

 Rating: Good 

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Ambler Warning

Date of Reading: 14/05/2007
Author: Robert Ludlum
Publisher: Readers Digest (selected editions)
Place: Australia
Year: 2006

         Harrison Ambler is a patient in Parrish Island where the possessors of top government secrets are treated; but unlike the other patients he is completely sane. With the help of the nurse, Laurel Holland, he escapes but finds that the world won't recognise him anymore; and the face in the mirror is not his own. Records concerning his life are erased.
          He has worked before under the name Tarquin and joins the field again. His new assignment is to kill a man who is told to be dangerous to America; Laurel accompanies him. Ambler is a living lie detector and he finds the man innocent; but someone else does the murder.
           Finally with the help of Clay Caston CIA, he recovers his memory and finds out his rival Ellen Whitfield playing against. Her relationship with the notorious professor Ashton Palmer has come out to light due to Ambler.
          Couple's next target is Liu Ang, the Chinese President. On surveying the scene, his eyes locks into Laurel who looks to the camera in a different expression and it all becomes clear. He leaps on her and the bullet misses the aim. She was a method actress, one who can experience the very emotions she projects; this fooled Ambler till the last moment. She was responsible for the other murder too. Whitefield and Palmer are arrested and Ambler goes to spend some time with the Caston family.

Rating: Good

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Quite Honestly

Date of Reading: 11/05/2007
Author: John Mortimer
Publisher: Readers Digest (selected editions)
Place: Australia
Year: 2006

         Lucy Purefoy is the daughter of a bishop and she wants to do something good, and so joins in SCRAP as a praeceptor. Her duty is to reform the criminals coming out of the prison.
         Her first client is Terry Keegan, an expert in house-breaking. First he won't listen, but later he takes a job in a restaurant as he is interested in her. So on seeing Lucy spending time with her boyfriends, he leaves the place and starts the old 'business' again. 
          Lucy meanwhile has taken up an advertisement job; they meet after three months. Terry confesses that it is the excitement that drew him back to the old job. Lucy is interested and begins stealing to experience the same thrill. Terry tries in vain to control her though now they are in a firm relationship. She gets caught in a serious robbery and is convicted for three years imprisonment.
            Terry is tired of his thefts and decides to mend his ways; their relationship is broken. When Lucy comes out of prison after the confinement, Terry was their waiting as she had waited for him at the beginning; he is her praeceptor. Thus the story reverses.

Rating: Very Good

          Story is quite amusing. One is reminded of Gandhi's attempt to convert a meat-eater which ends in him eating meat for the first and the last time. 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


Date of Reading: 26/03/2007
Author: Robin Cook
Publisher: Rupa & Co
Place: Calcutta
Year: 1983

Brief Summary:
         Bruce Wilkinson dies in the Boston Memorial Hospital after a cardiac surgery. Cassandra Kingsley, a psychiatrist and her friend Robert Seibert who works in pathology, suspects this as a murder and begins to pursue the mystery. Robert is killed after they find out the presence of Sodium Fluoride in the IV bottle and Cassandra escapes narrowly from the two attempts on her.
        Finally the villain is turned out to be Thomas Kingsley, Cassandra's husband and the major cardiac surgeon in the hospital. He is addicted to the thrill of performing delicate operations and killed the victims (there were 18 of them) to make free the beds for other patients. Thomas dies in the final struggle.
Rating: Good
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