There was a time when I read books almost without consideration for the subjects. I would pick up any book and generally read. Then started the phase when I had favorites and slowly the things that I read became more and more uniform. I developed an aversion to reading new authors…may be because of all the disappointments or may be because of the unnecessary premium I attached to time. When I came across something interesting in a book shop, I got back home, read the review and then, sometimes, bought the book. One sunday morning, having recognised the fact that in the preceding four months I hadn’t read anything different from what I had always been reading, I set out towards Daryaganj.
The mission was to buy books that I hadn’t heard of, based on the book jackets, blurbs and yes, publishers. I actually took a sack (the type in which cement comes packed) and my brother along with me. The harvest in that visit included some real gems like Drop City by TC Boyle, Sunday philosopher’s Club by Alexander McCall smith and so on. There was a lot of useless stuff written by the likes of Tami Hoag, Dale brown and all but then let me not dwell too much on that.
Among that books bought that day was this book called ‘Sex, A Mystery’ (SAM) by Fiona Quirina. An unheard of name but it was an imprint of penguin. Apart from the title that was so chicklit-ish, there was a yellow cover and the title was in black type face and comic sans level script…all in all a typical chicklitish novel was what I figured. And then never opened the book.
These days I have been a bit jobless and read the book the other day. I was pleasantly surprised by the book, to say the least. It is a well written whodunit. The heroine, Lydia, is a highly qualified (Harvard and MIT) professional, an erstwhile whistle-blower turned to a “sex surrogate”. Her views on male sexuality are at once amusing. I will limit myself to quoting just one here: “I have found out that in a man’s mind future sex is usually more valuable than past sex. This is because future sex is more fertile material for fantasizing; with past sex, a man is stuck with the hard historical facts of a real encounter, always a serious limitation on his imagination. Men, it turns out, are far more romantic than we are; they are always dreaming of something better, sex that is sexier than sex itself”. I was at once reminded of a quote – ‘Most people are not in love with their lover, they are in love with the idea that they are in love’.
Despite the appearance of the S word so frequently, there are no descriptions of Lydia’s professional encounters. Her profession is dealt with in the same way as it would be if she were, lets say, a waitress. One of her regular clients gets murdered in her bed and there after it proceeds like any other crime story. Lydia shows herself to be an old fashioned heroine with integrity (she refuses to sweep the murder under the carpet), goodness at heart and all the regular virtues.
Having said that, Lydia’s profession does give her a certain kind of outlook. This outlook, expressed through intelligent conversation that sometimes sounds insightful (read the part quoted above again), and her light-hearted outlook towards life, makes Lydia a very interesting character. SAM comes across as a good crime novel, with a chocolaty coating of liberal sexuality and consistent humour.
There is actually more to the story now. As you can very well see, I liked the way the story was told. The restraint employed in not launching in to graphic descriptions, the consistency of outlook, the persistent refusal to create associations of amorality or immorality with the heroine and so on appeared exemplary and I wanted to read up on the author. The name of the author sounded slightly outlandish and the blurb in the book said “Fiona Quirina is the author of four mysteries and three medical thrillers written under her real name. Fiona’s own life has some remarkable similarities to that of the fictional character, Lydia Quess. Visit her website at lydiaquess.com”.
To start with, Google could not find Lydiaquess.com.
Then I started to look for the author. Here comes the interesting part – there is no trace of a Fiona Quirina or the seven other books she is said to have written. I looked up the copyright page of SAM – it lists the author as “Frederika Quirine Vuyst”. Yeah, you guessed right…no web presence.
Naturally, I started searching for the book title, the name of the heroine and everything else. There are hundreds of references to this book (by the way, all the reviews/comments said the book was good – may be except this NYT article, generally on chicklit). There are no references or anymore details of the author except for a word by word reproduction of the blurb from SAM.
Well, a little known, nice story and a mysterious air about who wrote it..what else do you need to feel happy about a book?? I am thrilled.