Ayesha’s Gift is a book that could also be called “Ayesha’s Curse” because it is brimming with sorrow. It’s the fictionalised account of the real-life events that saw Philomena author and former BBC foreign correspondent, Martin Sixsmith assist in investigating the death of a British-Pakistani man. The book is ultimately a rather multi-faceted detective tale where a murder is solved, cultures collide and a kind of quiet respect, empathy and trust is forged between two unlikely main characters.

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Actors Alistair Brammer and Eva Noblezada perform as Chris and Kim during a photocall for a new production of "Miss Saigon" at the Prince Edward Theatre in London May 19, 2014. The production marks the 25th anniversary of the musical by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boubil. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

The musical was written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil who also wrote, Les Misérables. The story is actually based on Madame Butterfly, Giacomo Puccini’s opera about a tragic romance. In Miss Saigon the writers have taken the leads out of Japan and placed them into Vietnam with the romance blossoming between an American soldier and an innocent, young bargirl.

Eva Noblezada makes her professional acting debut as a vulnerable, 17-year-old girl named Kim. She is orphaned and accepts a bar job in Dreamland in order to survive. This seedy establishment is run by a French-Vietnamese hustler named The Engineer (Jon Jon Briones.) He is obsessed with money and concocts a “contest” where he crowns one of his working girls, “Miss Saigon” in order to charge a larger sum and commission for her services.

Kim meets an American G.I. named Chris (the dreamy, Alistair Brammer). Kim is naïve and sweet while Chris feels a bit lost in this strange environment but he also means well. The pair soon fall in love and marry. But they are separated during the fall of Saigon in 1975. Kim is left abandoned and pregnant and Noblezada does a fine job of making the audience really feel for the character. Kim also has to negotiate through the return of her cousin (Sangwoong Jo) who had been arranged to her in marriage by her late parents. But all she hopes for is a reunion with her beloved Chris.

The staging in this modern production at London’s Prince Edward Theatre is eye-catching with a helicopter appearing above the stage during the fall of the city and some black and white photography is also shown. There is also a grittiness to the poverty the poor characters experience and it’s hard to look away. The soundtrack is also a gorgeous and emotional one and the costumes are fabulous with Kim in demure pieces that set her apart from the raunchiness of the experienced, working girls. The ensemble also wear some glittery, showgirl outfits in “The American Dream” number when The Engineer reveals his big plans to move to the States.

Miss Saigon is a powerful story boasting equally large and sensitive ballads. This dramatic tale is a moving one about love, sacrifice and hope. The adaptation to the silver screen works well with the film capturing the simmering tension of the musical with close-ups honing on and emphasising the actor’s faces. This works well for the most part but at other points it does come at the expense of enjoying the ensemble’s dancing and the scenery, but this is just a minor quibble. Miss Saigon is ultimately a beguiling, melodious and downright beautiful experience that will tug at your heartstrings and leave you misty-eyed.

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Chris Pavone should be commended for penning such an ambitious thriller. But The Accident is ultimately let down by a series of problems with its execution. It attempts to make a high-stakes game out of 24-hours in the publishing industry but it requires a very large suspension of disbelief in order for any of it to ring true. It also boasts a cast of thousands and this means it can be hard to know or care about the people involved for the majority of the tale.

This book is Pavone’s second novel. The author has had first-hand knowledge of the publishing industry, having worked in it for several decades and mostly as an editor. He is also no stranger to writing suspenseful stories, having won the Edgar award for his debut novel The Expats. Pavone’s first-hand knowledge of the publishing industry could be seen as both a help and a hindrance because it is quite possible that there are times when he is a little too close to the subject matter in this story and all of this does is tend to alienate the reader.

The novel begins with a discrete but influential literary agent named Isabella Reed receiving a typed manuscript from an anonymous author. The book is an explosive exposé about a media mogul who has links to the CIA. This unpublished manuscript offers a lot of potential- it could be a saving grace for some key players in the industry because it looks poised to sell by the truckload and revive some waning careers. But there are people like veteran CIA operative Hayden Gray who want the manuscript buried and they will stop at nothing less than murder to do so.

The Accident is a mish-mash of different perspectives including various literati, spies/security agents and the elusive, “author”. The novel offers up some excerpts from the unpublished manuscript and these contain some of the more explosive revelations. The Accident itself starts off rather slowly and it does tend to jump around between chapters headed up by major and minor characters, as well as different tenses and perspectives. This can make it a trudge for the reader because it can be difficult to weed out the important stuff from the over-written paragraphs. When you combine this with some predictable twists and an unsatisfying ending, it can make for one hard slog indeed.

This literary thriller has a great premise and it could make for an interesting film but it is a rather difficult read. While Pavone has crafted a book that is brimming with many different layers and dramatic elements when this is combined it can be a tad overwhelming for the reader. In all, this is a detailed mystery that offers up some drama and tension but there is also room for this story to be tightened and improved.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: