Book Review : Private India
WHY I READ THE BOOK
I have read Mr. Sanghi’s Rosabal Line, Chanakya’s Chant and Krishna Key. They were all thrillers with a story comparing past Indian mythology with characters in the present. I still have to find a name for this genre. For the time being, I call it the Indian version of Dan Brown. I am so glad it exists because I remember wanting someone to draw parallels from Indian mythology and write a Da Vinci Code like book.
Naturally, when Mr.Sanghi digressed from his comfort zone into a pure mystery one, that too in collaboration, I was intrigued. I was mulling over whether I should buy it from Crossword or order it online, when I caught it up on review at Blogadda. I was still secretly hoping that there would be some similarity to his older books.
The ONE reason above all that I picked it up is – I wanted to know how two authors can come up with a book. If it were me, the book would be shelved because of creative differences however well I know my co-author. I also wanted to see if I can pick up parts which were written by Mr. Sanghi and parts which were written by James Patterson.
( Alas, that was not to be. I now think the whole book was written by Mr. Sanghi, with James Patterson only giving his creative inputs for the structuring of Private India (the agency) and its boss (who’s a foreigner)).
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK
If you are an avid Indian fiction fan, you might already be familiar with Mr. Sanghi’s works. You won’t need a reason 🙂
If you are not, then you might want to pick it up for an engrossing read on a train journey or a replacement for weekend afternoon siesta. It’s almost like watching a movie! Another, if you are a Mumbai-ite, you are sure to feel as if you are A PART OF the investigation team as the book takes you through the nooks and corners of the very familiar localities – read CST, Dharavi, etc.
(I always thought how New Yorkers might be feeling watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S or Little Manhattan. THAT – you’d feel!)
Let me tell you, Random House has done a pretty good job at the paper quality and print size. That is the first thing that attracts me to a book.
The cover has Mumbai’s landmarks – The Taj and Gateway of India – giving one the feel that something chilly is inside the book, as the eye falls on a man running for his life – below the Bandra-Worli sea-link.
I can tell that it’s a winner from the fact that the better half (who is a non-reader) picked it up and read the first 5 chapters before I had even started!
The plot is character driven, with the story being nothing more than a serial killer on the loose and investigators hot on his trail.
I was at a disadvantage here; I have not read James Patterson’s works – and the investigating agency, Private India – happens to be an Indian Wing of a global(?) organization ‘Private’.
Since it is a character driven story with the killer’s motives set deep in his own past life, it is very difficult to hold the suspense till the end. I, for example, had identified the killer almost instantly when he was revealed first in the flow. The alternatives and their possible motives are not sufficiently expanded. I feel the story was fit for a 2 book version or a larger page count.
The parallel tracks are distracting – what with the personal ghosts-from-the-past of the agency’s local boss and the forensic expert, the terrorist attack plan (I still have to figure out WHY that track was introduced at all).
It is almost as if they were introduced because the main plot was too thin.
The narrative style is what we are used to these days – COP side, KILLER side and PARALLEL happenings in different chapters.
This agency, Private India, has local people as employees – a drunk but intelligent and experienced ex-cop, a quintessential brainy babe, a geeky computer whiz, and an NRI medical/forensic expert returned from the US. I found them all stereotypes except the computer whiz – whose character was painfully left unexplained in the end.
Private India’s global boss is a middle-aged ex-CIA agent Jack Morgan. James Pattersons’ readers might know more about him.
One of the most interesting characters is an cop who is in charge of the interrogation officially. He and the local head of Private India (the ex-cop) are at logger heads, with a hint of previous friendship gone sour.
The other characters and possible suspects are interesting – an attorney general, a hair stylist and a Yoga trainer. ( I tried to rule out all imaginations about her looking like Rujuta Divekar, as per the popular the line in movie disclaimers “All characters are fictional and resemblance to living individuals is purely unintentional.”)
The victims are as diverse as they can be and one is at a loss to find SOME connection between them. However, the way they are all introduced spells out that they are going to be the next ones. I wish that was done differently.
There is a local Don-cum-drug network owner and some ISI people planning a terrorist attack in parallel.
WHAT I LIKED
1. I liked a strong woman investigator as a key character.
2. I liked the mention of the book “Confessions of a Thug” – I had read it’s Gujrati version from our local library about 16 years ago and I thought nobody in the world would’ve read it. (Now it know it’s famous :|)]
3. I liked how the locations of Mumbai are mentioned as if the world knows the famous suburbs. If we are expected to know ‘their’ New Yorks and and Houstons and Bostons and Washington D.Cs, even they should know ‘our’ Mumbai!
WHAT I DID NOT LIKE
This list is a little longer (and the reason I delayed the review)
1. I wanted more. This is not a bad reason, but I felt there were still loose ends in the end.
2. I felt that the story had too many abrupt breaks and parallel tracks to remember. Perhaps the reason I read it in breaks is why I might’ve felt that way.
3. I did not like the parallel tracks at all, as they had no connection with the actual story.
Spoiler Alert(skip if still to read)
4. The computer whiz guy is still a mystery. Who was he talking to and why was he fleeing the country?
5. The woman investigator’s back story didn’t quite sum up. So didn’t the attorney general’s.
6. Some characters, like the Baba are just mentioned – not expanded even if they play a major role in the killer’s motives.
Spoilers Over(skip if still to read)
IN A NUTSHELL
In a nutshell, I was certain I disliked the book, but as I write this review, I think actually liked it. I don’t have any solid reasons for not liking it.
That said – I stand by the fact that it is confusing and too much to take in at once and it still leaves a large room for character expansion. For me, it was like my view of Haider, intriguing first half – disappointing second half.
Reviewer’s rating 3/5