Book Review : Private India

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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!)

THE BOOK

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

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.

THE CHARACTERS

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

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Book Review : The Bankster

Publisher Rupa Publications India
Publication Year 2012
ISBN-13 9788129120489
ISBN-10 8129120488
Language English
Binding Paperback
Number of Pages 364 Page

Source : Flipkart

WHY I READ THE BOOK

I have reviewed 5 books from Blogadda and this is the 6th in the Blogadda Book Reviews series. I got this copy through a tweet asking if readers wanted an instant copy of ‘The Bankster’ for review. And believe me it was instant! I got it within a week of applying.

I picked this book randomly as this was a genre I had not read from an Indian author. It differed from the books from Blogadda I read earlier – a drama (All and nothing), Chanakya’s chant (Political/Historical fiction), Mafia Queens (crime documentary), The Wednesday Soul (Comedy), You can sell (Self-help). This one was a fictional thriller written by an IIM alumnus. Also the name Ravi Subramaniam rang a bell, which turned out to be a mix-up with Ravi Venu.

One fine day, after Diwali, I read the book and believe me, I kept running back to finish it every now and then.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK

  1. You like CID and CSI alike.
  2. You are skeptical of Indian authors and want a book that challenges your brain.
  3. You want to read a book that when translated to movies would be worthy of a watch. (picture Angels and Demons)
  4. You are into Apple products 😛
  5. Because I say it is worth a read! *ducks n runs*

THE BOOK

At 364 pages, the Bankster makes a delightfully long and fast paced read. I would advise skipping the blurb on the back to make it more interesting while figuring out the mystery. Our generation has grown on the staple diet of shows like Lie to Me, Bones, Castle, the Mentalist which figure prominent cop/investigator duos. The book has one of the Indianized versions of them. There is a certain kind of believability in the story which is very essential to a very elaborate and high profile thriller.

As far as I know, the situations and scenes are original in context and provide a novelty to the ‘whodunnit’ angle. The book is far more than a murder mystery or a thriller. It makes one sit back and think of the dark intricasies of the wheelings and dealings that go on in the banking and political sector.

THE PLOT

The plot is story driven. A welcome deviation from the books I have read recently. There are 3 parallel tracks and the convergence is well depicted in the end. The story starts in Africa, the scenes very reminiscent of Blood Diamond and Casino Royale – still original in writing. The main chunk of the plot takes place in amchi Mumbai – with lots of stuff that every Mumbaite will enjoy and relate to. A parallel track runs in South India where a nuclear power project is being thought of. Money scam appears to be the main theme of the book when the reader suddenly finds out that it is more than just a Hawala scam.

At certain points, the story seems to switch tracks abruptly and start with one of the 3 parallel tracks. In that case I did what I always do – read the continuation chapter first 😛

THE CHARACTERS

There are many characters and each well etched in the whole story. One keeps flitting from a character to another trying to put him/her in the cross-hairs – even I did the same. And just when I thought I had the book figured out, there was a sharp twist. ( IIM people do have a devious brain, don’t they? Kidding :P) Mumbai police has been given its due credit and I loved the fact that the PSI in charge was a sincere young officer. The FBI people were true to their stereotype. There is one more international police squad in picture – again an intriguing read. The characters in the banking sector Vikram, Indrani, Raymond (I could almost picture this portly fellow), Harshita  and others could be found anywhere around you.  The characters from the nuclear power plant can be found in any agitation/movement be it the Lokpal, Narmada Dam or our very own nuclear power project coming up in Jaitapur. (On a side note, I hate the this track because I wanted to base my novel on the Jaitapur project. Anyhow, if I do write it – please note that I really had the idea in mind before I read The Bankster 😛 )

WHAT I LIKED

I liked the fact that there are cool gadgets (read iPads and iPhones) at play – that way I could flaunt my relevance to the smartphone industry. Again, I really appreciate the last twist which makes the book a very worthwhile read – because I had figured out rest of the plot almost in the middle of the book.

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE

The book could have been a little tightly edited and carefully proofread. I did not like the fact that Kaavya, the lady from the amateur investigator duo – did not have much to do and was reduced to a mere showpiece. On the whole, I did find all the female characters a bit slow in grasping the situation. Anyway, since I do not consider myself a feminist, I would like to appreciate the well written book and not focus on the need for gender equality.

IN A NUTSHELL

In a nutshell, pick up the book anytime during transit and enjoy a wonderful read. Coming from an Indian author utilizing everyday settings from Mumbai for a global thriller, this one deserves a read. Skip the Rowdy Rathores and Salman movies for once and try a desi thriller book instead!

Reviewer’s rating   3.5/5

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!