Author: Ashwin Sanghi & James Patterson
Publisher: Arrow Books
Price: INR 350
My Rating: 4/5
Private India has certainly evoked my liking for thrillers and mystery. It is the rare combination of Ashwin Sanghi, a renowned Indian thriller writer and the world’s popular novelist, James Patterson. Having given up on thrillers, some years back, I wasn’t too sure if I was opting for the right book. However, once started reading, I really did not have to force myself for finishing the book and it took me some hours to finish it. As one of the authors has rightly said, “The pages turn themselves”, and it did happen to me.
Private India, a private investigation agency is known for solving the toughest of cases across the globe with its branches spread far and wide. Apparently, this is a unique way in which Patterson gets an opportunity to connect with authors of different nationalities and weave a story around some bygone incidents of the places. Private Vegas, Private LA, Private Berlin, Private London are some of the names that proves the repetitive success of Patterson.
The plot revolves around the serial murders that’s happening in Mumbai with the murderer leaving behind some cues. Santosh, was given the responsibility of being the head in charge of Private India by its owner, Jack Morgan, with whom he made connections during the investigations of the seven train bombings in Mumbai in 2006. Santosh was then an agent with RAW, India’s intelligence agency. Santosh has been portrayed as a drunkard who is plagued by the harsh memory of the car accident in which he lost his wife and kid. He seems to be under continuous agony and guilt of losing them. Apart from Jack, who’s seen to be a visiting officer, Santosh had a team of three supporting members in this case Nisha Gandhe–another investigating officer, Mubeen—Private India’s full time medical examiner and Hari, a technology geek.
The best part is the suspense that’s well kept till the end. The plot is woven beautifully and the interest in the story remains till the last few pages as it is impossible for readers to figure out who the culprit could be, only till the time, the same is exposed in the climax of the story.
Ashwin Sanghi has done it in the past and just like his previous novels, this novel too has a mythological touch. He drives the pattern of murders from mythology, which is quite intriguing. Santosh with his undeterred faith in stars and also with the help of cues, which the murderer left behind at each spot, infers that the murderer is inspired by the nine roles of Goddess Durga. Also, since it was the time of Navratri, he concludes that the murderer would aim at nine murders in nine days.
“The first victim was left with a lotus flower and a dining fork tied to her hands, and a toy Viking helmet tied to her feet. The second was found with a rosary in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. The third as found lying on a faux animal skin, half a rupee coin placed on her head, and a small brass bell-shaped pendant hung around her neck.” (Pg. 125-126)
The twist in the tale is when the one you’d least expect turns out to be the culprit. And, this isn’t as simple as it sounds, as the authors have extraordinarily showcased the plot with just too many suspects and several intertwined connections giving different angles to the story.
Apart from that, the backdrop of Mumbai suburbs and the explicit and enchanting exploration of the metropolis would make you feel nostalgic despite the fact that the novel talks about the insecurities attached to a city like Mumbai.
“Mumbai—once known as Bombay—was a throbbing metropolis with the attitude of New York City, the chaos of Kathmandu, the vibe of Miami, and the infrastructure of Timbuktu…Old British monuments jostled for space with corporate glass towers and filthy slums. At traffic signals, handcraft pullers slowly made their way to warehouses, their bodies bathed in sweat, while chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benzes transported their millionaire owners to luncheon meetings…Mumbai was a study in contrasts and people tended either to love it or hate it.” (Pg. 30-31)
With too many goodies for a pack, the only thing that I found lacking in this book was an exciting climax. The presentation seemed to me a bit straightforward and boring. With too many connections and suspects entwined together throughout the story, as a reader the expectations were surely on the higher side, but the climax could not make up to it.
Overall, this book has revived my liking for thrillers. It’s after ages that I’ve come across an interesting thriller that kept me glued till the end. There’s no end to the bafflement that the book unfolds at each and every stage and that’s what is expected of a good thriller. The plot is as unique and fresh as the morning dew. The duo have just set the right expectations without overdoing things. It’s a magnificent combination of thrill, action, betrayal, love lost, friend that was, and more. A truly enthralling read.