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Private India : A Review

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    I was overjoyed when I got the mail from BlogAdda informing me that I had been chosen to review ‘Private India’. It is the latest crime investigation thriller from the Private series of James Patterson. Now, to be honest, I’d never read his stories, but the book was co-written by Ashwin Sanghi, who is one of my favourites so I was excited to see how he would attempt a genre like this.

    Being a Ashwin Sanghi book, I had a few expectations of it. I expected the story to be driven by a host of interesting (grey) characters pursuing their own agendas, crossing paths to create a rich storyline. I expected a well-researched background. I expected politics and mythology being woven together. Tall expectations. But I was not disappointed at all!

    The epilogue gives us a glimpse of the terrible bomb attacks of 2006. This is a background story that runs as an undercurrent throughout the book, surfacing at the right time. It serves as an important plot device towards the end. It also sets the tone for what is to come.

    The story begins with a bang - a murder! It is a very small chapter. It sets the pace for the rest of the novel. Each chapter is about four pages on an average and represents a scene. Some chapters are even smaller! This is the same strategy used by Ashwin Sanghi in Chanakya’s Chant. The small chapters don’t let the reader slow down. It works especially well in this genre.

    The pacing of the story is perfect for a thriller. There is a lot of dialogue that moves the story forward. The language used is very simple. It’s a good thing that one doesn’t need to run for the dictionary in the middle of a fight sequence because the villain scurvily lunged his sword in our hero’s orb. An average reader can easily finish reading it on a weekend.

    It feels like the book is mainly targeted at the urban Indian, but doesn’t alienate the non-Indians. A few slangs, Hindi words and acronyms have been used in the story, but it always comes with an explanation for those who might not be aware of them.

    The characters like I said, are all interesting. We are quickly introduced to each character without much ado. Each character receives a copious description.

    The protagonist of the story, Santosh Wagh, is an ex-intelligence officer who has given in to alcoholism to mask his pain. He walks with a limp, which is psychosomatic in nature. He has an encyclopedic memory and a thing for puzzles. I was disappointed for the first few chapters. Santosh Wagh, in my head, was nothing more than a copy of Dr. House, albeit less of an asshole and less of a genius too. We began to learn of his past as the story progressed, which I must admit, was also a let-down since the formula has been used in numerous English cop-dramas. I would say that the writer didn’t work hard enough to make him unique and believable. However that was hardly a concern in the main storyline, which kept on going smoothly.

    The other main characters included Nisha Gandhe - a beautiful, intelligent and loyal ex-policewoman and the second in command to Santosh; Mubeen - a very capable medical examiner with a tormented past; Hari - a physically powerful but emotionally vulnerable techwhiz; Mukesh - the tobacco spewing cop with an agenda of his own and a past with Santosh. There are other characters that move the story forward like Munna - the ganglord; Nimboo Baba - the godman; Aakash - the salon “sorry lounge” owner; Bhosale - the driver; and Dr. Zafar - the police examiner among others.

    Other than these, there are of course the victims who are always interesting. I wouldn’t want to describe them since that would take the fun out of discovering them. We also get glimpses of the killer’s psyche in short chapters throughout the novel.

    The writers have done a lot of research and it shows through the encyclopedic knowledge of Santosh Wagh. Even Mubeen doesn’t shy away from information dumps. While all the research makes the story more believable (like the fact that chloroform takes minutes to be effective and that forensic evidence is hard to find on hair strands), sometimes the explanations feel forced. At times, I felt that the acronyms and the explanations were also unnecessary since they were not important for the story.

    All in all, it is a great thriller. The book delivers on the promise of having “A festival of murder”. The clbimax of the story was very unexpected and exciting. So it fulfills the first rule of a good thriller - the end.

    It’s perfect as a weekend read. Grab a copy and start reading!

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