When I saw a book; a thriller nonetheless, co authored by Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson in the pre-order section of Flipkart, I was excited. Then when I saw that the same book was up for review under BlogAdda’s Book Review Program, I jumped at the chance and signed up for it. I got selected for the first time to review a book under BlogAdda’s Book Review Program!!! Yayy!! Though I read the book within the stipulated time, the review got delayed due to my hectic work life. Sigh!! That deserves a post in itself. Anyway so here goes the review.
Publisher: Random House
Price: Rs. 350 (Rs 193 On Amazon)
Genre: Crime and Thriller
The Book Blurb:-
In Mumbai seemingly unconnected people are dying, strangled in a chilling ritual and with strange objects carefully arranged with the corpses. For Santosh Wagh, head of Private India, the Mumbai branch of the world’s finest investigation agency, it’s a race against time to stop the killer striking again. In a city of over thirteen million, hed have his work cut out at the best of times but this case has him battling Mumbai’s biggest ganglord and a godman who isn’t all he seems and then he discovers there may be an even greater danger facing Private India. Hidden in the shadows is someone who could destroy the whole organisation along with thousands of innocent Mumbai citizens.
I have never read any work of either Ashwin Sanghi or James Patterson and hence I am unfamiliar with their individual writing styles. Also I am unaware of the “Private” series set in other countries. So my review is, you can say, my first impression.
The serial killings begin with the murder of a lady doctor from Thailand. She had been strangled using a yellow scarf and small, strange and seemingly unrelated objects had been placed around the body. There is a flower on one hand, and a fork on the other. There is also a small, Viking toy helmet tied to one of her toes. After that, many such killings follow and the Mumbai Police seeks the assistance from the Indian branch of the world’s finest detective agency. Mr. Santosh Wagh and his team from “Private India” join the investigation and the chase to catch the killer begins.
The protagonist, Santosh Wagh, reminded me of Dr. House of the famous series House M.D. because of the cane and drinking habit portrayal of the character. He has a troubled past that haunts him. But I think this “troubled past-addict-brilliant-sharp-fighting inner demon protagonist” characterization has been done to death and readers need a change.
All the characters have been given their respective background stories and are well developed, making the reader relate to their present behaviour. The description of the killer’s own haunting past is good. The story takes the reader all around Mumbai’s famous places from Dharavi to Haji Ali. I guess that is for the benefit of International readers. Again for their knowledge of India (and then we complain about Hollywood movies stereotyping India), I assume, there is Indian history, mythology, Mumbai underworld (gangsters), poverty, godmen, corruption, religion, child abuse, sex, prostitution, transgender sexuality, human trafficking, politics, beggars, begging racket, Bollywood, Mumbai local trains, terrorists, Pakistan’s ISI, match fixing, status of forensic labs in India and of course crime!!! Did the author miss mentioning the famous dabbawallas in there somewhere? I don’t seem to remember :-) It seemed as if this is the last work of Ashwin Sanghi so he has tried to put everything in it. Too many subplots have spoiled the story! If you want to write a murder mystery stick to murder and if you want to write a terrorist story stick to that. Moreover,
The plot gives the reader few red herrings which after having watched so many episodes of CSI, CSI NY, Criminal Minds, Castle etc seem pretty obvious as red herrings. Apparently, Ashwin Sanghi is famous for mythological references in his writings. His famous touch is evident in Private India, where we come across insights into an ancient Indian cult “The Thuggees” (which kind of reminded me of that Indiana Jones movie), the Navratri festival and even nine form of Goddess Durga. But there is a slackening in the storyline as the investigation progresses. The final connection between the reason behind the murders and the modus operandi of the killer seems very implausible and not that impressive. The reason behind the killings, the psychology/mindset of the killer and the choices the killer made for his/her identity should have been delved into deeper and should have been better weaved together with the concept of nine forms of Durga and hatred of women. The build up of the suspense to the profile of the killer falls flat somehow near the climax. And when you think the story is over, its not. There is a second parallel plot still remaining to be completed, which makes one think “shouldn’t the side story finish before the main story”?
All the CID and Criminal Minds stuff keep coming in mind while reading the book, especially with the description of high tech gadgets and techniques. Also I wondered does a serial killer actually kill so many people within a week? If a killer is on such a killing spree, can he/she be so calm and normal in appearance and behaviour? Then there is the writing style and the language. Despite the excellent cover, the language gives the book away as not of being of international standard….as being one of common novels that keep releasing in India every month. Maybe the author wanted to keep things simple for all grades of readers. Missing punctuations, inappropriate sentence structures and grammatical mistakes (for example look instead looked in page 98) point towards the need for better proof reading. Excellent proof reading is something I find lacking in Indian paperbacks. This should not have been an issue when there are two authors!