Five thousand years ago, there came to earth a magical being called Krishna, who brought about innumerable miracles for the good of mankind. Humanity despaired of its fate if the Blue God were to die but was reassured that he would return in a fresh avatar when needed in the eventual Dark Age, the Kaliyug. In modern times, a poor little rich boy grows up believing that he is that final avatar. Only, he is a serial killer. In this heart-stopping tale, the arrival of a murderer who executes his gruesome and brilliantly thought-out schemes in the name of God is the first clue to a sinister conspiracy to expose an ancient secret, Krishna’s priceless legacy to mankind. Historian Ravi Mohan Saini must breathlessly dash from the submerged remains of Dwarka and the mysterious lingam of Somnath to the icy heights of Mount Kailash, in a quest to discover the cryptic location of Krishna's most prized possession. From the sand-washed ruins of Kalibangan to a Vrindavan temple destroyed by Aurangzeb, Saini must also delve into antiquity to prevent a gross miscarriage of justice. Ashwin Sanghi, bestselling author of 'The Rozabal Line' and 'Chanakya's Chant', brings you yet another exhaustively researched whopper of a plot in 'The Krishna Key' while providing an incredible alternative explanation of the Vedic Age that will be relished by conspiracy buffs and thriller addicts alike.
You read the blurb above, now read the review!
Simply put, it's a thriller. A very absorbing read which is tailor made to while away long hours - the kind of long hours you find yourself facing when you're on one of those long distance train journeys that we often find ourselves on in India. You'll forget the heat, the dust, the humidity, you won't hear the chaiwallas and the milling crowds - you'll be lost to the world. If you like thrillers with religious and mythological overtones, that is. Just as well I do. Yes, the Da Vinci Code me riveted to my chair for almost twenty four hours. And it's not because I'm not a devout Christian who believes in the story of Jesus as handed down by the Holy Bible. I am and I do. Heck, I just like thrillers. The more breathtaking and heart racing the better. This one qualifies all right.
During this book, we read that the number 108 is sacred to Hindus. The book is divided into 108 chapters, each beginning with a story from the life of Lord Krishna, the eight avatar of Lord Vishnu, the second person of the Hindu trinity of godheads. The book has at its centre the brilliant but rather too quiet academic and historian Ravi Mohan Saini and the aggressive policewoman Inspector Radhika Singh. God, but she is direct and extremely abusive, although we are given to understand that she has reasons for being like that. The hard-boiled Inspector Radhika turns out quite dove-like in the end, because after all, where Krishna is, love is sure to follow. He's the Hindu version of Eros, if you ask me.
A group of august academicians are found to be ritualistically slaughtered, while Sanskrit verses (slokas) invoking Lord Vishnu are found written near the bodies in the victims' own blood. Pretty gruesome. Inspector Radhika leaps to the conclusion that historan Anil Varshney was slain by his friend Ravi Saini because the two had dined together the previous evening and also because a scalpel with the initials RS was found near the body. I ached to ask the lady if she could honestly believe that gentle academics are in the habit of carrying scalpels around, never mind having their intitials engraved on them. Nor did it seem likely that the murderer would be idiot enough to leave the murder weapon lying about with the culprit's initials on it. But then, that's just me. Anyway, Dr. Ravi is arrested and his doctoral student Priya (who seems kind of sweet on him) accompanies him for support. Before we know where we are, Dr. Ravi and Priya have escaped, and are leading Inspector Radhika and her Sub Inspector Rathore a merry dance around northern India. The action moves from the snowy slopes of Mount Kailash in Tibet to the temple of Somnath in search of the lost treasure of Krishna. What could it possibly be? A nuclear bomb? A DNA sample? Well, you'll just have to read the book to find out. Meanwhile, the serial killer is never far away, lurking in the shadows. Who is he? What does he want? Yes, this thriller will send a few chills up your spine all right. Stick with it and you'll be glad you did.
Ashwin Sanghi knows his mythology and I can even forgive him for saying that Christianity is only two thousand years old and that Hinduism predates it (Christianity being the culmination of the Abrahamic Covenant, isn't any less ancient than Hinduism or any other religion, NOT that being older gives any religion an edge where truth is concerned). But here's my real concern. The author could do with a crit group - a group of writers who can read and give him a bit of feedback. Or maybe he should just change his crit group. For starters, the dialogue is very unnatural, glaringly so in some places. Look at this:
Priya nodded. Turning to Saini, she said, 'Don't worry Prof! As you know, my father - Sanjay Ratnani - is a leading criminal lawyer. I'll ask him to represent you.'
Lovely stuff, but don't you think the good Professor would know who her father was? Wouldn't it would look, shall we say, appropriate, if she said something like:
'Don't worry, Prof. Dad is there to represent you. I'll see to it.'
Then again, it's probably just me.
Lots of history lessons are woven into the dialogue and while I found it good enough, I fear that it might slow down the pace of the story for some readers.
Stilted dialogue notwithstanding, the thriller really was what we call paisa vasool here in India - value for money. Plenty of chills and spills and surprises along the way and cliff hanging tension up until the last minute. Be prepared for a few surprises. The result of things not always being what they seem.
You can get a copy here, (ebook available internationally), here if you are in India and want a print copy and here (ebook) if you are in the UK.
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