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BOOK REVIEW - Indian Collobarative Fiction - PRIVATE INDIA BY James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi

PRIVATE INDIA is a collaboration between two thriller writers, one  eastern and the other western.  I didn't know James Patterson before this, but I do know that when Ashwin Sanghi is involved, there's chills and thrills galore. A serial killer drama set in Mumbai. Is it something like The Silence of the Lambs meets the Thuggee cult?  Well, sort of (yes, I know the English is incorrect, but I like the informal expression of that phrase).

The combination?  Lethal!

Was I terrified?  Yes, I freaking was.  I had to read this in an empty house and oh, man, I was shaking in my chappals.  Whoever said it’s kind of fun getting scared when you know it’s not for real, well, they were right.  And they were wrong.

Kind of fun?  It’s a riot.

Thrillers can simultaneously scare you almost to death and by the same token, make you feel more alive.  Your senses sharpen, your wits awaken.  The pages really do turn themselves.  But they  educate you, too. 

A serial killer may evoke revulsion in right-thinking people, those who know right from wrong.  But when that killer is a victim, someone who has been abused and abused and abused……..can one possibly feel sympathy?  Maybe.

I’m particularly fascinated by the way so many characters, with their individual stories have melded together to create a fascinating tale of mystery, suspense, intrigue and yes, even, occasionally, horror. 

As a woman, I was a little disturbed by what seemed to be an attack on womanhood and all the things that womanhood represents.  There are many female characters in the story and they are particularly horrid.  The positive features of womanhood, loving, nurturing…….they were replaced by abuse of power, abuse of love, abuse of trust.  I was thankful for Nisha, the detective, who had not let herself become embittered from past experiences, who had a positive, upbeat approach to life.  Having said that, I wondered that there wasn’t a single scene of the woman, a mother herself, with her child.  She is always the Modesty Blaise, the secret agent, on the prowl in her search for the truth.  The male lead in the story, Santosh Wagh, is suitably morose and secretive and at the same time, incorruptible.

But abusive situations are always different.  The saying ‘too long a sacrifice makes a stone of the heart’ gives way to ‘too much abuse makes a stone of the heart.’  And forgive me for political correctness, if that be what this is, but I’m not sure that the LGBT would take too kindly to the portrayal of a transsexual character in the story.  Just saying

So Mumbai, the city which never sleeps, is celebrating the Navratri.  And every day, a woman is found, ritualistically murdered and surrounded by a tableau, a death scene recreated in loving symbolism by the stealthy murderer.  The Indian branch of the world’s most exclusive private detective agency is on this case.  Santosh, Nisha and Hari all have their personal stories to tell, but right now, they need to find this killer, because if they don’t, the next strike may be way too close to home.  But what are the terrorists doing within these pages?  The killer acts alone, yet organized crime and non-state actors have their role to play too.  But where do they all fit in?

Unputdownable, eerily compulsive, it opens up your eyes to the fact that within a society where corruption and abuse proliferates, it is only a matter of time before the evil boomerangs upon itself.
Highly recommended for readers of thrillers.  And for people who just like a good read.

Five stars?  Oh, yes, definitely.

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  1. Okay. Another hole in the POW's inheritance despite my self imposed embargo on fiction.

  2. Gosh, aren't I the great saleswoman? One copy sold already, bedad! My career is surely on the up and up.

  3. “Private India” is possibly the first (of many) story of the detective agency Private India (the Indian branch of Private, a renowned investigation company with branches around the globe run by former CIA agent Jack Morgan) with Santosh Wagh in charge. Santosh’s team consists of his assistant Nisha Gandhe, technology geek Hari and Mubeen, the forensics expert. Santosh is never at santosh (peace) with himself, blaming himself for the accident in which his wife and child were killed, and drowning his despair in drink. When a lady is found strangled in a hotel room, the hotel management calls Santosh to the scene, and he starts investigating.
    Like other novels by James Patterson, the body count rises and the murders are clearly by the same hand. The story develops at breathtakingly high speed in short chapters that end in cliff-hanger situations. How are the murders connected? Are the victims connected? What is the significance of the different symbols found with each body? Read the book and find out.
    On getting a preview copy from Ashwin Sanghi, I thought I would savour it like a fine drink, but found myself tearing through the book, eager to know what happens next. Ashwin Sanghi has provided the right Indian background and one feels one is travelling through Mumbai’s posh area and slums, hobnobbing with the rich and poor. Pakistan’s terrorist attacks on India also find place in the plot.
    Yes, there are references which give me hope there could be prequels and sequels to Private India. The protagonist Santosh even has his version of the Baker Street irregulars and he mentions thugs and thuggee in detail, the first reference I have seen in a novel after John Masters’s ‘The Deceivers’ (made as a movie in 1988).
    The novel also has some quotable words, e.g. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” But even when rushing through the rollercoaster ride called Private India, I tripped across some minor errors. While US spellings are used, “omelette” is British, the sentence construction is not pure US, and the murderer is boiling eggs the wrong way (read it to figure it out). Just as Ashwin mentioned the errata in the earlier editions of his “The Krishna Key”, I am confident he will insist on ironing out these minor wrinkles in the next edition.
    Yes, it is a great book and worth reading again to appreciate how the plot has been knit and the reader misled into suspecting one and then another as the murderer. Complete all your tasks before you begin this book, else you may miss your flight, date, or conference
    Dear Ashwin and James, may your partnership flourish and more power to your word processors!

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