Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Bankster by Ravi Subramanian: Book Review

What struck me first was the name of the book ‘The Bankster’. Not Banker, but Bankster.  The cover of a mysterious man in an overcoat with a gun and a briefcase standing against tall glittering buildings looked ominous.  He looked like a corporate gangster or maybe a bankster.

Ravi Subramanian has been called the John Grisham of banking by the Wall Street Journal as per the cover.  After poring over the cover page, and importantly the back page, I went on to turn the pages, and turn them fast I did! It was one of those books you simply have to finish even if it is 3:00 a.m. , the world around is asleep and you are groggy but want to see the book to its end.

The Story
Rather than John Grisham, Subramanian’s style of writing is more on the lines of a Jeffery Archer who has 2-3 parallel tracks with something common. The author a B-school alumnus chooses the backdrop of the Greater Boston Global Bank (GB2) in Mumbai to set a series of murders that threaten to destroy the reputation of the bank. Alongside, the reader is taken to two different places where dubious unrelated transactions happen. 

A mysterious Joseph Braganza, perhaps the man on the book-cover, visits Angola to complete an exchange in ammunition for blood diamonds.  In another part of the world, in Kerela, India, an elderly man who runs a resort near the Periyar wildlife sanctuary is framed in a wildlife scam and exposed to the underhand dealings in the political world. 

The GB2 is like any other large multinational bank - complex in its operations, has a plethora of service offerings and a wide branch network.  Employees in retail operations have stiff targets to meet and there is competition – healthy and unhealthy to be the top performer by hook or by crook. Amid all the routine operations, we read about ‘accidental’ deaths of three employees –the first being Pranesh the cashier.  Two more deaths occur in succession and it doesn’t look accidental anymore. Enter, Karan Panjabi, an ex-banker at GB2 turned journalist to investigate into the story of what really happened. From a thriller, the book turns into a whodunit where Karan investigates in an unrealistically short period of time.

The large number of characters provides ample scope for guessing who is behind all the stories. Subramanian has used all the tricks in the trade to add ‘masala’ to his book. Flirtatious bosses, sexy new joinees (trainees in this case) and totally unnecessary lusty romps between senior management abound in the book.  Some sincere, hard-working characters are also added, but two of them are murdered casting a further mystery on who’s next on the list.

My thoughts
While I enjoyed the book and unraveling the mystery as fast as it could be, the conclusion was not completely to my liking. Perhaps it was a little too far-fetched for me and I must say it was quite melodramatic! The author has provided too much space to too insignificant characters at times. Granted, that he brought in a sexy management trainee, but too much space has been given to men ogling at her and accolades she brought! In today’s corporate world, really, I hardly think looks matter to the extent they do in the book.  

This book is more for an Indian audience and more so those working at Mumbai! With multiple references to places in Mumbai, Mumbai bankers might just enjoy the book more than others. The language is decidedly Indian conversational English complete with the ‘yaars’ and may not be understood by any international audience.

All in all, a good page turner, some insights in the world of banking although not all are to be taken seriously, and an interesting whodunit.
My final verdict for this book is 4/5 for the fast paced narration, keeping up the suspense and a gripping story.

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Thanks to BlogAdda for the author autographed copy of the book! Really appreciated it!

For more information on the author - Ravi Subramanian's checkout links below.