Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: Private India by Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson

When two best-selling crime authors come together, the result’s got to be one helluva novel right? Private India is a part in a ‘Private’ world wide series written by James Patterson and a local author (usually),in this case Ashwin Sanghi and is a super murder mystery set in Mumbai that keeps the reader guessing.

The Story
A murder is discovered in a hotel by a maid, and strange symbols appear on the site of the murder. The murdered woman is discovered to be an accomplished surgeon. Tied to her hands are a lotus and a fork, and tied to a foot is a tiny Viking helmet. She has been strangulated, and a yellow scarf tied to her neck. Private India, an investigating agency headed by Santosh is called in to investigate the case in collaboration with the Police headed by ACP Rupesh.

 After the first murder of the doctor,  the series of murders continue with more women being discovered with strange symbols around them and the yellow scarf around their necks. After the doctor,.a journalist, a famous singer, an influential politician, a social-worker, and a school principal are all found dead killed by seemingly the same person in a similar fashion. All the women are found with yellow garrotes around their necks and strange symbols around them.  The team is flummoxed and is unable to find the common link apart from a few unrelated people whose names keep cropping up during the investigation. Santosh and team need to find out how the murders are connected, what the symbols are, what story the murderer is trying to tell and who the next targets are before the murderer gets to them. The urgency to solve this case increases further as sinister events unfold on the side and the murderer strikes again and again.

Other parallel story lines involve a gang lord who is simultaneously plotting bomb blasts, a corrupt Attorney General whose name crops up during investigation of several murders, Santosh’s team members most of who have a troubled past and Santosh’s turbulent relationship with erstwhile close friend ACP Rupesh.

My take
The mystery in itself is quite a page turner which keeps the reader hooked and wondering what will happen next while trying to analyze the preceding murders to see how they are connected. I also enjoyed the characterization of the many people introduced in the book and could almost imagine the story unfold.

However, what I didn’t think fitted with the main storyline were all of the parallel storylines that I mentioned earlier.  Infact, the book could have entirely done without including any of the other parts even as they added words and more complexity to the script and tried to befuddle the reader. For example, I found the terrorist links in the book to be completely unnecessary and a waste of words really.

All in all a thrilling page turner, and a nice juicy murder mystery you may say, complete with clues, plenty of suspects, involved investigators and a great storyline. I will give the book 4 stars on 5.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: Catching the Departed by Kulpreet Yadav

The Indian literary scene seems to have a lot of thrillers off-late. Some based on stories of the past interspersed with the current age, others focusing on a particular sector say Banking, and yet some others who have not carved a niche for themselves yet have a promise of doing so.

The book I am reviewing here is yet another piece of crime fiction. The author has tried to differentiate himself though by giving us a new detective – Andy Karan.

Like some books I have read recently, whoever is out on a killing mission or on a saving mission in India, must have an army training and Andy Karan is no exception, except that he is no longer serving the military directly, but posing as a journalist but is really an undercover agent.

The Story
Set mostly in Delhi and a village near Delhi, we hear that a villager has been killed under suspicious circumstances. Andy Karan’s boss, Monica (obviously female and obviously single and good looking like she would be in all Indian novels) at the magazine sends him on a mission to find out after getting a tip off from a random source she doesn’t bother to verify about. Andy Karan lands up at the village and without much ado raises hackles without bothering to do anything cautiously and gets beaten up. His boss, Monica is apologetic about sending him there but Andy wants to go back.  Why, because there is this mysterious old man boss who shows up, and says that he is Andy’s boss and Andy wants to do as he commands him to. One would think, someone with an army training would be more cautious, but no, apparently the secret investigation cells of India work so secretly that detectives like Andy don’t know who they are working for!
The story however far-fetched, was believable till this point in time, till it revealed the villain who according to me bordered on insanity although he should have been a really astute person. If you read it, you will realize how inane the villain is and even less believable are his plans that follow to unleash terror in India. And then I have my pet peeve..the story is interesting but it seems to be written for a film with its unnecessary heroine, good looking army jaawan, and multiple locations of Delhi, Mumbai and a rural village near Delhi.

I would say the effort by the author is not too bad. While I like the idea of Andy Karan, the promising detective, I would have been happier with a better execution of the story
I will give this book a rating of 3 stars on five.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Book Review: Rise of the Sun Prince- Part 1 of Ramayana: The Game of Life by Shubha Vilas

One of the most revered tales that is a part of Indian mythology, folklore and history is that of the Ramayana. This tale of Prince Ram has been handed down through ages and is considered to be one of the greatest love stories and the most dramatic stories of good versus evil.

I have read several interpretations of the Ramayana. Some of my favorite books on the Ramayana include those by the very popular C Rajagopalachari and Kamala Subramaniam. However, I am always looking for new interpretations that provide me with more answers and new stories and am happy to say that I have found yet another version that I quite liked.

Shubha Vilas who is a spiritual leader and a motivational speaker has done justice to the Ramayana through this first volume called as the Rise of the Sun Prince in a six part series called as “Ramayana, the Game of Life”.

I was quite happy to receive an autographed copy of the book that provided a lovely message – “With this book I wish to share traditional wisdom to deal with the twists and turns of life. I hope this book will bring you a new perspective on living a progressive life.” And that is exactly what the book seeks to do. The Author has included not just the story but also interpreted it with reference to our everyday life and the life lessons we should get from the various chapters of the book.

The first book of the Ramayana details the story of Lord Ram, prince of the Ikshvaku dynasty, the descendants of the Sun God (and therefore the name of The Sun Prince). In this book you will read about Lord Rama’s birth, his young exploits in guarding the sacrifice of sages led by Vishwamitra against feared demons Taraka and Maricha, the freeing of a stony Ahalya from a curse and ends on a very happy note of Rama’s wedding with Sita. The book also has a substantial part devoted to the famous sage Vishwamitra. 

As most of the Ramayana story is well known, I will not get into more details of the story. But particularly interesting are some nuggets that the author has imparted throwing light to some questions we have on this epic tale. To cite an example, I always wondered why Lord Rama’s childhood was not as extensively covered as was Lord Krishna’s childhood in our scriptures. The author provides a note –

“Lord Rama’s childhood is underplayed in the Ramayana, with the entire childhood occupying merely 10 verses. In comparison, Krishna’s childhood has been elaborated extensively. Lord Rama is called Anusthana Pradhan, meaning the One who has descended to teach human lessons on discipline and morality. Lord Krishna is called Anubhava Pradhan, meaning the One who has descended to impart fascinating experiences.  Because Lord Rama had manifested to impart discipline, His childhood was kept low key.”
Let me provide an example of the lesson that he has provided on the Sage Vishwamitra’s enmity with the great Sage Vasishtha –

“Often in life, like Vishwamitra, we are so busy pursuing our short-term goals, that we do not find any time to pause and reflect on the direction we are heading toward. Life gives us many hidden doors, which become visible only if we pause. Most people live their lives by the clock, running at a frantic pace. A balanced individual needs to use a compass from time to time to check if one is running in the right direction. Else, the faster you run in the wrong direction, the farther you stray from your goal.”

I also don’t however know how true some of the stories are although I am sure the author has done his research. For example, I had no idea Dashratha, Rama’s father had 350 wives apart from the four we know of commonly, and had married them to escape the axe wielding hermit and Kshyatriya hater, Parshurama. Apparently, Parshurama had vowed to kill all the Kshyatriya kings except those who were getting married. 
But well, it may be true too.

All in all, an interesting book with some good interpretations.  However, I have found more compelling narratives in other books. That being said, I am glad to see a book in mainstream publishing that carries more than a story and also provides readers with a way of life.

My verdict:
I will give this book 3.5 stars out of five.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!