If there is a genre that I love to read, it is thrillers and mysteries. I can’t get enough of it, and enough of saying it either. A thriller has to do is to keep the attention of the reader. To do that with a small set of characters is difficult enough; to do that with different characters and settings is even more laudable. Indian authors in English are now beginning to embrace this genre as well, evident from a few books that have come in the recent past. This book adds on to that impressive pile and is now one of my favorite books.
The Avatari by Raghu Srinivasan is a thriller that builds the story steadily rather than beginning with a straight out action scene. It has its base in an ancient mystery, one that the main character must solve to keep that mystery hidden. Henry Ashton, retired from the British Army embarks on a treasure hunt upon a request from “the Teacher”, a Laotian monk. The ancient secret is said to be at the legendary Shambhala Mountain, said to be located in Tibet. Assisting him in the search is his old Gurkha sergeant, a professor and an American mercenary that he recruits. However, to find the legendary place, a legend is required. That is the Avatari, divine people destined to know the place.
Like I said earlier, to keep the story moving seamlessly when there are multiple places involved is something I find remarkable. And this story does that. The story moves from England, to Africa, to India, to the United States, to Tibet and Pakistan, to Laos. Not only that, the story moves across timelines too. The present paints the story of the treasure hunt, while the flashbacks paint the necessary back-story, the one that tells how Ashton met the Teacher, or Peter’s run-in with the US government. The history behind the mystery is also delivered with flair, through the voice of Tim Grahams early in the novel, or just as information later. The author also breathes life into each of the characters that make them different and interesting, like Ashton’s almost casual outlook, Duggy’s obstinacy, Susan’s determination, Peter’s recklessness etc. These are just four characters; there are many others you will come across in the novel. They also have knowledge of various languages, something that can’t be pulled off in writing very easily. The places have also been described very well, so we can imagine what is happening very easily.
What works for the novel sometimes works against it as well. With so many characters involved, I found it a little confusing at times to keep track of the smaller characters (some of who are important to the story).
Other than that, I can’t really fault the novel much. Maybe it is an old type of plot, but the treatment meted out to it is nothing short of brilliant in my opinion.
Why should you read it?
A mystery thriller that takes you on a treasure hunt, and makes you want to turn the page and find out what will happen next. Brilliant characters, various places, engaging narration, this is a well executed novel.
What you may not like…
An excess of characters to keep track of, given the smaller characters do play an important role at times.
Title: The Avatari
Author: Raghu Srinivasan
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Publisher: Hachette India
Price: INR. 400
(3rd May 2014)