If you put two brilliant authors together, does the book become doubly brilliant? I hadn’t read my co-authored books before, and when a chance came to read such a book, I jumped at it. Private India is written by Ashwin Sanghi (author of The Rozabal Line) and James Patterson (of Alex Cross series fame). Two good authors, writing a book in the genre I love the most, crime thriller fiction.
Detectives: Private is a private investigation firm with offices in various countries. Santosh Wagh, head of Private’s Indian office is someone who has been traumatized by an accident in his past, and as a result, has become an obsessive drinker. He also has a cane, which kind of reminds me of Dr. Gregory House. He’s friends with the police, has a team which respects him and a team which is equipped in every aspect possible… tech head Hari Padhi who takes any way he can to find a connection, medical examiner Mubeen who has a strong work ethic, Nisha Gandhe who is very observant etc. Frankly, though each of the Private India unit has a notable trait or two, none of them have anything memorable or different in their character. Neither did any of the other characters for that matter.
Victims: Starting with a doctor based in Thailand, the victims feel totally unconnected. I try to find who’ll be next, in such novels. I think not being able to guess that helps in keeping the pages turning. The sub-plot that later connects all the victims felt very odd. A lot of wide open threads sorted out with some very quick thinking. The silver lining perhaps is that the oddness is lost in the fast pace of the ending.
Motive: The motive is the tried and tested one. Revenge is what drives most murders; these are also driven by that. When it is all crystal clear at the end, the motive feels right. It feels believable to some extent.
Pace: The first few chapters have no pace in them at all. It reads very heavy and it made me wonder if I’d finish the book if that was the pace throughout the book. That the book is split into very small chapters makes it no easier to read. Especially with the killer coming in with a first person view chapter in between other chapters that are in third person. Though I have seen that in some Alex Cross novels, I do not feel that it worked in this. The pace does become quicker once we get into the crux of the mystery, but it does get affected by the sub-plot of the planned terrorist attack.
What’s different? The book that I expected would be absolutely amazing ends up mostly falling on its face. The novel is not only about PI investigating a series of murders but there’s also a somewhat unneeded sub-plot where there is an attempted terrorist attack. The villains are somewhat comically named like Munna and Nimboo Baba which end up giving it a very Bollywood-ish feel, even with an interesting connection between the victims by the way the killer leaves his signature. One must be thankful that Santosh Wagh had read a book which explained the 9 Avatars of Durga, and had the presence of mind to realize that a bull’s horns on a Viking helmet could be the similarity between a victim and the first avatar. The way Santosh uses a team of beggars to keep an eye out on the entire city reminds me so much of Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars. I still don’t know why a certain character, who dies, had to die. It didn’t make sense to me.
Verdict: Perhaps the book would have been much better had the murder case been developed more, and the sub-plots like the terrorist attack, revenge against Wagh, his memory flashbacks etc. left out. A one-time read, and nothing more than that.
Title: Private India
Series: Private Other Offices
Author: James Patterson, Ashwin Sanghi
Genre: Crime Thriller
Publisher: Arrow Books / Random House India
Price: Rs. 350
(27th August 2014)