I loved reading two of Ashwin Sanghi's previous works - Chanakya's Chants and The Krishna Key, and was thus eagerly looking forward to reading his next novel. Frankly speaking I was a bit apprehensive when I learnt that Sanghi and Patterson, two authors with rather distinct styles are collaborating. However, I must say that they have managed to come out with a novel that wonderfully blends the two styles.
'Private India' as the title suggests is the story of the India branch of the worldwide Private investigation agency whose other operations have been detailed in Patterson's previous books in the Private series such as Private LA, Private Games, Private Down Under and Private Berlin. As is now the trend with Sanghi, he has even come up with a YouTube trailer for the novel.
My first impression of the novel wasn't all that great. Though the cover artwork looks impressive, the cover itself seemed too thin and had a very cheap feel to it. On 21st July it has only been released in India, (the cover mentions - edition for sale in India only) and it is only available for preorder as of now in stores abroad. While I am glad for an Indian edition (which I am assuming is a less pricey than other markets edition) I wish the publishers had gone for a better quality cover. It is interesting to note that Private India is the only Private Series novel cover in which the collaborating author’s name (Ashwin Sanghi) appears in a font size larger than Patterson’s! Perhaps that is the reason why, James Patterson’s official website has no mention of Private India at all! It neither finds a mention under the Private Series nor is it listed as an upcoming release. It did not find any mention on his Facebook page on the day of its India release either.
As you would expect from such a book, the novel starts with a murder the investigation of which is handed over to Private India by the police. The Private India team headed by Santosh Wagh, a detective with a murky past and a drinking problem soon discovers that the body discovered in the hotel is only the first in a long series of victims strangulated to death by a ritualistic serial killer. Ashwin Sanghi's usual touch of adding historical and mythological flavour to his thrillers comes to the fore as the investigators begin to unravel the mystery behind the killer's very elaborate rituals. While the murders remain the central theme of the novel, the tale soon branches out in a way that Private India is left to tackle not just a serial killer on the loose in Mumbai but also threats to its own existence.
The best part about the novel is how almost every chapter ends with a cliff hanger leaving you wondering what is about to happen next. The authors have managed to pepper the narrative with innumerable red herrings and the narration makes the reader constantly suspect different characters. The hints of betrayal of Private from within manages to keep the reader at the edge of his seat. About halfway through the novel, the Private India team is also joined by Jack Morgan, the worldwide head honco of Private. The book is divided into more than a hundred very short chapters. Most chapters are only about 4 pages long and the shortest one is just a couple of paragraphs. With each chapter the narration jumps from scene to scene and the narration from the point of view of the bad guys is scary enough to send a chill down the spine. Rapidly changing point of views along with the cliffhangers kept me completely hooked and I finished the book in much less than two days.
The trail of the killer takes the investigators around various Mumbai landmarks such as the Film City, Dharavi, Taj, Tower of Silence and onboard Mumbai's suburban trains. Here Sanghi manages to do complete justice to the city of his residence with detailed and vivid descriptions. He has also managed to weave into the plot begging networks, match fixing, bollywood romances and godmen-politician nexus, thus managing to capture every possible field of murky dealings happening in Mumbai.
The authors take us to an interesting end which is hard to predict or guess. However, while the story of the killer’s identity is satisfyingly concluded, its link with the terrorism related subplots seems rather tenuous at best. Having read Rowling's novel featuring another limp detective just a few days prior to reading Private India, I could not help but feel that the character development is slightly lacking apart from Santosh Wagh's character. I was also left wondering details such as how Jack is personally familiar with Mumbai's underworld dons and how Private continues to investigate without any clear indication of who is picking up the tab.
Despite some of these minor irritants, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Private India. Its rapidly changing points of view along with the awesome cliffhangers kept me completely hooked and I finished reading the novel in much less than 2 days. This 450 page tale is full of suspense and continuous drama and I would not be surprised if it is soon picked up for a film adaptation. A thriller's objective is to keep you turning the pages at the edge of your seat and despite its few shortcomings Private India manages to fulfill this role perfectly!
Rating : 7/10
Private India and other books from the Private Series are available on Flipkart and Amazon.in! Buy them now!
Disclosure : I was supplied with a review copy by Random House India.