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Book Review: Private India

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Title: Private India
Author: Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson
Publisher: Arrow Books
Genre: Mystery/ Thriller
Price: Rs. 269 on Amazon
Pages: 470

The gist of this book is what made me sign up for the review. Indian mystery novels are known to be blah, but this one seemed interesting. And within a week, the book was shipped to me. The first thing I noticed was that it was thick and had 470 pages and that it was signed by the author. I thought it would take me atleast a week to finish it, but surprisingly I was done with it in two days. Yes, the book was interesting enough to keep me occupied with it. But the story line? Hmmm, lets get straight to it.

As the name suggests the book is all about Private India, a branch of Private Worldwide, a private investigating agency founded by Jack Morgan. The Indian head for this is Santhosh Wagh, who looks and feels like a poor caricature of Dr. House and is constantly battling his alcohol addiction and his dark past. So much that he arrives at crime scenes stinking of brandy, which all of his co-workers notice but wouldn't dare to say anything. Not sure why. Santhosh's aides are the cliched hottie Nisha, the forensic expert Mubeen and the tech wizard Hari. The other main protagonist today here is Inspector Rupesh, who comes with an agenda of his own. There are some super bollywoodish characters too like a don called Munna and a Godman called Nimboo baba. Yes, Nimboo as in lemon. A charismatic public figure too forms a part of the tale. He is the Attorney General of India, called Nalin D'Souza. Whenever he popped up in the story, I was reminded of Shashi Tharoor in my head. Maybe the charisma. Or maybe the women he is associated with.

Chapter one starts off with the murder of a foreign national. Private India is asked to look into it. And before everyone knows, more bodies start dropping. Only women are being killed and most of them do not have a connection with each other. Directly. But all of them are linked to the killer in some way. Each victim is found the same way, strangled with a yellow scarf and surrounded by weird religious artifacts like eggs, dolls, a bucket of water etc. As creepy as it sounds, it is these artifacts that help in finding a connection in the killing pattern. The entire story is set in Mumbai with ample use of iconic places in the city. Private India goes out of their way hunt the killer and in the bargain end up saving the entire of Mumbai from a terror attack. Yeah, two mysteries in one!

The main story is brilliant. I did not guess who the killer is and just kept turning pages. The ending was least expected and unique in a way of its own. But the book is let down by its amateur execution. Some twists are straight out of bollywood movies and the language was equally disturbing. Sentences like "She had one of the best bodies he had ever had the pleasure of pleasuring" irritated me. The language is very layman is feels like two people talking throughout the book. The scenes in which Santhosh talks to the killer in his mind are outright hilarious. Come on, "You bastard, what are you thinking? Why are you messing with my head?" sure is silly and annoying. And this happens almost throughout the book. When the forensic expert announces that the bodies are ready for autopsy, the author using the metaphor "Like a baker announcing a fresh batch of bread from his oven". I mean, seriously?

Most of the book is a narrative, but the chapters involving the killer are in first person. It was distracting and disturbing at the same time. At times it did not feel that it all was a part of the same book. Unnecessary angles take away the essence of the main story, which is a stand out in itself. Involving Pakistan's ISI and Indian Mujahideen to form a parallel plot was not a good idea. This plot falls damp and out of place when compared to the actual serial killing. The motive for killing is justifiable and the story that follows the revelation of the killer is awesome. Totally unexpected and really unique. I haven't read of such killers in Arthur Hailey's or Thomas Harris's books. The main plot stands out in this book, but I so wish that they had used proper language and ignored the side plots.

At 460 odd pages and 116 chapters, this book is a tedious read. It needs a lot of edits and could have easily been contained under 300 pages. I don't know how this co-authoring thing works, who writes what and whose ideas are prominent. But all the end of the day, this one sure is a good book. Also, with a good scope of improvement.

Verdict: The mystery alone is worth it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!


  1. I will definitely buy a copy. All the reviews I've been reading makes it sound promising. But like you said, when two authors write a book together, famous ones at that too, more care should be given for the editing process.

  2. Everytime I see book reviews it reminds me the long list of unread books that I have :( But loved the unbiased and rational review I must add

    Random Thoughts Naba - Sailing through with Sheer Willpower...

  3. I am still thinking about the BAKER thing. Hmmmmm......

  4. Our ratings match and some thoughts too :D

  5. OMG!!!
    470 pages is too much..
    I am getting the book for review too...
    And I am thinking if I am still excited!!!

  6. Bodies waiting for autopsy and fresh bread from the oven. That really is disturbing !

  7. Okay that baker line made me chuckle... :P I have just never been a fan of Indian writing - terrible editing in most cases don't you agree?! The only Indian book I absolutely fell in love with was The God of Small Things, which was flawless in its brilliance. I think we have a long way to go, to reach the kind of bar that the international standard has set.

    1. I completely agree. The God Of Small Things was flawless in literary terms, but I found the book really boring :(

  8. I feel like reading this book. But then I'm also having second thoughts about it.

  9. At the end of reading this book I completely relate to your opinion, the bread and the oven made me grin too :-P

  10. that is a thick book then .. I dont have patience that much :)


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