James Patterson is an internationally bestselling author, whose thrillers have sold more than 300 million copies. Ashwin Sanghi is an Indian Dan Brown and has struck gold in recent years with his mythology-laced thrillers The Rozabal Line and the Krishna Key.
In a high-profile collaboration, the two brought us Private India, the eighth installment of Patterson’s Private series in which ace sleuth Jack Morgan collaborates with local detectives from various nations.
Private India is set in Mumbai. A devious serial killer on the loose. The twist: the murders are connected to Indian mythology. Bodies turn up as caricatures of the nine incarnations of goddess Durga.
We think the “joint effort” would have been better served penning a Bollywood screenplay. Here’s why:
1. Everything in the book is over the top. The detective agency is the world’s largest, and has gleaming labs with high tech equipment and techies who can hack into any database except remove their own identification chips. The perfect lab for the perfect hero.
2. The writing brings together all the clichés about Mumbai: Bollywood, the police and the underworld. Corrupt cop – check. Damsel in distress – check. Don with a heart of gold – check. Female cardboard cutout characters – check. The murdered director and the singer both are eerily reminiscent of Jacqueline Fernandez’s “character” in Kick – they exist to further the hero’s courageous exploits.
3. The unlikely hero is (surprise!) a troubled cop with an all-too-familiar backstory. There is family tragedy, the protagonist blames himself for it, and has eyes “that had seen too much pain”. Remember Talaash, anyone? Of course, Sanghi has thrown in a hint of adultery.
4. The underworld is not such a bad place. The don almost kills a terrorist who asks for a consignment of RDX. “I may have my faults but I don’t do business with terrorists,” he says, making it clear he won’t support an “attack on Indian soil”. Sallu – the evergreen Robin Hood – would approve.
5. Bizzare fight sequences. Atop Mumbai’s Tower of Silence between a cop and a detective who hides a sword inside his cane. Vultures circle overhead and eventually eat the body of the vanquished corrupt cop, who falls into a death pit after losing his balance.
From HT Brunch, August 3
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