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Tuesday, Sep 24, 2019

In the Name of God book review: Ravi Subramanian’s thriller isn’t a page turner

Ravi Subramanian’s latest action-packed novel features heists in Dubai, the smuggling of antiques form the Padmanabhaswamy temple and blasts in Mumbai

books Updated: Oct 07, 2017 13:01 IST
Prerna Madan
Prerna Madan
Hindustan Times

There are two traditional ways to write detective fiction. Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes taught us that the characters least likely to commit crimes are usually the ones with a motive and the wit to outdo others.

But Edgar Allen Poe was cleverer. Most readers realize that each author becomes predictable after a few plots and nearly all of them have a pattern. So he crafted a story that would revolutionize murders and crimes. Thus came the second method in Poe’s The Purloined Letter. He put the crime right under the nose of the detective. Camouflaging the most obvious perpetrator is a genius trick that works. Readers are so conditioned to search for the unimaginable that they invert all the obvious clues, forgetting that perfect crimes can be simple too.

In the Name of God, another mystery novel by Ravi Subramanian, takes the first option. It is utterly obvious and the nicest character turns out (or doesn’t, really) to be the culprit of an elaborate scheme. The story ties an unsolved heist in Dubai to the smuggling of antiques from the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala, where actual riches worth billions were unearthed a few years ago. The conspiracy then trails towards the Mumbai blasts and complicates the plot into a fattened, immovable creature.


The novel’s characters -- and it has a lot of them -- are too thinly sketched. The protagonist is no Holmes or Poirot; Kabir Khan is the archetypal good cop-bad cop all in one person. He gets excited and misled easily. Others who rotate between playing the role of his sidekick aren’t as dumb or as endearing as Watson or Captain Hastings. They are reduced to being names that you struggle to recall from among an army of faceless characters, most of whom have reasons to commit the novel’s many murders. Sadly, there’s hardly a spark in any of these characters.

Then there are the many layers of crime. Even Da Vinci Code’s Professor Robert Langdon, filled with the corroded mysteries of Christian mythology, would develop cold feet on attempting to understand all the novel’s ploys. It begins with an unrealistic heist, tries its luck with financial fraud, throws in some cold-blooded murders and blasts, and ends with a corroboration of everything. Yet, its complexity doesn’t outsmart its audience; it just slugs them towards a tiring chase.

Read more: Ravi Subramanian on how to make a bestseller

It seems like Subramanian has checked all the rules for an effective mystery drama but In the Name of God is still not a page turner.

First Published: Oct 06, 2017 18:27 IST