Private India, co-authored by Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson has been one of the most awaited thrillers. James Patterson is synonymous to grisly, spine chilling murders while Ashwin Sanghi enjoys weaving stories around mythology and history.
The setup for murders this time round is heart of Mumbai where both the authors have plotted a bout of murders and a murderer who continues to elude Mr Santosh Wagh, the protagonist of the book and the mastermind behind cracking this mystery.
He is also the head of the most elite investigative agency Private India – it is from here the book has drawn its title – that caters to the rich and powerful. Wagh carries with him a tragic past that left him with a limp and an unwavering addiction for alcohol. There are certain traits in Mr Wagh that bear a striking resemblance to Dr. House, the heart and soul of a popular telecom M.D. House.
Just like House, Wagh too has a team of three under him that include Nisha, Mubeen, and Hari who assist him in cracking the murders.
Private India is entrusted with a case where women are being murdered at random and a yellow garrote is left behind as a mark of the killer. Besides the garrote, the strange props placed on and around the corpse turn out to quite befuddling for the investigators.
The first murder takes place on the first day of Navratra, a festival that is celebrated over the period of nine days to worship the goddesses. In accordance there are a total of eight murders while the ninth victim is saved in nick of time.
The successive murders thicken the plot as well as the confusion by bringing in too many new characters. The multiple angles forced me to flip back to a few pages in order to get hold of the plot… again.
The next couple of murders introduce the readers to a gangster Munna who is also a feared druglord. His story pans out as a little boy who rebels against the then drug lord and takes over the streets himself. Munna enjoys quite a reputation with the rich and powerful of not only the country but world too.
Next in tow follows Nimboo Baba, a revered holy man who is worshipped by millions and considered to be the master of their destiny. However, Nimboo Baba is involved in every major crime and a financier of all the illegal activities. He too has a role in the plotting of murders.
There is a corrupt police officer too who has a habit of chewing ‘premium’ quality of tobacco bough from the black-market.
By now we have a detective, murderer, gangster, baba, and a corrupt police officer; the story seems to be a jigsaw puzzle of pieces ripped from different Bollywood movies. There are many more characters, but after a point I lost track of them.
While reading the book there came a point when I simply decided to skim or skip pages depending on my patience. The pace seemed to be quite a drag and after two hundred plus pages I couldn’t wait to keep down the book. I no longer wanted to know the murderer’s identity.
In the last few pages, the ninth victim’s melodramatic monologue and part conversation with the perpetrator again took me back to the much exploited scenes from countless movies. The book lacks pace, thrill, incisive narration, and novelty of concept. It turned out to be quite disappointing considering that the two luminaries of the literary world have authored this piece. More so because having read brilliant page turners by the two this book fell short of all my expectations.
On second thoughts I think I forgot to mention something: well, there was an impending terrorist attack that too by ‘Mujahideen’. Now, isn’t that cliched?!