Private India (Arrow Books, 2014) is a brand new book from prolific crime writer James Patterson and Indian author Ashwin Sanghi. This is part of a new series called Private, with place-specific editions like Private Berlin, Private LA and Private Down Under. I’ve possibly read every book that James Patterson wrote. Right from the beginning, I’ve enjoyed his work – it was dark, edgy and different from the other crime writers I had read until then . Remember the whole nursery rhyme series with Detective Alex Cross (Along came a spider, Jack and Jill, Roses are Red, Pop goes the weasel)? Patterson stopped his solo novels soon after (and began churning out dozens of books with other writers). I must admit I don’t enjoy his collaborative work so much – that Patterson edge doesn’t quite show up in the collaborative books. I haven’t read any of Sanghi’s earlier work so I can’t comment on it honestly either.
The Patterson books have a certain formula – short chapters, multiple murders, deliberate clues left behind by the killer baiting the cops, a story tying up the clues at the end. Private India runs along the same lines, but for the first time, with an Indian context. Private India is the Mumbai branch of a worldwide elite investigation agency with Santosh Wagh at its helm. Wagh’s team gets roped into solving a murder, then another. Before you know it, prominent actors, politicians, yoga instructors and socialites are getting killed – and they are all women.
In true Patterson style, the killer leaves a signature behind. And some deliberate tokens. It is up to Wagh and his team to figure out who is behind these ghastly killings and stop the murderer.
Apart from killers, Santosh Wagh has his own demons to chase. He’s got a “psychosomatic” limp, a casualty of an accident that claimed his wife and son, which has left him dependent on not just a cane, but also alcohol to get through the day. Wagh’s character reminded me instantly of Hugh Laurie’s House where Laurie has a similar dependence on a cane (which is a convenient device when needed). I’m not saying any more.
Private India is a complete pot-boiler and would probably make a hit Bollywood movie. It has all the elements – corrupt cops, cricket matches, smugglers, dingy dance bars with underage girls smirking at mafia dons, Muslim suspects, beautiful female cops who get into trouble and need to be rescued, the ISI and the squalor of the “charming yet repulsive” city. There’s also a reference to an “Indian fusion group – Samudra” which reminded me of the popular Indian Ocean band.
The story had all sorts of twists and turns keeping you guessing who the killer was. The revelation is a surprise of sorts – it makes you want to blink and say “Really?!” Personally I felt that including the ISI angle was unnecessary and played to the gallery. It didn’t add to the story but ended up annoying me for its stereotypical characters and plot.
Overall, the book was a fun read and Indian readers might like the local touches.
I received a free copy of this book through Blogadda.com in exchange of an honest review.