Before I launch a full-blown review, let me get some numbers out of the way. I mean the ratings.
Readability: 3.5 on 5
Suspense: 2 on 5 (I could guess the killer moment the character was first introduced)
Storyline / Plot: 4 on 5
Overall: 3.5 on 5
One-line verdict: A good one-time read. However, the story, the characters, and the plot won’t really stay with you after you’ve read the book.
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Before the review, let’s try to make a recipe for a bestseller in the crime/thriller category.
- Step 1. Take one portion underdog hero who is battling with his personal demons and alcohol (or drug) addiction.
- Step 2. Throw in a bunch of loyalists who would stand by the hero through thick or thin.
- Step 3. Add at least two people who think that the hero is a bag full of shit and is better cornered into a remand home or something.
- Step 4. Finally, create a villain who has a personal vendetta against someone really really famous. Step 5. And then let the villain plan, plot, execute, and run from the hero, to eventually get caught by the hero, only to turn the tables in the climax, before tables turn one more time to give the hero the upper edge.
- Step 6. Of course, once the dish is ready, as per the taste, sprinkle some steamy scenes, sidekicks (for the hero, the heroine and the villain) and personal histories of all characters.
Private India follows this recipe down to a T. Except for the steamy love scenes. Wonder why did they leave it out.
Anyhow, coming to the story, the lovely city of Mumbai is rocked by a series of murders. Each victim is a famous personality with a vague connection to Bollywood. On each crime site, a series of clues are left alongside each victim and it’s up to our righteous, know-it-all Private Detective to solve the mystery of the clues. And prevent the serial killer from going on a spree. And of course, catch the killer.
There are a couple of side plots as well. Purely to distract us, the readers, from the main story. And to give the book a larger theme per se. But I’d say, the side plot is so weak that they could’ve totally left it out.
So, while the unknown assailant is merrily killing people, the hero is trying to catch up with the killer and the side plot is trying to confuse us, lessons in history happen and we suddenly reach the end of the story! That way, the story flows smoothly. Very smooth. I wish I could write like that.
Coming to the good bits.
- Each chapter is less than 1000 words. Some are even less than 500. So it makes for a very very easy read.
- The story has been penned really nicely. It’s very readable. Clearly, the book has been written for people who probably are new readers.
- One of those fast, pacy reads where the story doesn’t drag at all. The kinds that you can read in one sitting if you are on a beach or on a holiday.
And the not-so-good bits
Despite both of them being very very popular authors, this is the first James Patterson or Ashwin Sanghi that I am reading. And honestly, I expected better. From whatever I have heard, Ashwin Sanghi’s strength is digging up history (or mythology etc) and coming up with interesting takes and twists on those. At least my friends have made me believe so. Private India is nothing like that.
And James Patterson is like the grand-daddy of writing (and thrillers) and each of his book is expected to be a page-turner and unputdownable. As a struggling author, it’s one of my dreams to be able to write as well as he. This one, however, is not really up there.
Maybe its a case of over-promise and under-delivery?
In the end
As I said, it’s a good one-time read. Perfect for a holiday or a vacation. Reading Private India is like watching one of those mindless action flicks where you sit through the film and you enjoy the violence, without applying your brain. And when the movie is over, even though you don’t recall what or why you know that you had a good time watching it.
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P.P.S.: I don’t make any money from these reviews/posts.
Originally published on SG’s Personal Blog.