“Private India”: Once Upon A Time In Mumbai…
21 August, 2014
The story starts with the 2006 Mumbai train Bomb blasts and ends with the prevention of another similar attack on Mumbai: a sub-plot (involving Pakistan’s ISI and the Indian Mujahideen) and is incidental to the main story of serial murders.
I bought a copy (I suppose, like most Indian readers) only because of the American/Indian writer collaboration.
I have not read any of Patterson’s “Private” series though I am an inconsistent fan of his “Alex Cross” and some of his stand-alone novels.
The closest (but distant) genre that this novel comes to is Robin Cook’s “Foreign Body” (2008) that was based in India: an absorbing medical-thriller despite the bad reviews.
“ Private India” has enough twists to merit a satisfying read, despite poor characterisations.
In any case Patterson has never cared much for descriptions, believing it dents the story telling.
This is breezy airport/railway/vacation reading (short, chunky one-incident-per-chapter that sometime has only few paragraphs. Chapter 116 for example has only 3 lines) with instant gratification and immense satisfaction but it’s no Dan Brown/ Grisham, not that Patterson/Sanghi care.
Seemingly random women are being killed and the Indian Branch of “Private” (an international investigative agency) headed by an alcoholic with a troubled past, and his motley staff, is called to explore the murders.
The murders are baffling as all are women and have no similarities to each other.
Yes, there is an accidental killing of a male, but with a different motive.
Apart from the victims, there is also an ACP (Assistant Commissioner of Police) who is not who he seems, a married attorney-general with a roving eye, a perverted Godman (aren’t they always?) and a Robin-Hood like “Don.”
As the story proceeds, all things fall into place, methodically, and more importantly, convincingly.
Every connection to the victims (that initially appears chaotic) is traced to the murders in a pat-ending.
The simplistically-narrated tale also includes exploitation of underage boys/girls, begging-syndicates, match-fixing, adultery, dance-bars and prostitution….
In a clever marketing move, the Indian edition has Sanghi as the prominent author and Patterson’s name in smaller writing and vice-versa in USA/UK editions.
This 470 page-book has 20 pages of extracts from the first “Private” novel.
Along with the main story it’s the small parts/paragraphs that are readable.
The description of the sari’s sensuousness, the reason behind the ACP’s hatred of the main protagonist, the Politician/Mafia link-ups and the Page-Three parties…..
An obligation to a “Don” to seek vengeance by an important character (for a rape) has shades from Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather”, also seen in Feroz Khan’s 1975 hit film “Dharmatma.”
Patterson/Sanghi suggest that terrorists are born, not made (a racially motivated crime makes one person turn patriotic, and another, a terrorist)
The writers have obviously kept the international audience in mind as though the Indian characters have Indian names, the dialogue seems artificial.
Also included are many of the Mumbai’s sights/locations from Colaba to Chowpatty, Arthur Jail to The Tower of Silence, Haji-Ali to the Navratri festival, Five-Star Hotel/Cocktail parties to Wikipedia-like descriptions of the Mumbai trains, Dharavi: Asia’s biggest slum and Kamathipura : the red-light area.
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