Tuesday, 2 October 2012
When I first read the blurb about this book on Blogadda, I thought the premise seemed interesting and it would be worth taking a look at a thriller set in the current Indian scenario, written by an Indian author. Humphrey Hawksley had used a large Indian setting in The Third World War and other authors have written tales set in various parts of India, but this is the first thriller I read, set in the present Indian national political scenario.
Honestly, the book took me by surprise. It arrived on Friday and I carried it with me on our weekend road trip. We completed an extremely hot and dusty exhausting journey into the Little Rann of Kutch on Saturday and had more in store for Sunday. After a refreshing bath, I was just planning to skim a few pages before I dropped off to sleep and the next thing I knew, I was half way through the book. I had to force myself to shut the book and turn off the lights, so I could get at least a couple of hours sleep. We returned on Sunday after a full day of sightseeing in the heat. It was another quick bath and then everything else (including dinner) was put on hold until I finished the book. And THAT is how gripping this book is!
The book opens with Chandra, an investigative journalist who has recently lost his wife to cancer being called to a murder scene at the Qutub Minar by Inspector Syed Ali Hassan. The dead mans skull is flat on the back and its not the fall that has caused it. Then begins a high octane whirlwind chase across India, Pakistan and their respective multiple investigative agencies.
With the help of his wife's friend history professor Meenakshi Pirzada, they figure out that the dead man is actually a Kushan - a race thought to have been extinct centuries ago. And the chase heads towards the Hindu Kush mountains and Bamiyan in Afghanistan.
Do the Kushans still survive? Who is on which side? Who is playing whom? How is China involved? How large is this conspiracy? Who is the puppet master? What is the Shadow Throne? Who has claims to this throne? The questions come fast and furious and the action moves as quickly as an episode of "24".
The story ends on a note which makes me belive that it will spawn a series of sequels and Chandra, Hassan and Meenu will star in all of them. If Aroon Raman can maintain the pace and tell us as engaging tales as he has in this one, I will definitely be buying them all.
Aroon Raman has researched his subject extensively and briefly explains technicalities that the reader may not be conversant with. In this way he differs from my other favourite Indian thriller - Ashwin Sanghi's The Rozabal Line - where I was constantly googling for more information as I was reading, which was a bit distracting. This makes The Shadow Throne, easy to finish in a single sitting, given how taut the story line is.
My only dissonance with this book is that I couldn't get my head around how effective Aroon Raman's fictionalised version of RAW and Indian Military Intelligence is. The actions and decisions are more FBI and CIA like in efficiency, than Indian.
A brilliant well paced book, definitely a must-read for anyone who enjoys thrillers, India-Pakistan relations and politics.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Also read Brajesh's Review of the Shadow Throne
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