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October 6, 2014

Book Review - 174 : Private India

Crimes against women in India over the past two years set off a wave of outrage and reflection over their treatment in the South Asian country. They also inspired the plot of “Private India,” the latest installment in author James Patterson’s best-selling “Private” series co-written by Ashwin Sanghi, an Indian businessman-turned-best-selling author. Private is called one of the finest private investigation agencies with branches around the world, a smart but obvious technique for Patterson to be in cahoots with writers from various countries and churn out Private Berlin, Private LA and Private London.

Private India is India’s biggest and best detective agency, a branch of Private Worldwide, run by the inimitable Jack Morgan. Santosh Wagh heads Private India, though in this novel, Jack Morgan makes a few appearances and has a substantial role. When visiting Thai surgeon Kanya Jaiyen is killed in mysterious circumstances at the Marine Bay Plaza, Private India gets to the scene first since apparently it is employed by Marine Bay Plaza. The police come by later, but they are happy to let Private India get on with it, since they are overworked and have their hands full.

It begins with a murder, goes on to take reader around town in Mumbai (with stops in exotic places like Dharavi and the Parsi Tower of Silence in Malabar Hill), and ultimately tries to find a fine balance between Hindu mysticism, current affairs issues like violence against women and the grit of an all-American spy thriller. Problem with the book is mainly that it tries too pack in too much, sacrificing logical consistency and ignoring fatal loopholes.

It does maintain a brisk pace, but as we move forward in the narrative it fails to maintain that tension despite a very strong and interesting 100 pages or so. The main mystery becomes repetitive (done 9 times to be exact) and that's where it tests patience. I am going with 3/5 for Private India. It would have been much thriller if it was not trying to pack in everything in one book.

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