27 November, 2012

#BookReview :: The Shadow Throne by Aroon Raman

India faces nuclear armageddon.

A mysterious murder at the Qutub Minar triggers a call to ace journalist Chandrasekhar from his cop acquaintance, Inspector Syed Ali Hassan. The victim is unlike anyone Chandra has ever seen: a white Caucasian male who has all the looks of a throwback to Greek antiquity. Soon after, Hassan calls in to report the case has been taken away from him – in all likelihood by RAW – the Research & Analysis Wing, the uber-agency of Indian intelligence.

What began as a murder enquiry soon morphs into a deadly game of hide-and-seek within the shadowy world of Pakistan’s ISI and India’s RAW; and Chandra, his friend history professor Meenakshi Pirzada and Hassan find themselves in a race against time to avert a sub-continental nuclear holocaust. 

As the action moves to its hair-raising climax among the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan, Chandra must face up to the fact that Inspector Hassan is not all that he seems …

Inspector Hassan is called to a crime scene at the very famous Qutub Minar. He calls in his journalist friend Chandra and they are soon joined by Meenakshi, a history professor. The murder victim seems to be a Caucasian white male – only his appearance is like that of an ancient Greek! Soon it becomes apparent that this is not just a murder case. There is something else going on at a much larger scale and not everything or everyone maybe what they seem to be. The trio has to work against quite a few odds to solve this international conspiracy that spans across the borders.

Okay, so it is no big secret that unless it is Amitava Ghosh or Anita Desai, I am not a big fan of IWE. With the bookstores overflowing with titles from youngsters that make me cringe to actual cheesy contents of the books to the overdose of IIM/IIT campus stories, I have been turned off from this genre for quite some time. But then recently, thanks to friendly recommendations and review copies, I have actually experienced some very good writing. From Memoirs to thrillers to short stories, it seems that a new generation on authors are finally emerging who are moving away from stereotype characters using ‘not-so-cool lingo’.

The Shadow Throne by Aroon Raman is one such novel. No it is not a Dan Brown Clone or wanna-be James Patterson. Aroon Raman has instead created his own cliché that has its readers’ attention right from the word go. The complex plot line and the vast area covered by the author keeps us involved throughout. There’s nuclear weapon and then there’s some political drama – both attention grabbers, right? I found the portrayal of both ISI and RAW very interesting. And well, anybody in the Asian subcontinent, or rather everybody in this world knows about the sometimes on – sometimes off friendship and rivalry between India and Pakistan. This novel actually cashes in on it but from a rather different point of view – what if a third party planned to destroy both India and Pakistan? Will the two countries be able to forget the grudges of the last few decades and work together?

The narration of the storyline and the description of the surroundings that the author provides are simply beautiful. The character development is perfect – not too much or too little but just the exact amount of information is provided for us to feel as if we ‘know’ them. The smooth flow of the story and the climax build up are two other things that I really liked – though after the build-up, the climax fell a teensy bit short in my opinion.

Overall, a nicely paced enjoyable thriller that I would recommend to thriller enthusiasts.

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