Book Review: Private India by Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson

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Mumbai, the financial capital of India, home to the Indian film industry- Bollywood-  is also home to several gruesome terrorist attacks. A city that never sleeps, where you travel through the local trains amidst thousands of unknown faces and yet are able to strike a conversation with some of them. A city that has been the theme of many Blockbuster movies, the den of underworld goons, abode to lakhs of those who come to earn a living in the star studded city, hoping to make it big one day. The city is now in danger. It has been struck by a catastrophe. No, it is no epidemic, no famine, and no flood. But, a series of murder. Eight women are strangulated and their corpses are arranged with strange objects. 

The task of solving this mysterious serial crime lies on the shoulders of Private India, the Mumbai branch of the world's finest investigation agency. Its head, Santosh Wagh, is running against time to prevent the killer from striking repeatedly. Meanwhile, he himself is shrouded by the thoughts of a cop all set to handcuff him for killing his wife and only child. As he battles it out with his past and present, the killer tests Santosh’s patience by not leaving behind any trace at the scene of crime except for a strand of hair, a yellow garrote tied to the neck of the victim, and two strange objects kept around the corpse.

The years-old experience in handling such criminal cases enables Santosh to draw a pattern, supposedly exhibited by the killer. As Santosh and his team- Nisha, Mubeen, and Hari- unravel the mystery of yellow garrotes that have a history dating back to the Thuggee cult; they also discover that the killer has a “fascination” for goddess Durga, which drives him to kill the eight women as per the astronomical dates and days of the nine days long festival of Navratri. But what “fascination” can drive someone to kill innocent victims?

The killer clearly is a misogynist. But why does he hate women? The clues are difficult to narrow down as the only evidence with Santosh and his team is a CCTV footage available from the first scene of crime. As the story unfolds at every step, it becomes murkier and difficult to pin point at just one person. Or is that there are two killers? A man and a woman? But a woman cannot hate her own kind? Or can she? What is the battle all about? 

The case is not as easy as Santosh would think it to be. He is struggling to catch a killer who is being supported or rather protected by Mumbai's biggest gang lord, a godman- who isn't what he looks like to be and even the police force- who too are very much aware of their deeds.

As Santosh along with his able team zeroes down on the killer, with their own team member being the killer's ninth victim; worse is in store for Private India as they too are at the cusp of being destroyed by someone, just like the millions of innocent Mumbai citizens. 

Does Santosh manage to save his team member as well as the Private India? Is he able to break the clout of the gang lord and the godman? Is the police force taken into account for mishandling and misrepresenting its own duties? Who is Private India’s enemy? Is it the killer who is trying to get this organization wiped out? Or is it the police force, who are against Private India being able to solve all cases with ease? Or is it the battle between this organization and another for the top spot? Ashwin Sanghi along with James Patterson weaves out an impressive and fast-paced crime thriller.

Grab your copy of the book to fill in the blanks. Happy Reading!

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