I signed up for the Blogadda book review program and received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. Having read Chanakya’s Chant, I was not too keen on reading another book by this author but since I haven’t read a thriller in a while I decided to take on the review. And hey, it’s hard to say no to a free book, right? 😉 (Review of Chanakya’s Chant here).
Disclaimer done, let’s move on. For those who don’t want spoilers, here’s a two line summary of what follows:
I rate the book 1.5 stars. One star is because I did manage to read till the end. The half star is because the plot had some potential though was full of cliches.
I am not a trained critic. So, instead of deconstructing a work rigorously, I base my reviews on three simple tests.
My first test for a book is the theme. Was the central theme of the book, pardon the pun, novel? Was the story engaging? Did I learn anything new, interesting, or obscure? What was the pace of the book? Was the story told as well as it could be? Private India lags on all fronts for me. While the book does have a central theme, the author brings in too many back-stories and adds too many sub-plots that add nothing to the story. We don’t need terrorists, a serial killer is enough. We don’t need repeated flashbacks. One nightmare is enough.
The second test is the characters. Are the characters well drawn out? Can I relate to them? Do I root for them? Do I understand them? The answer for me is no. The characters lack depth. The author tries to flesh them out by giving each of them a back story but the stories are too stereotypical and flat. I cannot care for Santosh and his whiskey habit. I find it condescending when a character says about a female detective “To know her is to love her a little bit”. Really? Just because it’s a woman? Like I said… Cliches and stereotypes.
My third test is the writing. Sometimes the simplest stories can be so elegantly told that you lose yourself in the book. Halfway through Private India I had mentally switched off and I was reading the book because I had to review it. There is so much explaining and so little showing that it’s hard to stay engaged. Case in point:
Santosh kept quiet. Any reference to drinking inspired loathing and longing within him simultaneously. Loathing for his lack of self-control. Longing for another drink.
By this time we are well aware that the man has issues with alcohol. Do I really need the reasons for the loathing and longing explained to me? It insults my intelligence. It’s insulting because I could have worked it out on my own. (See what I did there?). The great Jack Morgan’s first piece of advice to a supposedly brilliant detective? “Have you tried finding out whether there was anything to link the victims?” Instead of replying “No Einstein, I was a RAW agent once but I didn’t think about linking the victims of a serial killer” our tormented detective gets straight to work. The first draft of this review had much snarkiness here which I’ve edited out but I trust you’ve inferred by now that I was not impressed by the writing.
Bottom line: Read it if you like the Chetan Bhagat and Immortals of Melhua family of books. If you’re looking for a good book by an Indian author, The Missing Queen was a great recent read.