Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review of "Private India" by Ashwin Sanghi & James Patterson

I received this book for review as part of the Blogadda Book reviews  program

"Private India",  published by Arrow Books in 2014, is a book of fiction,  co-authored  by Ashwin Sanghi and  James Patterson. James Patterson has a history of collaborating on other books in this series, , such as Private London, Private Berlin, Private L.A. and so on.  Interestingly, Patterson also holds the copyright to this book, although he is part author.

Random people , seemingly unconnected,  being killed in Mumbai.  The killer apparently has a signature, along with strange items that are left at the scene of the crime, attached to the dead.   The investigation is being conducted by  Private India, the Mumbai Branch of the world famous investigative agency, and their Indian set up is headed by Santosh Wagh, an ex Mumbai cop, aided by Nisha Gandhe , also an ex Mumbai cop. Jack Morgan, the international Head, is also part of it. 

The entire novel is about Santosh Wagh and his team , trying to find out the connection and trend in the objects associated with each murder ,  and in the process  dealing with a string of folks, who appear to be unconnected, but end up being associated with each other in the most terrible way.

I have read Ashwin Sanghi before. There is a lot of research and mythology associated with his books. There is also a seamless flow associated with the narrative in his  books.

Unfortunately , it is not so in this book. It feels like someone made a list of all things  "Mumbai" , and wove a tale around it.

And so you have mentions of terrorist bombings, underworld, corrupt police, folks at high echelons of government associated with  prominent crimes.  You have orphanages, red light districts, kidnappings, mention of forced beggings , fancy spas, page 3 people, women and men in high places in government involved in spurious activities, cops in cahoots with the mafia, police atrocities, abandoned mill land where crimes are done, crimes against women.  

As if this is not enough, there are people undergoing sex change  surgery,  random wanderings into the Parsi Towers of Silence in a semi finale  which pours disrespect  on the dead of the community, by graphic discussions of the so called heroes getting entangled in the remains.

There are a lot of questions. 

The whole idea of Mumbai Police handing over the investigation of something to a private agency  after some cop calls his boss  and gets the OK.  This doesn't happen. Heck,  there are problems transferring investigations from one precinct to another precinct, or between cities, in real life.

Then there is this business of randomly shifting bodies from Cooper Hospital morgue to the posh investigative labs of Private India. It is not as easy as it is described, and the authors seem to have taken a lot of liberties to suit their narrative.

Somewhere in the narrative , the authors have tried to connect RDX, terrorist explosions, dormant  Mujahideen members quietly doing their stuff. The local Don holds the password to stop the carnage.   The connection between the aforesaid murders and this explosion plan, is not very clear.

The Mumbai Police are shown in a very bad way, represented by Rupesh. Everyone , except the police autopsy person, is nameless. To me , this is a very lopsided representation of Mumbai.  I get the feeling that there was more and it was edited out. 

Way at the end, there is a chapter called "Private. Where it all began"  and it says to "turn the page" .   What follows is a bunch of pages totally unconnected to the novel.  Maybe that was intended to be another story.

This book doesn't leave you at an edge , wondering what is next.  You get the impression that Mumbai is full of sleazy , corrupt, evil, mercenary , moneyed types, and you read on to see if some normal type person makes an appearance.  I am just wondering how they left out Bollywood. 

For me, this collaboration of two authors has not worked.  It is , clearly, a step down, from Ashwin Sanghi's earlier books.

I wouldn't buy this book. Period. 


  1. Hey! Nice and honest! I liked your review!

  2. Bollywood; Lara Omprakash

    Private where it all started: it's a reference to the first private novel in the series...most fictions these days include extracts from their upcoming books. In this case, since it's a first time in India maybe they included the first story from the private series.

    1. Suranga Madam,
      I was so eager to know about this book. Thanks to you , now I know the gist.
      Your review is just perfect. You have pointed out all the loopholes , demerits with proofs.
      I am sure , you liked Shantaram by G.D. Roberts , though it has lots of fantasy.