By Sahil Loomba. Grade A.
The first thing that I did when I came across ‘The Faceless Saldirgan’ by Sahil Loomba was to search up the meaning of the word – Saldirgan. To be honest, I had never heard of this word before, and true to my knowledge, this isn’t an English word either. Surfing through the web I got to know that Saldirgan is a Turkish word which when translated in English would mean an attacker, and assailer or an invader. Going by the title, the book promised to be a thriller, and being a big fan of this particular genre, I hurriedly lapped it up.
2006, Greenwich. The suicide of Ralph Findlay, owner of a leading property firm, devastates his son, Jack. But Jack’s secret threatens to destroy him even more. Because someone knows it, and knows how to use it. A secret that threatens to destroy him and everyone he holds dear, forever.
A chase between Jack and The Saldirgan ensues: raising terrible suspicions, testing loyal friendships and putting lives at risk. Behind a complex and tantalising mystery of identities, is woven a fine maze of truth and fiction.
Is The Saldirgan at the center of this labyrinth?
Or is it the reader who is left trapped within?
There is always an air of uncertainty when one picks up a book by a debut author. You are not aware of what is in store, and the outcome can go in either directions. We do have some sort of expectations when we start reading a particular book. I did too. However, what unfolded next, as I turned the pages, was something that I wasn’t ready for.
I have read Dan Brown. I have read Sidney Sheldon. It isn’t a good practice to compare authors, but Sahil Loomba comes close; really close. The young author starts the story with a thrilling prologue, quoting words from Julius Caesar (and he does that quite often in the book, as it synchronizes well with the plot). The book managed to grasp my attention from the word go, as I turned page after page, experiencing one twist after the other, as if I’m standing on a crossroad, and know not which way would lead to the right destination.
This is a murder mystery, and a unique one in that. There are theories, conspiracies, lies, and burdening truth, and we, the readers, are pulled into the vortex encompassing all these discoveries and betrayals. The plot revolves around Jack Findlay, who takes over the reins of his father, Ralph’s, company FPDC after the latter commits suicide. Or was it really a suicide? The question haunts him, and he finds solace in the company of the beautiful Danielle Beauclarc. Unfortunately, misfortune never fails to leave him, and thus enters Detective John Beckmann, with the mission to solve the puzzle and clear the mess.
The story would have ended like any other crime, thriller or detective novel, had the author not taken the extra effort in pulling in the readers into the narrative. We read the lines, and then as the story unfolds, we realize we have to read between the lines as well. We have to use our own judgement to analyse the situation, ‘cause whatever we are being told is just the tip of the iceberg. The bigger truth lies deeper down, way too deep to be comprehended easily, making the investigation all the more anxious and exciting.
Sahil Loomba does a good job with the climax, and the missing pieces finally fits perfectly into the frame. He manages to answer all the questions that have arisen in the course of the book, but I, as a reader, have my apprehensions. Can a crime really happen like that? There will be arguments and debates on the conclusion, but that doesn’t take away anything from the author’s efforts. In fact, kudos to him for coming up with such a well knit and tight storyline, that never lets you leave your seat, even for a glass of water (and thus you should remember to keep a bottle handy before you start reading this book).
The language is crisp, smooth and quick. There are a few editing glitches, but not more than one or two, and thus can be ignored. Sahil has made sure that the story never bogs down. Loomba keeps the interest alive with introduction of new characters, their behaviours that keep changing over time, and successfully manages to play with the readers’ imaginations. A debut par excellence, ‘The Faceless Saldirgan’ deserves to be in your bookshelves. After all it is not always that we get a book that absorbs us into its pages, and we, in turn, feel like the characters, finding and hunting our way out to the dawn.