By Shatrujeet Nath. Grade: A+
TKD is one of the riskier moves put forward by an Indian author, metaphorically hanging on the ledge. It could have swung towards being overly clichéd, boringly patriotic and/or woefully propaganda-esque.
But it didn’t.
Project Abhimanyu, an audacious plot hatched by the Raw and Indian Army intelligence to assassinate Mumbai’s dreaded underworld don Irshad Dilawar, who’s hiding in Pakistan and assisting the ISI in its a proxy war against India. Major Imtiaz Ahmed is picked to lead the special ops mission deep inside Pakistan but the ISI and Dilawar are several steps ahead of the Indians. Beaten at every turn, Major Imtiaz is faced with the horrifying realization that Project Abhimanyu has been compromised and his men are being lured into a deadly trap. Set against the backdrop of global terrorism, Shatrujeet Nath’s debut novel is a quintessential spy thriller where nothing is what it seems and treachery is a constant companion.
‘The Karachi Deception‘ is one of the more balanced books I’ve read, and quite surprisingly, captivates the reader with its sheer realism: an aspect seldom found in books of the thriller genre.
Most books of a comparable storyline, Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series (Love it. Brilliant penmanship) for example, rely on a more ‘far fetched’ background when seen from a cynical realist’s eye. It leaves its readers with a “Oh wow, it would be so unbelievably cool if this happened. Snort. Fat chance”. Comparatively, TKD incites more of a “fiction or national secrets? Wikileaks strikes again..” reaction, something I perceive infinitely more difficult for an author to bring about.
The stress on realism here is not a euphemism for the word ‘boring’ is any sense whatsoever; the storyline is absolutely riveting. Less than halfway through the book, one realises that the only bit of predictability in the novel is knowing that, whatever end to a scenario the reader guesses, however realistic or outlandish, it borders on impossibility that one would come across the finalment that the author has cooked for us. None of the jarring realisations dull the sense of shock and awe so exuded by the book.
There are two negatives that deserve a mention while describing this otherwise pristine and blemishless book (or to fulfill my requirement of delivering both sides of the ‘story’, and not appear to be so obviously gushing).
One thing I found exceptionally irksome was the plethora of characters. Agreed, each was beautifully well-defined, but for someone who just can’t recall names of people he’s met three minutes ago (me), shuffling back every twenty pages just to check if this was a new character or someone mentioned before (made the guessing of ‘who-did-it’ all the more fun), it got me slightly miffed. It wasn’t helped by half the characters being army men, making generalisation slightly more difficult.
Another thing slightly distasteful about the book was the ending (The epilogue is brain shatteringly amazing. Spoiler.). Distasteful here stands for ‘leaving you feeling like crucifying the author’. Here is when the delight over realism comes to bite the reader in ‘les haunches’. The story comes to a close exactly how you’d expect it to in a non-fictional atmosphere: quickly, abruptly and without any promise of a sequel. Frustrating to say the least, it makes you view the author in a new light: sitting in a couch with a cigar and glass of scotch, laughing at your plight.
Six out of five. A scintillating read.