Private India is your regular potboiler set in the backdrop of Mumbai. I actually stopped reading James Patterson books long time ago. I had liked couple of Alex Cross novels such as Along came the Spider. However, his later mystery books and even non-mystery books such as ‘Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas’ were very boring, I was forced to give up.
James Patterson has made quite a living from collaborating with different authors and even working with ghost writers. It seems he likes ‘more to conjure up plot than craft a story sentence by sentence’. Private India is one such collaboration; it is part of Private series. Private is an international detective agency; and indeed Private India has a branch in Mumbai.
This book starts on a very promising note for me. It opens with an intriguing first of many killings by a serial killer. There are whole lot of props staged around the murder scene. For someone who has watched so many Criminal Minds episodes (with pleasure if I may confess), it was very promising mystery. There are about 116 short chapters divided into two parts. First few chapters also promise a bit of steaminess – an integral part of any pulp fiction. However, that promise will fail to deliver.
Private India headed by Santosh, a ‘recovering’ alcoholic is investigating the serial killer murders along with Mumbai police. While the chase is on for the serial killers, there are is also a subplot about terrorism (how can it not be after 26/11), predictably involving babas and dons. And since the book is set in India, we are not even missing a touch of Hindu mythology and the cult of thugs. It often feels like you could go around all of Mumbai by following the locations in the book. Since Private worked with the government, the contrast between forensic facilities at disposal of a private firm and the government facilities was interesting but predictable.
Two things that I didn’t like were writing style and couldn’t find a character I could bond to. At least if you don’t relate to the investigator, you at least should want him to win. I was non-committal as a reader to the investigators. Perhaps Nisha, another member of the private team, came bit close to be relatable. It was always easy to make out the red herrings were and I wondered why the lead investigator couldn’t. Writing is very repetitive and very cheesy at times. I have lost count the number of times author focused on Santosh’s drinking. Too much effort has been made to explain the obvious. The book could easily have been trimmed by 150 pages at least.
And yet I would say, this book was better than I expected. But then I expected little. Treat it as a fast read with not much expectation of brilliance and you should be good.