The successful private series by James Patterson continues its journey through India in collaboration with Ashwin Sanghi as the team of investigators moves from Mumbai to Delhi to give us the next installment in the series called Private Delhi (Book # 13 in the Private Series). Since we enjoyed reading Private Mumbai, we decided to continue with the series and publish our views on it.
|Author||:||Ashwin Sanghi, James Patterson|
Random House; Published: (4 January 2017)
Century; Published: (12 January 2017)
|# of Pages||:||
2090 KB 380 (Kindle EBook)
Let us take a look at the book cover to see how interesting it is.
Now let us have a bird’s eye of the book plot.
When we left them at end of the Mumbai adventure, part of the team had died (namely Hari Padhi), rest mutilated and the office almost blasted off the face of Mumbai. Although they managed to solve the case of what appeared to be ritualistic serial murders of women.
Since then, Jack Morgan has convinced Santosh Wagh to attend a rehabilitation unit in Thailand to cure his alcoholism and so far, it seems to be working. Santosh has now moved to Delhi to head the new office.
Nisha Gandhe lost her husband a few months after her own abduction and “almost murder” in Private India. So she has also accepted the fresh start – moving to Delhi with her twelve year old daughter Maya.
Rest of the team is Neel – a young, urbane, homosexual techno geek and criminologist and of course, the never changing Jack Morgan.
Now Delhi – as most Indians know- is a curious territory when it comes to ruling – it is the capital of India, but it is also a state, so it has a chief minister and it has a lieutenant governor – in this case Mohan Jaswal and Ram Chopra respectively – who are trying to run this city. As the book explains:
Delhi is a strange place. It is not only a state in the Indian federation, but also India’s capital – like Washington, DC. The city’s government is split down the middle: civic administration is managed by the chief minister, Mohan Jaswal, while law and order is managed by Lieutenant Governor, Ram Chopra.
Between them, they represent two of the major political camps in the city and so when Mohan Jaswal hires Private to investigate the gruesome discovery of eleven corpses dissolving in vats of hydrofluoric acid in basement of a state-owned house in Greater Kailash, Santosh Wagh is reluctant to accept. He is afraid that instead of catching the killer, their efforts will be directed to finding dirt that the politicians can use against each other.
However, business is business and money is money. So Private gets on with the investigation. And as the clues slowly appear and information starts to come through, they are also confronted with more murders. In the most macabre fashion, the body of the honourable minister of Health Nikhil Kumar had been drained of blood and left in his home. When Santosh Wagh orders a search based on a hunch to find similar murders, they track back to murder of Rahul, a hospital worker whose eyeballs had been removed. A medically trained killer? And are these murders somehow connected to the body disposal facility in Greater Kailash?
The clues lead them to the Delhi Memorial Hospital and Dr. Pankaj Arora, a reputable surgeon. Soon we meet all the established players in the thriving business of medical tourism – Samir Patel – the chairman of a medical supply company called Surgiquip and Jai Thakkar – CEO of an insurance company named ResQ. We also learn that the last murder victim Nikhil Kumar was a business partner in these companies and not long after his murder, Samir Patel departs on the same journey, in his case his heart is removed out of the corpse.
Neel searches along the lines of organ transplant and medical supplies through the dark internet and traces a business of organ harvesting run by a Delhi goon called Iqbal Ibrahim. Santosh Wagh decides to pay Iqbal a visit, but instead of getting any information out of Iqbal, Santosh ends up in a morgue where he is left to die. Unable to contact him, Jack, Nisha and Neel track his activities for the day and arrive at the morgue only to find him in the refrigerated steel box. Is he dead?
Continuing with the central theme of health and welfare of the book, Nisha’s daughter Maya writes an essay for a competition called ‘Health care: Fair and Square’ and wins a prize at the hand of the secretary of state for health Amit Roy, a paedophile. And while Nisha is accompanying Jack and Neel to track Santosh, Amit Roy abducts Maya after killing her nanny Heena. When the news about Amit Roy goes live on radio, Nisha leaves Jack and Neel at the morgue and rushes home – only to find that Heena is knifed and Maya is missing. Is she too late to save her daughter?
You’ll think that these chases and thrills will be near the climax of the story but that is not the case. The Private team still must find the killer, while trying to navigate the political minefield where the alliances are quickly shifting now. Delhi police forges an uneasy collaboration with Private and while they pursue a completely wrong person, the real killer carries on with his mission. With his diversionary tactics, he manages to achieve the target he set out with and almost becomes an object of public admiration. Can the private team stop him from becoming a martyr?
After Mumbai, Delhi is the most logical place for the Private adventures – what with its political background, the cultural clash of Old vs New Delhi, the newly developed techno territories like Gurgaon and Noida and its almost central location in North India and closeness to international borders, Delhi provides a very apt background for explosive crime thrillers. There are so many worlds living in this city and so many people who come here every day to make something of their lives.
And Private Delhi makes good use of these elements. As we are introduced to several characters in rapid succession and the changing nature of their friendships and animosity, there are many tracks available as red herrings and anyone could be the killer depending upon where you are in the book. The killer’s connection to Varanasi, a background in army cum newspapers and the medical skills are the common attributes to many characters in the story fuzzing the real killer and creating a puzzle about the identity – making this a good ‘who-dun-it’.
True to its crime thriller genre, the story has a pace, but after the thrill of Heena’s murder and Maya’s abduction, the rest feels a bit anti-climactic.
While the murderer in Private India talked to us first hand and was an established psychopath, here we are told about the murderer – who calls himself a Deliverer – in a third person narrative. Here is a glimpse into his thoughts:
Death is the great equalizer. The Delivered had seen hundreds of corpses being cremated at the burning ghats as he grew up in Varanasi. From ashes to ashes, from dust to dust. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, king or beggar, saint or sinner. The river Ganges could wash away your sins, if you were cremated by its banks, you could also be guaranteed salvation if your ashes were immersed in the river.”
The Deliverer is a child of extreme circumstances and had to start killing very early. Although he becomes a serial murderer – he also is portrayed as a vigilante – and there are two lines of thoughts presented in book to both justify his behavior and that ‘A killer is a killer’.
So, there is food for thought. Do we ever have an excuse for taking the law and order in our hands because the system is too corrupt to deliver justice to the common man of India? The political frustration, the long waiting in judicial system, the rampant bribery and corruption and worst of all – no access to quality healthcare at low prices – Is it ever going to change or is India forever doomed to inefficient governance and misery for its people?
And can one man’s efforts change it all? What can we all do to bring about such a change? Is armed resistant our only option:
Essays are a start. They’re a good start, but in order to effect true change – real, profound change – we need to show those who exploit us that we are not prepared to take it any more. And to do that we have to take up arms.
The vast amount of money involved in the business of Medical Tourism has made it one of the very lucrative businesses to be in, and where there is money – there is crime. The ethics of organ harvesting are questionable even when it is done legally, not to mention the flourishing side business where innocent people are robed off their kidneys or liver without their consent or under threats and for very little money.
We also have seen the importance of transporting the organs in suitable containment and through tight timelines in recent films like Traffic. The fact that post-operative care is much cheaper in India has also been shown in movies like The Marigold Hotel. And the capability of our Doctors is unquestionable. But once again, just because the general perception of the medical profession remains that they are angels of mercy and humanitarian, not all doctors are alike, and we see more and more doctors focusing on the pockets of the patients rather than their illnesses.
All these observations and trends have been nicely captured in Private Delhi and we think it gives the book a bit more depth compared to Private Mumbai, although it takes a little bit away from the pace. Saying that, it is still an enjoyable and swift read.
There are a few idiosyncrasies in the book which remind you that one of the writers is not from India e.g., Beach reads is not an Indian thing, it comes from the western world where the summers are enjoyed on a beach with a light reading type of book. Or that Indian houses/offices rarely have wallpapers – they are usually painted, plastered brick walls. Neither do most traditional Indian kitchens have bread knives as we don’t make loaves of breads…
We also had a chance to listen to this book in audiobook format and we must say – it was disappointing. The characters in audiobook come across as whining and simpering. Surely Indians don’t talk like that in normal life? Considering the fantastic quality of audiobooks out of there, this could have been much better.
As usual we would like to share a few bits and pieces from the book:
Although not as effective as the descriptions of Mumbai – the summary of the atmosphere of Delhi is quite likeable:
Delhi was a vibrant, colourful mix of cultures old and new. A genuine melting pot. To Jack it felt as though Delhi’s entire history – Hindu Rajputs, Muslim Mughals, and Christian Englishmen – all came to him through the open window of the car, and he breathed it all in – good and bad – breathing its very essence
To sum up the plot nicely:
Ram Chopra and Mohan Jaswal are at war anyway – a political war, I should add. Chopra’s name is connected to the house in Greater Kailash where the bodies were found, and we think he’s been doing deals with a medical corporation called Surgiquip, run by Samir Patel – the recently deceased Samir Patel. Somewhere in the mix we have an insurance company called ResQ – a company run by Jai Thakkar, a friend of Jaswal’s, who has fallen out with Chopra.
We make the erroneous assumption that healthcare is an industry. Ultimately, healthcare is a humanitarian service. Our objective must necessarily be to provide the healing touch to millions of Indians.
But how will that ever happen if we do not have world-class hospitals and infrastructure? Spending on healthcare is just about five percent of India’s GDP. That’s abysmally low. We have a system that is patchy, with underfunded and overcrowded hospitals and clinics, and woefully inadequate rural coverage. It is only private participation that can overcome these limitations.
And thus allow your private corporations to make millions?
We know Santosh Wagh has been dealing with death of his family for a few years and the advice he gives to Nisha to cope with her loss reflects a lot in two small sentences:
When you learn to leave behind all the guilt and regrets, the what-ifs and what-might-have-beens. It gets easier. Getting rid of these things is the hard part. Choosing how to do it is the trick.
And a very apt quote about the Indian fascination with print media:
In New Delhi, the commonly accepted joke was that the Times of India and The Indian Times were read by people who ran the government; the Indian Express was read by the people who used to run the government. The Mail Today was read by the wives of the people who ran the government. And the Hindu was read by people who thought the government ought to be run by another government. The readers of the Delhi Times weren’t bother about who rang the government…
All in all, an enjoyable book…
7.5 out of 10.
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