Title: The Shadow Throne
Author: Aroon Raman
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Price: Rs 250
Of late, Indian writing has come to epitomize a different kind of genre rather than what it used to. I remember I had an ‘Indian writing’ phase in reading. I would read Indian authors because I could connect to their stories better and felt at home. Shashi Deshpande and Jhumpa Lahiri were favorites; they still are! But of late I had stopped enjoying the popular fiction genre in Indian writing. It did not add any value to my reading. But it seems things are changing for better. Interesting books are flowing out of different publishing houses.
Well, to cut the long story short, this book offered an interesting premise, unlike anything we have seen recently in Indian writing. ‘The Shadow Throne’ is a fast-paced thriller built around a very topical issue - nuclear attack and are we ready to deal with it. The language was pretty good yet easy to read. The book is actually of small size and it reminds me of the Pocket Books my Dad used to read (a la Surendra Mohan Pathak).
‘The Shadow Throne’ offers enough teasers to pull you into the story – a mysterious murder at Qutub Minar; a victim straight out of antiquity; the uncertain and murky world of Pakistan’s ISI and India’s RAW; a journalist (Chandrashekhar), an inspector (Hassan) and a history professor (Meenakshi Pirzada) find themselves in a conspiracy of a potential nuclear attack on India; and a race against time to save the nation while not knowing whom to trust in the run.
The book begins on an interesting note where Chandrashekhar is reminiscing about his dead wife Yamini. But in no time we find ourselves entranced in a gripping tale of murder, conspiracy, deceit and questionable loyalties. A body is found at the foot of Qutub Minar. The Inspector-in-charge Syed-Ali-Hassan calls in Chandrashekhar, a journalist with whom Hassan has worked in several cases. Chandrashekhar pulls in Meenakshi Pirzada, a history professor and Chandrashekhar’s deceased wife’s best friend, to help him find out more about the victim. This incident spirals into a conspiracy involving RAW and ISI and stretches beyond Indian borders, to Afghanistan.
On the other hand, there is a small group of aborigines in Afghanistan, assumed to be extinct, who are working towards ascertaining their place in the world, at Bamiyan Valley. OK, I admit getting tiny-winy bored in the details of this part. But, overall, the author has been successful in constructing an interesting plot together and creating an exciting spy-thriller that would keep you guessing till the end. A few things were surreal but could be overlooked in favour of an enjoyable read. It sounded so much like a film that I wouldn't be surprised if it got made into one.
I also got a feeling that this could turn into a series. Towards the end, there is a hint that Chandrasekhar could be called anytime if need be. I would certainly look out for the author’s second book.
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