Book Review : Private India : Ashwin Sanghi / James Patterson

This is the first - and I sincerely do hope the last - co-authored book by Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson. Despite it being a page-turner, I am unimpressed; deeply unimpressed. Sorry, Ashwin - I admire your books; read them on pre-order... but this is your worst effort yet. And not because of your fault; it is because of the innumerable horrendous bloopers that fill the book. These bloopers take the fun away, cause irritation - even while the story keeps you turning the pages. The net result is that as you complete the book, the normal satisfaction one has on reading a great book is absent. This is not a book one can read a second time. And the clincher - this did not read as a classic Ashwin Sanghi... variety in writing is fine - but this is too much, sorry!

The plot is simple, and yet totally implausible. A private detective agency is called in by the police, and all investigation of a rather strange murder handed over to it. This murder turns out to be a first in a series of murders, strangely arranged in a peculiar fashion, and all strangulated with a yellow scarf. 

The Indian Police agree to let the Private India setup {A private detective agency} handle the investigation {Wow! Is it that simple? We do have laws, you know! Come on, dont be ridiculous!}. You just request the police officer, who calls his boss, and there you go! Wow, man! I learnt something new in this book! Well, the story picks up from there, and progresses through murder after murder till the final confrontation

The book is fast-paced, relentless and is well written. But there the good points stop. Characterization is minimal, not one single character makes a lasting impact - the entire character plot seems half-done - most unlike Ashwin Sanghi. The constant use of pejoratives and bad words is also totally unlike classic Sanghi, who by-and-large writes clean stuff. The explicit sexual scenes and pointless formulaic vulgarity add nothing to the story, and make for poor reading.

I am on record in his other reviewed books on my blog - praising cleanliness of writing, as well as effectiveness of the storyline. He is one of our topmost fiction writers, no doubt. But n this book - again, unlike his other books - the story just fails to connect, and does not leave a lasting impact. There isnt even a single character you recall, or which has been adequately fleshed out. All in all, you are left wondering if this is really Ashwin Sanghi? Fine, this is a co-authored book - but it should not have been so far away from his known strengths as to cause massive dissonance. 

To top it all, you have what I can only call pandering to Western Misconception of my Religion,  which has been poorly portrayed coupled with unbelievably poor research and backworking. Again, unlike Ashwin Sanghi. For example, Chowpaty is referred to as "Chowpatty Beach"! {In 26 months in Mumbai & 43 years in India, I have never heard it being referred to as that! It is always called Chowpati / Chowpaty {no double T, or emphasis on T}.

Then you have the history lesson on the Thuggee - which some colonial historians love to refer to as a vast and massive problem {As does this book as well}. Well, I spent one hour reading the 21+ history books in my possession, and could find only one reference - Page 47-48 of Becoming Indian - The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity by Pawan K Varma. This categorically blames the Colonial Historians for massive exaggeration, and states almost the exact reverse of the book. 

Similar is the portrayal of the entire Devi Maa aspect etc.Did you know that Human Sacrifice was a big thing in Medieval India, and even for Devi Maa? Nice of a fiction book to take the trouble educate me. And, if all of the above is accurate, and I am ill-informed - why not give references in a bibliography, as has been done in other works, even those of fiction? 

Critically, all of these have no relation with the story - and what is more, this is patently clear right from the first appearance of the episodes. There are other bloopers - but you get the drift. This is a book that panders to stereotypes about India, and is big put-off for a person like me. These admittedly small points lessen the enjoyment of an otherwise fast-paced action thriller.

Purchase it by all means if you are large-hearted enough to ignore all of the above, or if you are open-minded enough to scroll over these bloopers, and dont care either way. The book is a fast paced thriller, which is ideal for a journey; it is not a book you will enjoy reading more than once. Problem is that the story does not pull you in, and is just plain unbelievable. 

Biased Rating : 1 star out of 5

Fair Rating : 2.5 stars out of 5


  1. it is written by Ashwin and James patterson masters of the thriller genre. What more can you ask for. This book is a perfect mix of gripping storytelling and funny one liners that Ashwin is so famous for. I felt the story was more driven by patterson than ashwin and other than that it is a gripping read which will keep you occupied until you complete it.

    1. To each his own... Glad you liked it!


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