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Sunday, 15 January 2017

Private Delhi by James Patterson & Ashwin Sanghi (Private, #13) - Book Review

3.5/5 Stars

Plastic barrels containing dissolved human remains have been found in the basement of a house.

But this isn't just any house, this property belongs to the state government.

With information suppressed by the authorities, delving too deep could make Santosh a target to be eliminated...


Edition: Kindle
Pages: 380 (roughly)
Chapters: 112
Publisher: Cornerstone Digital

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Amazon
                      Author's Website

Review

I've been anticipating another collaboration between James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi since reading their earlier team effort Private India. My wishes, as is obvious, have been answered in the form of entry number thirteen to Patterson's Private series: Private Delhi.

Equally obvious is the fact I might have over-anticipated the novel. It doesn't quite live up to my experience with Private India, but it is by no means a slouch. Private Delhi is a clever political thriller that displays cutting conspiracies and rich gluttony.

It does stumble in its first half as it falls victim to a lot of telling over showing. Characters are a mixed bag, and the pace and writing don't solidify until the latter half of the book. 

Synopsis

A murderer is on the streets.
All of India is watching.

Santosh Wagh quit his job as head of Private India after harrowing events in Mumbai almost got him killed. But Jack Morgan, global head of the world's finest investigation agency, needs him back. Jack is setting up a new office in Delhi, and Santosh is the only person he can trust.

Still battling his demons, Santosh accepts, and it's not long before the agency takes on a case that could make or break them. Plastic barrels containing dissolved human remains have been found in the basement of a house in an upmarket area of South Delhi. But this isn't just any house, this property belongs to the state government.

With the crime scene in lockdown and information suppressed by the authorities, delving too deep could make Santosh a target to be eliminated.

Plot - 3.5/5 Stars

Private Delhi continues Patterson's trend of, well, Patterson. Some people might say formulaic, but I prefer to describe it as a normally winning, thrilling structure. And, for the most part, in that area it does well, with the exception of the first half. An intriguing, gruesome case opens with political conspiracies that are riveting, but from there the authors try to move too fast. Great leaps in logic are made, or, better yet, there are moments where characters reach conclusions on very little empirical evidence and just go with it.

Investigation be damned.

Things do come together, but there's a slight lag between the cast's eureka moments and the reader's a-ha ones. The plot is trying to be intense far too early in the game when the story it tells needs a softer touch.

The second half, though, does some mighty fine work at fine-tuning threads. Action, severity, and psychotic politics merge to form some hooking events. As the tapestry of terrifying operations unfolds, Patterson and Sanghi cultivate some of the intensity the book's beginning misses.

When the finale swings round, events coalesce to offer some insightful food for thought centred on the novel's themes of political corruption, selfishness, and the helplessness of those burdened with poverty.

Pace - 3/5 Stars

As is standard for the series, Private Delhi moves forward at a brisk pace, which works for and against it. It moves from exposition to exposition so quickly that it's hard to keep all those ducks in a line. Scenes can be cut short in such an abrupt way that quite a few times I thought parts of the novel were missing.

The second half does redeem itself with a smoother progression, so if you can push past a jumbled first stage, you will be rewarded.

Characters - 3/5 Stars

Santosh Wagh provides the typical problematic protagonist. Well, not problematic, but haunted by inner demons (although we never really see these affect his character in a significant way). He's described as a phenomenal detective with keen observational skills (many, many times I might add), but the story sadly doesn't show that. Sure, he reaches conclusions before anyone else based on very little evidence, but it feels more like he's guessing rather than using superior logic and intellect. His family dynamics provide a decent backstory, but Wagh barely leaves a mark.

The book also misses out on an opportunity. Neel, a computer whizz and fellow detective at Private in Delhi, is a homosexual in a country where it's illegal. I thought that, once this was revealed, the authors were going to add it to the commentary surrounding India's culture, but it's glossed right over without a second thought.

Nisha and her daughter Maya provide some emotionally intense developments, but they're like a stone drop in an ocean.

I do love Jack Morgan's cameo role: A wise-cracking American with bundles of charm and intelligence. I look forward to getting back to him and his LA shenanigans.

Writing - 3/5 Stars

Like the pace, the writing begins disjointed and rushed. Private Delhi is prone to rapid shifts in viewpoints, rapid shifts in location and events, and rapid shifts in the cases that don't feel solid enough. It's one of those times, at least for the first 150 or so pages, that Patterson's trademark short chapters works against him.

But like everything else, and infuriatingly, once the plot races for its finale the structure evens and gives a better balance.

Overall - 3.5/5 Stars

Private Delhi feels uneven to begin with, unsure of itself, but once it settles it treats you to a thriller focused on political corruption and medical conspiracies. Its characters remain a mixed bunch, but some surprise with startlingly significant progressions.

And like the plot and cast, the pace and writing sharpen later in the novel, becoming a lot more immersive and tightly intricate.


Previous Instalment: The Games


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