Coming to the novel, I think Ravi Subramanian has beautifully intertwined three separate stories of crime, deceit, hope, struggle and triumph to create this gripping read. The novel is “un-put-down-able” right from the start till the very end. The plot is intelligent and thick, it gets complex as it progresses and has all the ingredients of a suspense thriller. Financial crime is the epicenter of the whole plot quite naturally as the author himself is a banker. He has dedicated the novel however not to the bankers but to banksters. “Bankster”- the word being a portmanteau of two words “banker” and “gangster”.
A brief glimpse at the back cover tells us that the story revolves in three worlds- one of a CIA secret agent purchasing arms and playing with fire as he protects national secrets which are more like skeletons in the closet; second one is the story of Mr. Krishna who is waging a lone moral battle against forces whose motives he himself doesn’t quite understand. The third one is the central plot which involves Greater Boston Global Bank i.e. GB2 bank, its employees and the crime saga within. It also tells how a certain Mr. Karan Punjabi investigates the crime and finds the deep-rooted corruption chains in the bank and their horrible extent. The only drawback of reading about Karan Punjabi is that you tend to establish him as the protagonist of the novel and start expecting his arrival since the very beginning. What should be kept in mind is that this is one of those plots where the only protagonist is the story. Karan enters the scene only when half of the story is already over. All characters have been well-thought out and all nuances have been taken care of. That’s why I think the book will appeal to the thinking reader who reads only to find holes in the plot. That is not to say that the writing is perfect. There is a sense of hurry towards the end to solve all mysteries and tie all loose ends which was, in my view, necessary to close down such a complex plot and I think it only adds to the beauty of the novel as there are no loose threads left unattended.
There is liberal use of Hindi words and Hindified English which brings out the characters to life as most of them are Indian. The book is divided into several small chapters which makes it easier to read although sometimes it might get frustrating as the author moves on to another story while leaving one right in mid-air. A curious reader like myself would have to resist the urge to break continuity, flip through a few pages quickly only to find out what happens next. Fighting that urge is basically the fun in reading a suspense thriller and the author completely succeeds in doing that. Speaking of language, I do think there was a scope of improvement in that area but, keeping in mind the sense and sensibilities of a suspense thriller readership, shorter sentences and smaller discourses *are* in fact the demand of the times. The language is kept simple and lucid.
Cover design and artwork is mesmerizing. The city skyline in the backdrop of a gangster with a gun in one hand and suitcase in another sort of idolizes the bankster. No wonder the darker characters in the story have been well-sketched and likable. It would be unfair to mention the names of the dark horses as it would give the story away. Yes, you will be kept guessing right till the end!
Other characters too are complex and nuanced. Grey shades of jealousy, bitterness are seen in even the good characters which makes the story real. Karan Punjabi is introduced with a twist in the narrative without mentioning his name. His entry is almost like one of those in a Bollywood movie with the camera following the hero’s back as he makes his way in the playground ie the bank. Coming to think of it, the book has all the ingredients to be made into a movie. Hope someone is listening.
One thing that I learned from the novel is that they have a CCD “Cafe Coffee Day” in Vienna!!
So, to conclude, my ratings for the book-
Thrill quotient- 3/5
Suspense quotient- 2.9/5 (I could sort of predict the ending)
And if you want to contact the author after reading the book, here are a few links-