Entry no. #7Debut Indian Writers Month: October 2012

Part of Debut Indian Writers Challenge and South Asian Challenge 2012

Title: The Shadow Throne
Author: Aroon Raman
Publisher: Pan Macmillian
ISBN: 978-81-923-9800-6
Pages: 329
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3 of 5
Reviewed for: Pan Macmillian

Image: Flipkart.com
Image: Flipkart.com

A thriller involving South Asia’s two superpowers and arch rivals India and Pakistan and to top it, it also involves a nuclear threat with the top intelligence agencies of the neighbors – RAW and ISI – cooperating with each other! Thrilling, well researched and a compact story is what entrepreneur turned author Aroon Raman debuts with.

The Shadow Throne features a maverick but loner freelance journalist Chandrashekhar allying with a go-getter cop Inspector Sayed Ali Hassan for a murder that involves a very curious victim – a white Caucasian male with flattened skull at the Qutab Minar in Delhi. While Chandrashekhar and Hassan are at their wits ends trying to figure out how someone from an extinct tribe can be found murdered in the capital, Hassan is informed that the case has been taken away from him, in all probability by RAW. Trying to figure out why the top ranking Research and Analysis Wing of Indian intelligence would be interested in a measly murder case, Hassan gets the next shocker – a call from Gul – his cousin from Pakistan who he knew was in the accounts section of Pakistan government; only this time the call is from his cousin who is one of the top officers of ISI. Chandrashekhar and Hassan are convinced by Gul to help in a major conspiracy that hints at massive destruction to both India and Pakistan. Within two days they are transplanted into Afghanistan, where Hassan does most of the snooping around because he knows the language, culture, et al and Chandrashekhar remains clueless though he cannot figure out how does his inspector friend know so much. Amidst all this Chandrashekhar receives a call from his history professor friend Meenakshi in Delhi, who had helped him crack the mystery of the flat skull man, about a clue she came across at the Qutab and also that Hassan may not be the Delhi police inspector that both of them believe him to be. Struck in an alien, hostile country, on one hand with an accomplice not any trustworthier and on the other hand with a probable risk of sinister damage to India and a million Indian lives, Chandrashekhar is running a race against time. If what he has been told is true then, it is an impending nuclear attack on India within a matter of few days and if project shadow throne is there then he has to stop it.

Aroon has penned a well-researched, compact and well-edited story in his maiden trip as a storyteller. Though a thriller it is no way an easy read especially with the detailing on the intelligence agencies in India and Pakistan along with the initiation on the working of a nuclear weapon. It follows the pattern of those numerous Hollywood movies or Robert Ludlum books where the country’s intelligence body with the help of civilians tries averting a national catastrophe albeit with an all out Indian, Pakistani and Afghanistani cast. It progresses at a steady racy pace but those heart-stopping moments that are the potent weapons of a thriller are not played up too well. The pace remains steady mostly without much heartbeat skips.

The strength of the book lies in the plot. It is the complexity of the storyline that keeps you going in spite of the typos that are a near constant companion in this word journey. Aroon is a good story weaver – he has well developed characters, an easy charting through a complex web, the art to simplify complicated elements into a common man’s story and most of all perception alterations with the characters he builds. He doesn’t give you an impression of reading a debut book; the confidence of the author speaks through his words. He just needs to master the art of building tension and sustaining it right and we will have some absolute thrillers coming from his pen (or laptop).

p.s. Loved the changed perception to the ISI-RAW relationship!

Happy Reading.

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