The location is Mumbai, home to Bollywood and business capital of India. The branch of a very influential international detective agency has taken up a case. The agency is not Interpol. The agency is not Scotland Yard. The agency you have come across here is Private, India bureau. A reluctant alcoholic named Santosh Wagh heads Private India. Inside his head, a demonic nightmare keeps playing, in which he and his family—wife Isha and son Pravir—are taking a trip to a hill station. On their return, their car smashes onto a thick peepal tree at a hairpin turn. The man loses his wife and son. The man loses himself.
“You killed them, you drunk bastard.”
His mind keeps nudging his conscience. Santosh’s only resort is liquor. But he was also grateful to a man who saved his life that was about to fall apart, with a helping hand—a job as the head of Private’s India bureau. The man’s name is Jack, Jack Morgan.
In my review of James Patterson’s first book in the series Private, I wrote, “Every detective story relies upon either a mind that concocts something disastrous, unacceptable to the social, moral and ethical codes or a person simply missing. The detective’s job would be to chalk out this enemy and bring out the complete picture of their antagonism through the investigation. That is where detectives come in. They often carry away the credit of the game and not the villains.”
In Private India, the latest installment of the prestigious, highly popular, and often treated as an undeniably fashionable new series Private, James Patterson is collaborating with Ashwin Sanghi. Ashwin Sanghi began his self-publishing career through The Rozabal Line, a story closely modeled on Dan Brown’s phenomenal thriller The Da Vinci Code. His next book was Chanakya's Chant, which was followed by The Krishna Key. The latter follows Dan Brown’s narrative strategies closely. However, as a book, its layout and chapter divisions were much closer to another bestselling phenomenon, James Patterson. After publishing The Krishna Key, Ashwin Sanghi was recommended to Mr. Patterson by someone in the Random House India. Mr. Patterson, during those days, was looking for a writer to co-author his new book in the Private series. Apparently, he chooses writers from different territories depending upon where each story is set. In Private India, the story of Indian bureau of Private agency, therefore, he chose to collaborate with Ashwin Sanghi.
James Patterson began the series named Private with Maxine Paetro. When I revisit the first book in Private series, I find it more appealing that what I felt when I read it for the first time. There are interesting connections laid out with the original Private-team. In Private India, Jack Morgan, the protagonist of Private, the first book, now the boss of the Private agency across the world arrives as a supporting cast. He visits India and eats Kebab from the secretive abode of Private India, in Mumbai. But his visit is not lured by Kebab alone. He is in India for some mysterious purpose.
Why James Patterson is successful isn’t the important question. It may be due to many reasons and marketing minds might call it with different names. The secret of success, apparently, does not matter. What matters for a reader like me, though, is the question: has Mr. Patterson banged out a super cool book this time?
(I will give you the answer, but after a few more analysis)
Ashwin Sanghi’s contribution has been one of the curious matters I was looking forward to in Private India. Although the novel is laced with trademark techniques from James Patterson, like short chapters, large fonts, unexpected twists, that occasional stream of consciousness, and the preoccupation with names of commercial products, Sanghi finds his voice through mythological elements. Similar to James Patterson’s inclination to use titles from popular soaps and names of commercial products, Ashwin Sanghi has used a deluge of mythological connections and connotations in his novel The Krishna Key. From this novel onwards, gurus of Indian writings in English have proclaimed that Sanghi has an undeniable bend for mythology (Indian mythology). Where it had been used mattered less when compared to the frequency some mythical mantra or sign, has been deployed by the author.
Serving this new dish, a murder mystery with a mythological conspiracy theory at its base, Sanghi created a success through The Krishna Key. The Indian penchant for Dan Brown and the popular belief that even airplanes are invented by the rishis (or wandering saints) of India, watered the success of The Krishna Key. In Private India, Ashwin sanghi proclaims his space as the craftsman of modern urban legends. For this purpose, he unearths an ancient cult of murderers. But before getting into that we must look into how Ashwin and James had worked together on Private India.
James Patterson is an American author. He is a hit machine in the world of books. He has a library of books that bear his name on their cover. He is also one of the very few authors to get a frequent position in the New York Times Bestseller list. Ashwin Sanghi is an Indian author. He does not work in the same style as Patterson does. Sanghi writes Historical fiction. He hasn’t written anything else, yet. How would it have been like for both these authors, while working together?
In an interview given to the Wall Street Journal, Ashwin Sanghi reveals that the Indian author had written the first draft of Private India and sent it to Mr. Patterson. “James would send me back a bulleted list saying what works beautifully and also his recommendations,” Ashwin said in the interview. (Source)
In Private India, Ashwin Sanghi uses an ancient cult of Durga worshippers in order to create suspenseful action. The cult is known as the Thuggee. However, one might wonder how this ancient secret order has been brought to life in the present day Mumbai. This is where a psychopathic serial killer plays his role. This is the main story that I conveniently forgot to mention in the beginning. The serial killer poses a serious moral threat: eliminating women. The detective has to chase this misogynist down in order to curb the upheaval, and atone the denigration of womanhood. This moral problem is at the base of this detective murder mystery, which is also a thriller.
The book is copyrighted to James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi’s name only appears in the book. It hasn’t been made clear yet whether Ashwin Sanghi has any rights on the book.
Whether Ashwin Sanghi possesses the copyrights or not, he can surely be proud of Private India. I have posed a question that I felt my readers and those many readers of James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi might be asking themselves. “Has Mr. Patterson banged out a super cool book this time?” It has only one answer. Thriller fans in India might not have read a book of similar quality and entertainment value, at any time in the history of Indian English popular fiction. Private India is a mass-market popular fiction. It is a one and only avatar of this kind, yet. Thanks to James Patterson. Congratulations Ashwin Sanghi, for this mega chance to work with James Patterson and for bringing out the best in you.