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Clearing my desk, I noticed quite a pile-up of Indian thrillers. This suggests that the industry is doing fine and that there’s an overload of terror in store for us pulp aficionados. But any classics lurking on the horizon? Let’s see…

Shashi Warrier, pioneer of the terrorist thriller, is back with an epic suspense novel, Noordin’s Gift, which brings flashbacks of his taut nail-biter debut 20 years ago, Night Of The Krait. Again largely set in south India, this new tome is, in some ways, a continuation of the same theme: The foreign hand is plotting a terrorist attack to destabilize the country, but this time on a monumental scale.

The story is complex, involving three first-person narrators, all chasing one another. Noordin is a veteran Muslim fighter from Afghanistan who holds a grudge against Ganesh, a Hindu vigilante from Coorg who is trying, single-handedly, to end terrorism. The third character is a National Investigative Agency officer, Mr Thomas, a Christian on the track of the vigilante.

Warrier’s knowledge of the issues he writes about and the intricate plot he weaves is a magisterial feat and, interestingly, the main narrative here is set in 2025. Although there’s very little sci-fi (except for the occasional pindrop-silent auto-rickshaw), the author anticipates severe geopolitical changes, including a Taliban takeover of Kashmir. The book’s analytical elements offer plenty of food for thought.

The next book in my pile is one of the finest thrillers I’ve come across in many months—The Karachi Deception by Shatrujeet Nath. Here we follow a group of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) operatives who are on an infiltration operation to assassinate a dreaded Mumbai don accused of terrorist activities, who is hiding in Pakistan. The plotting is impeccable as the Indian agents set up a trap in Karachi, only to have their cover blown. While on the run from local authorities, Major Imtiaz, Colonel Mohan and agents Rafiq and Shamsheer go rogue and decide to eliminate the don even if it costs them their lives. This is one thriller that lives up to the promise of “deception".

Other recent offerings in the anti-terrorist genre, which seems to be rivalling the Cold War thrillers of yore in popularity, include Resonance by the debutant Ajay (who is known only by his first name). It’s set against the backdrop of the 2008 terror outrage in Mumbai—which in this fictional take turns out to be only the beginning of a series of cataclysmic events. Another more political thriller, Kalyug by R. Sreeram, has a fascinating premise: The protagonist is an author who has written a controversial hypothetical book describing how a coup d’etat might play out in India. Then one day he is contacted by a secretive man who informs him that a mysterious puppet master will be using this book as a blueprint to pull off exactly what the author tried to warn society about. Would he like to take a ringside seat?

In Karm, by brothers Aditya and Arnav Mukherjee, we meet another radical vigilante type, “The Guardian of the People", about to spread terror in order to restructure social order. As in Noordin’s Gift, this plot too is set in the future, in the Mumbai of 2020.

The Murder Of Sonia Raikkonen: An Inspector Saralkar Mystery is the fourth book by young writer Salil Desai, which starts with the story of a maladjusted teenager who has all the makings of a terrorist—he hates people and his only interest is in destroying public property. On his 13th birthday, he cooks his grandparents and steals their car. One wonders what he will grow up to be. And what is his connection to the female tourist who is found half naked and dead in a Pune park 15 years later?

These books are all worth taking a look at while we wait for Mukul Deva’s new thriller, Assassins, which will see its global release in June. It’s the long awaited (by me at least) sequel to The Dust Will Never Settle. The Delhi police officer, Ravinder Gill, is sure to save the world from terrorists one more time.

We pulp fans live in a happy time, even if everything that we end up reading has terrifying scenarios.

Zac O’Yeah is the author of Once Upon A Time in Scandinavistan and Mr Majestic: The Tout Of Bengaluru.

To read Zac’s previous Lounge columns, click here.

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