Quick Lit | M. Venkatesh

Indo-Pak intrigue

If you have a few hours—you may just want to finish it off once you start—get going with The Karachi Deception. Sit back as the action starts unfolding almost immediately as you turn to the first page.

For all those who have been pining for an infiltrate-Pakistan-and-take-out-a-target thriller, here’s your dream come true. Shatrujeet Nath is the latest in a line of bright young Indian authors writing fiction who make you pause and wonder when their next book is out.

Set against the backdrop of the traditional India-Pakistan hostility, The Karachi Deception swings its way through both countries while taking you on a ride through Mali, Turkey, Oman, Europe and the Persian Gulf that keeps the adrenalin rushing. At the heart of the story are three Indian commandos—Major Imtiaz, Captain Shamsheer and Lieutenant Rafiq—handpicked by their seniors in Indian intelligence to get into Karachi and take out Irshad Dilawar, the fugitive Indian underworld don, extortionist and killer. To no one’s surprise, Dilawar is an honoured guest of the Pakistani government.

Codenamed Project Abhimanyu, the mission pits the trio against the might of Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence). As they close in on their target, after ingenuously sneaking into enemy territory, the commandos discover that their plans are about to be scuttled and that the Pakistanis know more about their daring invasion than the three would have liked. To make matters worse, the commandos learn about another gang of assassins that is chasing Dilawar to silence him permanently.

With their cover compromised, enemy intelligence breathing down their necks, no backup or friends and the disconcerting discovery that one of them is not what he seems to be, the narrative moves up a gear or two. Will the trap shut as it did for the ill-fated, heroic son of Arjun in the Mahabharat? Nath keeps you guessing.

A small point needs to be made though. Imtiaz, Shamsheer and Rafiq could have been made more memorable. The plot stands out but the characters go click-click, performing their duties. The reader generally likes it when the author has got under the skin of the character. It also makes the plot that much more interesting. Take your character to dinner to know more about him, is often the advice given to authors.

Imtiaz, Shamsheer and Rafiq are no Mallory, Miller and Andrea (going back some 40-odd years to Alistair Maclean’s The Guns of Navarone series set against the backdrop of World War II) nor is any of them a Jason Bourne (Robert Ludlum’s enduring creation) or, more recently, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. There are the occasional flashes, though, when Imtiaz chooses to ignore his orders or Rafiq’s carefree way of dealing with his superiors, when the human element surfaces.

It is always a pleasure to read a blemish-free (editorially, that is) book. So even a minor mistake in the copy gets magnified, especially when the rest of it has been crafted with care. The Karachi Deception has a couple of boo-boos that could have been prevented from dropping through the cracks (and no, I wasn’t looking for errors or typos).

That said, the story’s twists and turns, its ever-shifting locales, a fascinating target, and the final drama make for time well spent between the covers.