Name: Birds of Prey
Author: Archana Sarat
Blurb: You wake up, parched and famished, at the bottom of a deep well—dark and dingy with the foul smell of excreta and rotting scars and no seeming way to escape—what do you do?
This is the predicament that ex-ACP Anton Pinto faces when he reluctantly joins the investigation into the mysterious disappearances of men from affluent families of Mumbai. There is an inexplicable pattern behind the abductions and all suspicions point towards an old, physically-challenged, mysterious lady. Soon, Anton discovers that the seemingly unrelated men have one common link—the most popular and expensive international school in Mumbai.
Following clues that span from schools and old-age homes to illegal dingy hospitals, Anton is led through a labyrinth of incest, abuse, torture and suffering, spanning decades.
What secret does the school hide behind its gates? What was the undisclosed crime that is thirsty for justice? Will Anton be able to save the men? Will justice be served?
The first thing I noticed about the book is its cover (well.. duh). The red, black and white colors bring a chilly feeling. Also there is claw reaching to a solitary cute bird. It was terrifying. It was hard to start reading the book as the cover doesn’t let us go.
The novel is very well written. It is very fast on pace, and I was panting as I raced through the pages. Editing could have been better. It is not the fault of the author. Thanks, Readomania for the beautiful paper quality. It felt so nice to my fingers. It is the edge of the seat thriller. So make sure you have enough padding for your bottom before you start reading it.
You can buy the book here.
If you are satisfied with the above book review, you can stop here. Apparently this is how book reviews read these days. When I released my book in May 2016, there were numerous requests from bloggers to review my book. I was ecstatic with the thought that so many people wanted to read my book and give their opinions. But after going through their website and reading such reviews for almost all the books, I gave up the idea. By the way, the above review can cost you anywhere between 300 to 1500 rupees.
Before I go into my opinion about “Birds of Prey” by Archana Sarat, I have to give a back story. Facebook is on it’s way to replace Google as a search engine. When I thought of becoming a writer, I wanted to hang out with writers. Before I found this great novel writing group, Facebook groups were the saviours. That was how I got to know this publishing house called Readomania. For the uninitiated, there are loads of publishing houses. Some take your money and do the printing service. Some claim to publish your book for free (as if it is a favour) but demands you to buy 200 to 300 copies and sell them yourself. After a while, I was sceptical about almost all the publishers. But I was consistently seeing Readomania books in book stores. I started following them, even sent my manuscript to them for evaluation. While most of the publishers didn’t respond to my submission, Readomania team read it, pointed out where I fell short and then explained how they were not publishing that particular genre at that point of time. Unlike other rejections, it didn’t leave me depressed. It gave a small hope, encouraging me to write better. Telling me that I have a chance. Later, my good friends Anirban Nanda and Sridevi Datta’s stories were part of Readomania’s Anthology “The Defiant Dreams”. I loved it. Then there came some of the great books I had read last year. “Rain” by Sriram Subramanian and “In the light of darkness” by Radhika Tabrez. I came to a conclusion that I don’t have to read the super cool reviews like the one you read in the start to choose the book. Readomania made it easy for me because they did the hardwork of choosing good stories. I just have to go and buy whatever Readomania has to offer. That is when I understood that they are here to stay. They give online platform in their website for short stories and flash fiction. In November, they even lent their premises in Delhi for people to come in and write. Readomania is not just a publishing house anymore. It is slowly becoming a literary movement.
I digress. Birds of Prey written by Archana Sarat is published by Readomania. I know Archana Sarat through her famous series “Saturday Shots”. If she had missed one Saturday, people would email, ping and call her to see if she was OK. She was THAT regular. And she is from MY city. I wanted to buy it right away but I shifted house when her book release and I was not sure if Amazon delivered it at my place. Thankfully she launched her book in Chennai and I got a signed copy from her.
The book is about an ex-cop who helps Mumbai police with a case of missing men. Good, educated, high class men go missing and few of them return as dead bodies. And there are no suspects and everybody has perfect alibi. How does he go about it? is the story. I hope I haven’t given away much. The book is not a suspense thriller. We know who kidnaps these men from the first chapter.
Archana puts us all in dilemma from the third or fourth chapter. We know the kidnapper and at the same time we sympathize to that character. On the other hand, Anton Pinto, the ex-policeman cannot let the case go without resolving it. And we feel for him too. We want Anton to win and lose at the same time. It may look casual to the readers but it is very difficult to achieve for a writer. I will remember this book for this dilemma for so many days to come.
There is gore. Not plucking away the skull along with the spine kind of gore. But the gore which will make you puke everything you had eaten in the last four days, if you are constipated that is. I am not sure if it hit us hard because of the very sick nature of the deeds or how Archana had mentioned it in a matter of fact way in a sentence and moved on with the story. In a story which deals with child abuse, there would be loads and loads of statistics, information available online. Archana could have piled statistics over statistics to hammer her point. But she resisted and added the chant “Krishna..Krishna..Krishna..” and that is eerie enough.
The book is not without flaws. But that makes the book beautiful. I love the first books of the authors. There is raw writing which touches our heart, strikes the right nerve and connects with us, even with the flaws. Perhaps, because of the flaws. We will talk about Beethovan, Mozart and Vivaldi in high tea parties but the songs which are close to our hearts are far from perfect. I will choose to be the latter any day.
I have intentionally left out what worked for me in the book because what worked for me, may not work for you. And unless, I don’t want people to pick up the book, I didn’t want to list out the things that didn’t work for me. Buy this book and you will not feel cheated. You may take away few messages from the book or you may simply enjoy how Archana had paced the book (I finished it in three hours).
I am hoping to see more from Anton Pinto and his investigations. And also Swarna and her adventures. We need a sequel Archana!!