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Sunday, 19 January 2014

Book Review: The Hunt For Kohinoor- Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

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Title: The Hunt For Kohinoor
Author: Manreet Sodhi Someshwar
Published by: Westland Books
ISBN- 978-93-83260-60-7
Price: Rs. 295
Genre: Thriller (Fiction)
Ebook- Available
Pages- 425

As you might have noticed above, I actually took the pains to create an artwork of sorts for this book. It hasn't happened before and it is just because the character descriptions in the book were so vivid and it'd have been utter injustice to my own creativity if I hadn't put them to canvas. I'd first like to thank Westland books for this amazing book. It was one of the quickest 400+ pages' read of my reading-reviewing career.

A quick word about the author- Manreet Singh Someshwar is an engineer by training and she has worked in marketing, advertising and consulting. An award winning author (Commonwealth Broadcasting Association), she is a popular blogger as well. (Link to her blog- http://the-long-walk-home.blospot.com.) The book in my hand is Book 2 of the Thriller series featuring Mehrunisa Khosa. Book 1 was "The Taj Conspiracy" which I have to get my hands on, now specially after reading this gem of a work.

The story is about Mehrunisa Khosa- An art historian with a knack of keen observation and her tryst with destiny. As is evident by the name, she is part Sikh and part Muslim with an Iranian Muslim mother who is no more and an Indian Sikh father who is estranged. The story revolves around her relationship with her father, and then there are those gun-trotting, blood-thirsty, warmonger Talibani jihadis headed by the dreaded Babur Khan who have nothing but trouble cooking in their kitchens. The character of Babur Khan stands out for its pure evil demeanours and recklessness. The author has put in a lot of research and thinking behind the multi-layered plot where emotions run high as the thrill deepens and the plot thickens. The details of Indo-Af-Pak region's politics and the geographical features of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region in particular, in the novel, have been well described. It actually makes you feel the snowy wind of the valley in your face as Harinder Singh Khosa aka Harry aka The Snow Leopard makes his way through the mountains. The unsaid bond of love between Mehr and RP Singh aka Pratap is the stuff good love stories are made of. The unconditional nature of their love sends oodles of warmth gushing down your heart and you cannot help but smile at the mysterious ways of love. Then we have Raghav, Mehr's aid in distress, I feel this character can be further developed in the forthcoming novels of this series. As a fan, I can sense a love triangle but it's not that simple and can only be understood when you get to know the characters yourself. The complexity of these relations makes the novel, though surreal in its theme, closer to reality.

The sense of regional pride is visible in the description of people of various regions. The author is well aware of the cultural values of Sikhism, Islam in general and Pathans in particular. Her description of a typical Pathan who could die for a promise is endearing. Equally endearing is how as an Indian reader, I could not feel any sense of alienation with the cultures of Pakistan and Afghanistan. We need more such stories to actually understand the subaltern approach in studying things; and that's why this novel could be of interest to an acadmecian or a student of history and sociology. In sharp contrast to these emotionally motivated brushstrokes, the character of Jag Mishra has been sketched as a cold calculating "Chanakya" who puts his duty and profession above friendship and suchlike emotions.

The plot moves at a steady pace and there are no dull moments. The format of beginning different events with place and time stamps gives the novel the feel of a thriller movie. A movie should be made on it in my view as it does contain all the elements of a good thriller. The language is simple but not at the cost of elegance. Other contemporaries should actually learn from Manreet Sodhi's choice of words and the how to effectively use the right words to create the right kind of effect. The action sequences are particularly energetic and the hard work that goes behind putting thoughts to words actually shows. The reading is effortless and it's hard to put the book down once you pick it up.
The only downside I can think of is that the build up for a deeper conspiracy is in the plot but then the author plays safe a little. But then, it's subject to individual taste. If you like simpler stories, you wouldn't even notice what I am talking about.

A word on the feminist undertones in the book. I did scurry back to the last page like a bad reader and instead of revealing the ending, I was face to face with the author as her delightful photograph is what's on the last page.

 I couldn't help but notice how the female protagonist subtly went on unshackling the female soul from the burdens imposed by society as she went about her mission. I do feel that a part of the author's personal thoughts have been lent to her protagonist Mehr; and ever since I felt that, the read became even more interesting. Unlike radical feminists like Firestone et al, Someshwar drives home the point without slamming her fist on the table which is a fresh thing to notice. I do hope that her clan grows in number so that we have more such books which are wonderful on so many levels to read.

I would rate the book as-
4.5 out of 5.

Perfect for a late night read.

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