Thursday, January 18, 2018

Himalayan Hazard – Amitabh Pandey: book review

Himalayan Hazard – Amitabh Pandey
--reviewed by Divya Dubey

Amitabh Pandey’s first novel, Himalayan White, did well as a crime fiction thriller with its protagonist, Gautam Shukla. Shukla is a former lieutenant colonel who used to work with the ‘shadowy’ Special Forces unit and moves to Noida post retirement in this second book, Himalayan Hazard. In this one, the second in the Himalaya series, Gautam Shukla is in search of peace – heading now to the Kumaoni mountainside. In the whole course of the novel he shuttles between Delhi and his 20-acre Himalayan retreat.

However, peace seems a distant dream. This time the aging hero meets Ruth, a ‘striking young Israeli security officer’ – or rather – he and Ruth are deliberately thrown together by Annie, the wife of his closest friend and associate, Datta. Shukla and Ruth hit it off immediately and together they happen to witness a fatal attack on a politician, a VIP, in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi. 

It transpires that the assassins behind the killing are ‘bhais’ working in tandem with an international drug cartel  to build opium-growing farms in the Kumaoni region. While Shukla is dragged into the affair against his wishes, trying to track them down along with Datta and another friend and associate, Sanju, Ruth is also involved in the matter officially but in a roundabout way, thanks to a former friend and close colleague.

Amitabh Pandey
One’s reaction to this novel is lukewarm at best. Most of the characters are interesting and realistic – Shukla, the Dattas, Ruth, Sanju and the others, but the plot does not have anything new or fresh to offer. The ‘bhais’ and their henchmen, including the mysterious sounding Mo, live up to their television/movie clichés. They are more of the cardboard variety, quite predictable in their words, tone, actions and fate. Most of the ‘who’s are revealed early on in the novel, so there is no real suspense as a whodunit would have. This novel is more of a cat-and-mouse game with a neat car chase for a climax – the kind that young men might enjoy, but that would certainly work much better in visual media than it does on paper.  
Divya Dubey is the publisher of Earthen Lamp Journal, the Editor/Instructor at Authorz Coracle, and the author of Turtle Dove: A Collection of Bizarre Tales

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