WRITING STYLE: 4.5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4.5/5
From a very early age, I have been on a steady diet of reading thrillers. Even as I was entering my teens, I was getting introduced to Robert Ludlum and Fredrick Forsyth, and books such as “The Matarese Circle” and “The Day of the Jackal” made a lasting impression on me. It is perhaps safe, and not incredibly presumptuous, to say that I have a fair idea of what makes a good thriller. Over the years, I have read some excellent books that had really good storylines and characters, while others where there was a basic premise but the action sequences more than made up for any deficiency.
Raghu Srinivasan’s “The Avatari” is one that has a bit of both. It is the story of Henry Ashton, a retired British Army officer, who is pulled into a search for “hidden treasure” upon a request from a monk from a Laotian monastery. They are after an ancient secret, one which is said to be safeguarded at the legendary Shambhala, a sacred mountain supposed to be in Tibet. But according to legend, only the Avatari, chosen by destiny, can gain entrance to this sacred place. Henry Ashton, along with a former Gurkha Sergeant and an American mercenary must beat their adversaries, who will stop at nothing to get hold of the secret.
I will put up my hand and say that I never really thought Indian writers could whip up engrossing thrillers the likes of which I have been used to reading since I was a teenager. Perhaps that’s the reason why I haven’t explored Indian writing as much as I should have, as I was fixated on the thriller genre for so long. But Raghu Srinivasan throws that presumption out of the water with one of the most excellent books I have read in the past few months.
The story itself is excellently weaved, keeping the reader completely invested in the book the entire time. And more importantly, the characters are well-developed, with Srinivasan adept at even drawing characters that aren’t basically Indian. To be able to showcase an Englishman, an American, and a Gurkha Sergeant and others require a particular talent, especially when you have not lived among them for an extended period of time. The author does an extraordinary job of bringing all the characters to life and nothing seems out of place, making it all the more enjoyable to read.
If I were a particularly critical person hell-bent on finding fault even in something that looks perfect, I would say that the premise of a group of people hunting for hidden treasure is a much-beaten path. But even that is not a negative in this book, considering that Srinivasan has a perfect blend of mystic and action sequences, not overdoing either one. This is one book that is certain to satisfy the seasoned reader, and hopefully, convert more casual readers into exploring such excellent books rather than sticking to the college love stories only.