Book Review - In The Name Of God

In The Name Of God is the title of the latest thriller from the mighty pen of Ravi Subramanian; one of the finest authors from India in the thriller Genre. And, all I can say is that the book justifies its title – In The Name Of God. This is a book set in the backdrop of a case that hogged media headlines in India for ages – The Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the of whose vaults and their wealth was national news for a pretty long time, and will still be in public memory.

The story is around the legal case of the wealth in the vaults of the temple, which is sub-judice. The backdrop is precise – there is a royal family and its patriarch, and a litigator {as in the real world}, who is asking for a judicial intervention and valuation of the vaults of the famed temple. The High Court concurs, and transfers the charge of the Temple and its wealth to the State. This verdict is appealed in The Supreme Court by the State in the book.

A 7-member panel of valuers is appointed by the court to value the assets in the vaults. As most of the assets are in the form of Jewels, this has to include some major people from the Jewel and Bullion Trade. This is where the story takes off. A side-story develops, that of a new bourse in BKC in Mumbai - where the Jewellers don’t want to move, led by one of the most significant players in Mumbai in this trade. Simultaneously, a case of Stolen Artefacts is being investigated as part of an international investigation. In addition to all this is the spectre of irregularities in the Temple affairs.

The CBI steps in, and sends a capable officer to investigate; this officer walks slam-bang into a local intrigue, as the Royal Family enjoys patronage – and the investigation slowly but surely links upto the Temple. The local liason and senior officers are under pressure from the State Government; the CBI Investigator has to navigate this problem in order to crack the case. To make matters worse, a murder gets involved in all of this, elevating this case from mere irregularities and/or Artefact thievery to one of  a very high  priority murder investigation…

One of the most stunning aspects of this book is the blend of fact and fiction; the scale of the intermingling in mind-blowing! You have outdone yourself, Mr Subramanian, hats off! The real case also started at a local level, went to the HC, and was appealed in the SC – but not by the state; it was appealed by the Royal Family. As per This Link from India Today, the Amicus Curiae did find “serious irregularities and malpractices in the management of the temple and its immense wealth”. And as per This Link from TheHindustan Times, there were thefts reported from The Padmanabhaswamy temple – first Gold worth Rs . 189 Crore, and then Diamonds.

This is one of those books that cant really be properly reviewed without revealing too much; so I chose not to properly review it – I will not give Characters Outlines; nor a review of the story. Anything I say, I run the risk of spoiling the readers’ fun. Given that this is a suspense thriller, I would much rather the reader goes into this book a “virgin”, if you will excuse the usage of the term. The less the reader knows while starting this book, the better.

The book is, from start to finish, a stupendous effort, make no mistake. It is one of the finest from the pen of Mr Subramanian, who has outdone himself. It is a riveting book – and yet, it isn’t too fast paced. It is more of an involved book, with an intricate plot, and an extensive character-cast, with each character being vital to the story and the flow. There isn’t any one strong character : I could spot at least 4 or 5 key characters with equal presence and strength. It requires uncommon skill to craft such an intricate plot with so many diverse and equal characters.

Given the scope and spread of the subject – there isn’t much scope for character development; though this isn’t missed at all, as it is not critical to the story. This is a story with a vast and massive kaleidoscope and tremendous breadth and span. Part of the magic it weaves on the reader can be attributed to this range. The story isn’t tightly knit, in that it takes a couple of small detours – yet, at no point does it falter, as the detours help to build the background and the expectations.

It isn’t all hunky dory – I do have a small grouse with the book; specifically, the treatment of the solution – which I shall share personally with Mr Ravi Subramanian over the mail. Sharing it here will reveal too much about the plot. Suffice it to state that the statements in some parts do not gel to me. But that does not mean that the book’s ending isn’t as riveting or conclusive or convincing or surprising, given the ground reality of the chosen background. That is all I will state. I rate it 4 stars including my bias or view above, and 5 stars without bias.