Autobiography of a Mad Nation – Sriram Karri – Book Review


Goodreads blurb: “I was born in a mentally retarded nation.” – Thus begins this provocative, stylish, and racy literary rant against India by a twenty-four-year-old awaiting capital punishment.

When Dr M Vidyasagar (‘Sagar’), retired chief of CBI, gets an unusual request from his old friend and the President of India to privately investigate if Vikrant Vaidya—sentenced to death for motivelessly killing his teenage neighbour Iqbal—is innocent or not, little does he know how convoluted a conspiracy he is setting foot in.

With a narrative that springs forth from and weaves its way through the Emergency, anti-Sikh riots post Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Ram Janmabhoomi Rath Yatra, anti-Mandal Commission protests, economic liberalisation, Babri Masjid demolition, and Godhra riots, readers will find themselves in the grips of a chimerical tale, asking and answering the question: Is India truly a mad nation?


Call it providence, coincidence or whatever, but the release of Gabbar is back in theaters and me reading Autobiography of a Mad Nation at around the same time is quite funny, in the sense that both these works deal with pretty much the same theme – vigilante justice. I know, comparing a book to a mostly mindless Bollywood movie is not speaking too much in favor of the book, but honestly, I thought the plot that the book dealt with and how it is treated in the narrative as well is a little ‘jingoistic’, to say the least.

While the blurb and the beginning of the book seem to point towards quite a riveting story with enough intrigue and suspense, very quickly it boils down to an extremely Bollywoodish treatment of the plot itself. What with a bunch of old schoolmates getting together and rallying around the idealistic whims and fancies of one of their batchmates and seeking revenge for what they perceive as society’s wrongs on him and his life. This is the stuff that movies are meant to be made of, catering to the lowest common denominator of the cinema-viewing audience. In my opinion, and this is probably just me, mind you, books are usually written for a more discerning audience, an audience which doesn’t quite take things at face value and doesn’t usually have extraordinarily idealistic and jingoistic view of the events happening around them. Unfortunately, the author seems to have forgotten that he is actually writing a novel and is not penning the script of the next Bollywood blockbuster. And what is worse is that even if he were writing a script for a movie, the fact remains that this particular plot has been rehashed a countless times over in India as well.

All of the above being said, I have to admit that the author does have an easygoing writing style and the pages turn themselves quite well. Despite the fact that there are multiple characters with storylines running in parallel, the proceedings don’t get too muddled and everything makes sense throughout the novel. However, just these don’t make a good novel, do they? And my biggest issue with this book lies with the fact that the blurb and promotional material seem to promise a story spanning generations and decades, which the author simply fails to deliver. The book does have quite an interesting premise, but is let down by the extremely filmy treatment of the subject matter.


Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for a honest and unbiased review.

The Murder of Sonia Raikkonen – Salil Desai – Book Review

TheMurderOfSoniaRaikkonenGoodreads blurb: Late one November night, the mutilated corpse of a young Finnish tourist is found in a public garden in Pune. It looks like a case of brutal rape and murder, but Senior Inspector Saralkar and PSI Motkar find themselves probing further….delving deeper.

Standing virtually clueless, except for a single white sandal found on the scene of the crime, the policemen duo start looking for suspects.

Things get murkier when Saralkar’s old friend and colleague, Inspector Patange, seeks his help to establish the identity of another murder victim – an old man found by a wooded hillside on the outskirts of Pune. Not only do the old man’s injuries match the wounds inflicted on the Finnish girl, but he is also found wearing the other white sandal.

As Saralkar and Motkar struggle to find the link that connects the two murders, nothing is what it seems….The emerging truth seems far more dangerous and the motive far more bizarre!

Who murdered Sonia , and why? The truth will chill you to the bone!


Regular readers of the blog would have read my review of the first book in the Inspector Saralkar series – Killing Ashish Karve [Link to review], a book I thoroughly enjoyed and which heralded the arrival of yet another protagonist in the crime thriller genre which all readers could easily relate to and rely upon to nab the culprit and bring him to justice. The Murder of Sonia Raikkonen is Salil Desai’s second book in this series and at the outset let me confess, this book only serves to improve Inspector Saralkar’s already high standing in readers’ minds.

As the blurb states, the action begins when young Finnish national Sonia Raikkonen’s grossly mutilated body is found in a public garden with imminent signs of rape as well. This puts the duo of Saralkar and his deputy Motkar on the trail of the killer with just a single white leather sandal left behind as the only clue. Laced with his trademark and no-nonsense methodical approach to the crime, Saralkar manages to infuriate Motkar on numerous occasions with this ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humor and the playful banter between the duo adds to the overall charm that the author has with this series.

What I really liked about this book is that while it developed on the much loved characters from the first book in the series, it does so in an extremely unobtrusive and inconspicuous manner which doesn’t hamper the flow of the murder investigation itself. In fact, on more than one occasion, readers will find themselves being able to guess Saralkar’s and Motkar’s next moves and their approach to solving the murder mystery; that’s how well we are able to read these characters and their motivations. That’s how well fleshed out these characters are.

This book, like its predecessor, is once again quite strong in the police procedural aspect of the crime itself and once again stands out as quite the path-breaker in this regard. The author leaves behind his stamp quite clearly as someone who knows and understands the nitty-gritties and the humdrum everyday life of policemen, while ensuring that he manages to deliver an interesting and relatively fast paced murder mystery novel at the same time.

As stated earlier, this book only serves to enhance Inspector Saralkar’s already good reputation as a crime solver par excellence and is a good addition to the murder mystery genre of books written by Indian authors.

Click here to purchase the book from Amazon [Link].


Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for an honest and unbiased review.