Birds of Prey by Archana Sarat | Book Review

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We, as humans, take form from what happens to us. Every incident we experience – be it of joy, sadness, or simply contemplation on the events around us – shapes us into the person we allow ourselves to become.

There are some who choose to walk with the flow of these events and let nature take its course. There are others who find the strength to fight the natural flow and use their experiences to change the norm.

Ex-ACP Anton Pinto reluctantly joins an investigation into the mysterious disappearances of men from affluent families in Mumbai. Despite the lack of any connection between victims, all clues indicate a similar pattern of abduction. However, with few witnesses and no ransom demands, the trail has long gone cold.

As Anton starts following the clues, he discovers a common link between the victims. Further investigation misdirects him to a few dead-ends, until another man is reported to have gone missing.

Driven by rage at not having his head in the game, he races between schools, old-age homes, illegal dingy hospitals, and dilapidated bungalows, in his quest to find the perpetrator. New leads take him through a labyrinth of incest, abuse, torture, and suffering, spanning decades, that makes his hair stand on end.

Will Anton uncover the motive behind the crime? How is the seemingly harmless, yet mysterious old woman connected to this case? Can justice be served before it is too late?

Birds of Prey is a thriller that leaves a deep impact on the reader. The unfolding events are narrated from two different points of view standing at opposite ends of the spectrum.

With each clue, the author peels back the dark, untold horrors of child abuse plaguing our society. Her treatment of the subject urges you to pause every now and then – to introspect on the harsh realities it reveals. As the story progresses, the reader can’t help but get emotionally tangled in the riveting plot that gets your heart racing.

Archana’s writing style is simple, with a clear line of thought maintained throughout the book. She switches effortlessly between the two points of view to create drama and build suspense. The protagonist and antagonist have been written with strong personality traits to fall in line with their role in the plot. Supporting characters are also etched and added with the precision of a near perfect recipe.

I did feel the Criminal Profiler seemed more whimsical, rather than an analyst of behavioural psychology as I expected him to be. Nonetheless, with his small role in the play of events, it was not something that would bother one very much. Besides, it was probably all the episodes of Criminal Minds I have binge-watched, that made me even notice it in the first place.

I also noticed a few sentences seemed grammatically incorrect. In the first couple of instances I thought it may have been deliberate on the author’s part, but later I realised it was more likely an editing oversight.

Birds of Prey throws light on the lost innocence of victims who are haunted throughout their lives by the psychological trauma of the crimes they are subjected to. However, when trauma sets out to seek justice, the fight sometimes gives rise to a form of misdirected vigilantism that could well turn into crime.

David Rains Wallace, a writer of Conservation and Natural History, wrote in this book ‘The Untamed Garden and Other Personal Essays’ – “Every time we exterminate a predator, we are in a sense creating a new predator.”

Rarely have I come across a novel which is as horrific in the crime it reveals, as it is subliminal about the state of our society.

Archana has handled the subject with the tenderness and sensitivity it craves. I expect her work will receive many accolades in the coming year.

Title: Birds of Prey
Author: Archana Sarat
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858542-0-0
Edition/Year: First Edition 2016
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction – Crime Thriller
Pages: 192
Source: From the Author
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Archana Sarat is an Author and Poet for the last ten years. She shuttles between Chennai and Mumbai and loves both cities passionately. Her works have been published in various popular newspapers, magazines and anthologies like The Times of India, The Economic Times, the SEBI and Corporate Laws Journal, the CA Newsletter, Me Magazine, the Science Reporter, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, the WRIMO India Anthology, the Glo Mag Literary Journal and many more. She is popular in the online world for her flash fiction that appear every Saturday, called ‘Saturday Shots’. Though she is a Chartered Accountant by qualification, she took up her childhood love for writing as her vocation. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from the Writers Bureau, UK. She lives with her husband and two sons in Mumbai.
Birds of Prey is her first novel.
To connect with her, visit her webpage – http://www.archanasarat.com or follow her on Twitter @archanasarat and facebook.com/archanasaratauthor.

Note – I received this review copy from the Author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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03:02 by Mainak Dhar | Book Review

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I remember when this book popped up on my Twitter feed a few months ago. One look at the cover and I knew I had to read it. It was screaming, calling out to me, and I hadn’t even read the blurb yet!

I can’t deny I am an impulsive reader. I read whatever catches my fancy – a creative book cover, an engaging blurb, a talked about author, and sometimes, maybe an interesting title. In this case, I hadn’t heard of the author. I assumed he was a debut novelist. Only now when I’ve read this book and looked him up, have I realised that he has written over a dozen novels and non-fiction books. Though, in all fairness, most of his novels are about zombies which don’t exactly find their way on my reading list.

Coming back to this book – there was one little problem. As eager as I was to pick this up, the rising tower of books at my bedside meant that it was only fair I work through my existing TBR pile before buying new ones. But that didn’t stop me from entering every giveaway I came across for 03:02. Then, out of the blue I received this in the mail, over the weekend, from Writersmelon. Well, let’s just say – TBR be damned! I utilised the best part of Sunday engrossed in this book and every minute was totally worth it.

As you may have guessed, the title of this book refers to the time – two minutes past three, on a Sunday morning – when all of Mumbai plunges into absolute darkness. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and no working cars. As strange as it sounds, it is as if someone hit the reset button to the city, only it never turned back on. While most people assume it is a temporary situation, the gradually emerging signs seem to point otherwise. It is unknown whether this is an accidental power failure or something more, or even how far the extent of it is carried. But when basic necessities, like food and water supply, start becoming a cause for concern, survival instincts kick in, bringing with it a threat to the city’s law and order.

The world as we know it, has ended. It is not enough to wait around, expecting the government to act, when none of the city’s services are functional. It is up to the people to seek out and conquer the enemy, even if it means waging a war in our homes and streets.

In 03:02, Mainak Dhar brings a story that is so impossible to imagine that it will leave you stunned. Advances in technology have propelled civilization at an unfathomable speed. Simple things that once mattered are now conveniently taken for granted. Our needs and emotions have become increasingly individualistic. Most of all, given a choice, we would expect someone else to solve a problem, rather than taking it upon ourselves.

Are we then capable to handle a situation that forces us to pool in every last available resource and unite to fight the enemy? When it is a question of survival, can we be trusted to think beyond our personal benefit? How far are we willing to go into the unknown to protect what rightfully belongs to us? Are we looking for someone to lead the way because that is the easier thing to do? When given the opportunity, how eager are we to grab power? The book puts up many such pertinent questions as a backdrop to this riveting thriller.

It also explores social hierarchy and the changing nature of relationships when subjected to intense circumstances. If we remove wealth from the equation of society, and are left only with our courage and intelligence, we may forge strange and unconventional bonds. The question that remains at the end is – does it take one man, or a community, to lead us to victory.

There is a lot more to this novel than I could possible reveal here, for fear of uncovering key plot details. However, I will mention that this is an intense novel, like none other I’ve read. Every turn of the page adds another multi layered dimension to the unfolding mystery and it is hard to let go at any stage. It has been an absolute delight to read 03:02 and I look forward to more such books by Mainak Dhar.

On a side note, I’d like to add that the personalised handwritten letter, along with the signed giveaway copy, was a nice touch by the author. Makes the experience of reading this book a little bit richer!

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Title: 03:02
Author: Mainak Dhar
Publisher: Westland Ltd.
ISBN: 978-93-85152-96-2
Edition/Year: First Edition 2016
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 350
Source: Writersmelon.com

Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon and Flipkart.

About the Author: After finishing his schooling at Modern School, Barakhamba Road and his under-graduation at Hindu College, Delhi, Mainak Dhar graduated from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He has spent two decades in the corporate sector — starting with Procter & Gamble in India. He spent eighteen years with P&G, fifteen of them outside India across the Asia Pacific region. In 2014, he moved back to India as the CEO of the India operations of a major consumer products multinational.
A self-described cubicle dweller by day and writer by night, Mainak is also the author of over a dozen books, some of which have been bestsellers in India and abroad. These books have been translated into Turkish, Vietnamese, Japanese, French, German and Portuguese.
He lives in Mumbai with his wife, Puja, and their son, Aaditya. When not at work or with his family, he can usually be found working on, or thinking about his next book.
To learn more about him, visit his webpage – http://www.mainakdhar.com, or follow him on Twitter @mainakdhar and Facebook.com/AuthorMainakDhar .

Note – I received this review copy from Writersmelon.com in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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