Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sriram Karri's Autobiography of a Mad Nation

Disclaimer: I read a free preview copy of this book.

A good idea, badly executed. That about sums up this book for me.

Sriram Karri clearly has a lot of anger bottled up inside him. He's angry at the system - the politicians, the bureaucrats, the media, the corrupt, the greedy, the silent majority - and he has let all his anger spew out in this book. It reads less like a novel and more like a criticism of the functioning of the Indian democratic system.

But to begin at the beginning. The President of India has received a strange letter from a convicted murderer awaiting execution - a challenging letter, a letter that demands justice and not mercy in the form of a pardon. Intrigued by the letter, the President asks his old friend Vidyasagar, the retired former head of the CBI, to investigate. Did Vikrant actually commit the murder he has been convicted of? Vidyasagar digs into the crime, only to find that things are murkier than they appear. The trail of one crime leads to another, and yet another.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part flows quickly - Vidyasagar's investigations, combined with what appear to be Vikrant's diary entries. I was actually enjoying the book at this point, despite the sometimes amateurish writing and the irritatingly self-righteous diary entries.

Unfortunately, the book starts to fall apart in the second part. Ideology-filled monologues dot the text, especially in the latter half of this section. The author seems to be making the characters speak for him, expressing his anger at all the ills affecting the nation.

The third part does a good job of tying up the whole. The threads of the mystery are satisfactorily untangled, and what appeared to be an insoluble mystery does end up having a logical, clear and satisfactory ending.

Unfortunately, it isn't enough to save the book. What could have been a unique novel ends up being a trite obvious diatribe.
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