Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book Review: The Hunt For Kohinoor by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

The joys of reading a book are manifold. The fact that language could be used in such a variety of ways to describe the same old mundane thing is refreshing. This is the feeling I got while reviewing The Hunt For Kohinoor by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, an opportunity I was given by Westland Publishers.

The Hunt For Kohinoor is a book that revolves around its main character – art historian and fresco specialist Mehrunisa Khosa. The half Sikh half Muslim girl, who played a pivotal role in cracking the first book of this series, The Taj Conspiracy, is pushed into war ravaged and ever hostile plains and places on the AfPak border where war can break out just at the fall of a match, to crack a case that hardly has got anything to do with her trade. 

Reconciling with the disappearance of her father, who she later realizes is a an Indian Intelligence agent, while she was just five, she comes face to face with him after sixteen years as he is being treated for injuries from a blast that killed the President of Pakistan just as he was to seal a treaty of peace with India by sharing the Kohinoor - confidential information abiut the location of a 26/11 type attack in India by the Taliban within the next 96 hours. Unable to send in his most trusted spy – Mehrunisa’s father, commonly referred as Snow Leopard, Harinder Singh Khosa or Harry, Jag Mishra – The Chanakya of the Indian Intelligence Pakistan Desk sends in his daughter as the bait to get Harry back into the field in no time. It’s the same Chanakya that Mehrunisa learns who kept her father away from her while he suffered a memory loss in one of the operations.

While Mehrunisa goes from pillar to post trying to decode the clues she finds on the way she finds herself in the constant battle with herself over the sudden disappearance and appearance of her lost and found father. But the case doesn’t give her luxury to ponder further as she and her close aides encounter ghastly attacks carried out both by the enemy and from within. Constantly fighting and losing accomplices on the way, she is kidnapped by the infamous Babur Khan, an American soldier who switched to the other side to connect to his roots. Well versed in American tactics he galvanises the Pathan’s and Taliban of the region, imposes strict Islamic laws where girls are buried alive if they speak to any unknown males, and becomes their supreme commander. 

If you haven’t read a book in a long time, then this book is a good place to develop the lost reading habit. Its language is good and keeps you in the midst of what’s happening. At some places you will find pearls of wisdom just thrown in which could make for a collector’s edition.

"Peace is a bloody business, wherein the seeds of war are sowed; terror is then reaped in abundance."

"Trust no one, not even mirrors."

“What the mullahs forget is that when a woman wears a burqa, it hides her looks, not her brain.”

“The only time a snow leopard might become aggressive if its cubs are threatened or it is.”

“The Americans have a chronic weakness: they believe they are the centre of the world.”

“The biggest enemy of this country were its leaders”

"With love you could persuade a Pathan to go to hell, but by force you couln’t even take him to heaven."

“Because Naxals wore police uniforms.”

However, it would have been better if the title was changed to something more appropriate. Half way through the book the Kohinoor has been hunted, which is sort of disappointing if you have a Da Vinci code at the back of your mind. What’s left is averting the attack on India and rescuing Mehrunisa from the clutches of Babur Khan hidden in the lawless and rugged area of North West Afghanistan. Certain parts could have been done with to make the book shorter. However certain parts could have been extended to give a more gripping feel. I couldn’t focus at the climax, more so because I lost interest by the time I reached there.
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