Book Review: The Bankster

With the kind of expectations an award winning author brings in with his book, one is always on the look-out for the extra element. It was my first date with a Ravi Subramanian book and I was as jittery as one usually is on first dates. The cover of Ravi Subamanian’s latest book, The Bankster looks like a poster right out of a Hollywood flick. The back cover of the book very interestingly and very concisely describes a chain of events in Angola, Kerela and Mumbai that are entwined in this 360 odd page read, yet at the same time, it hardly tells you anything about the book. It is intriguing though to think how a CIA agent in Angola dealing with blood diamonds be related to an elderly man in Kerala who wants to fulfill a promise made to his dying son or how could possibly the two of them be related to the mysterious deaths of the employees of a global bank in Mumbai.

When I read about the author, I thought to myself how different could another IIM alumni write than his peers. Unless he is an Amish Tripathi, should I indulge myself in this book or not? I was pleasantly surprised when I finally found the answer this morning.

The Plot:
It is not exactly easy to define the plot of a thriller novel because of two reasons in my opinion. One, you may accidentally be giving away a spoiler to the reader as you don’t know where he might be suspecting the story to be going and secondly, you may just be successful in realizing how obviously dumb you were while reading and expecting the wrong people to do different things at all the wrong moments through the text. Yes! That is what a classic thriller is and that is exactly what the Bankster is. You can never be right in what you expect and you can never expect what is coming. An undercover CIA agent exchanges Israeli weaponry for some blood diamonds and gets into some big bucks. The focus soon shifts to southern India where a resort owner, Krishna Menon is trying to immobilize his people to get the Govt. of India to answer some important questions regarding the safety of the people in the catchment area of a nuclear power plant. Meanwhile the top brass of Greater Boston Global Bank (GB2) in Mumbai are akin to bending rules and padding their pockets with the bank’s money.

Things get muckier when an NGO gets involved with Krishna Menon’s mission while the head of the NGO helping him actually has his hands dirty and is helping him only to fulfill his ulterior motives. Things take a bloodier turn when the some employees of the GB2 bank are mysteriously killed; one in Mumbai, another, months later in Vienna and then following day again in Mumbai and all deaths are presented as accidents or suicides. This is when Karan Punjabi, an ex GB2 employee and now a leading journalist decides to investigate further as one of the deceased was a close friend of his and the one who wanted to share some classified information with him. As Karan unfolds the true lies of the stories behind the deaths, we find out how the blood diamonds, the people opposing the nuclear plant and the deaths of the bank employees are related and part of a big international money laundering scam.

Who is the Bankster? I’ll leave it for you to find out.

The Verdict:
If you ask me to describe The Bankster in one word I’d say, ‘Brilliant!’ If you ask me to describe it with a gesture, I’d stand up like the Joker and break into a ‘slow-clap’ motion. At no point through the 358 odd pages of the book do you feel like you are reading a novel, it feels like you’re watching a Quinten Tarantino film. I wouldn’t say that that the author takes you on circular trip, but I would say that it is a polygon with many many sides entwining all the events into one big web. Just when you think why the author is ranting about the features of an iPad when he has more important things to discuss, he pulls you back in with a kick straight out of a Christopher Nolan film. Since there are just too many things happening and too many characters, it becomes secondary to pause and borrow the character’s shoes for even a split second but from the edge of the seat that you would be reading this novel, I must tell you that everything falls in a perfect line and sonner or later makes perfect sense.

Ravi Subramanian knows banking like no-one else. That is a well known fact but he also knows himself and his audience well. What I liked about him the most was that at no point does he get carried away with style and yet delivers his message with the right attitude. The Bankster is a confident book by someone who knows that solving mystery is like finding the missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and narrating it is like sitting down and putting them together. Now for someone who has written so brilliant a book, I am willing to overlook the 3-4 typing errors I found and also the fact that a south Mumbai ACP suddenly became a DCP standing in the CEO’s cabin of a bank. Other than these minor glitches, I would say that The Bankster is one of my prized author-autographed possessions.

My Rating: 4.25/5 and a very strong word of recommendation for the book. You may be reading a future James Hadley Chase here!

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