Okay, so finally the wonderful people at Blogadda sent me a book to review. ‘When The Snow Melts’ is a thriller by Vinod Joseph, a Mumbai based corporate lawyer. This is the first time I have read something in this genre by an Indian writer and I have to say that I found it better than expected. Not quite in the same league as Frederick Forsyth and Robert Ludlum thrillers, obviously, but quite absorbing and ‘unputdownable’ nonetheless.
Veteran spy Ritwik Kumar is part of the Intelligence Assessment Group in London where intelligence agents from around the world work together to fight global terrorism in general and the Al Qaida/Taliban in particular. One of the missions of the IAG is to purge Pakistan’s secret service agency, the ISI, of pro-Taliban fundamentalists.
Things haven’t been quite hunky dory for Ritwik Kumar for sometime now. He has fallen on bad days–alcoholism and gambling have led him to borrow from loan sharks and subsequently to misappropriate office funds at his disposal. Worse, he has also been caught with his fingers in the till by his boss and been ordered to return the stolen money within two weeks. Presently he is well and truly desperate, and we all know where a desperate spy ends up–in the rival camp of course, for a good compensation of course.
What Kumar has not bargained for is the fact that his current masters, the pro-Taliban faction of the ISI, have a high-ranking mole amongst his former masters. Which means that they are in the know of more info than he had imagined, and also that they have a pretty good corroborative mechanism. Which means that he cannot hope to pass off any misinformation as genuine. Held virtually captive by his new allies, he is, by all reckoning, in a tighter spot than before. The captors, though, have reason to feel more worried than Kumar.
As in all spy thrillers, there is the mandatory honey-trap in the unlikely person of Nilofer–the burkha-clad, short and plump woman with small, bright eyes, the abused wife of captor-in-chief Junaid. The short lived romance between Nilofer and Kumar is rather unconvincing, though. Kumar, after all, is pushing fifty–hardly the age to fall in love at the drop of a hat, or the burkha hood as in this case, especially when the woman is hardly even pretty. In any case, one would expect a seasoned, battle-hardened spy to know better than to rush headlong into puppy-love. Particularly when it has been his business to constantly caution younger spies against the perils of a honey-trap. Oh well, someone has to make a mistake for a thriller to be made, I guess.
One area where the book disappoints a little is the shoddy editing– quite a few typos and errors leap at you from the pages. The author’s tendency to over-describe and over-explain sometimes grates on the nerves–for instance it should have been enough to say that the remote had remnants of food stuck to the buttons. Why explain that someone might have been using the remote while eating with their hands, isn’t that obvious? The book could have done without superfluous bits and portions such as this one!
The novel ends well, though, with all loose ends neatly tied up. All missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fall right into place and fairly convincingly too. All in all a good, light, frothy read for a lazy weekend. And a promising first book from Vinod Joseph.