The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi


Dr Ravi Mohan Saini, a star professor at the prestigious St Stephen’s College in New Delhi is given a seal by his old friend Anil Varshney for safe keeping. Varshney had told him that it was part of a set of 4, and would sit on a base plate, which he had locked away in a locker. In case anything happened to him, Saini would be contacted as the main signatory. The seal is the key to the secret that Krishna is said to have left for the generations later to decipher and is called the Krishna Key. The other 3 seals are with three other people.

The next thing he knows is that he is implicated in Anil Varshney’s murder. As the last person who saw him alive, and with his fingerprints all over the place, Saini looks set to be convicted. Saini manages to escape with the help of his doctoral student, Priya Ratnani. Saini realizes that he needs to uncover the mystery of the Krishna Key in order to prove that he is not the killer of his friend. As he rushes to the others who have the seal, he finds, to his horror, one by one, they all get killed and he gets even more embroiled in the mess. To add to it, there seems to be a person who believes that he is the tenth avataar of Vishnu – Kalki. Now Saini has to try to stay alive while trying to uncover the Krishna Key. All his expertise in History, Mythology and skill in connecting things, are crucial to his survival. It doesn’t help matters that Radhika(Sniffer) Singh, an ace policewoman, is trying hard to catch him and prosecute him for what she believes is his crime. It’s tough enough to escape her, without having to worry about serial killers who seem to get everywhere.

First Impression – it was pure Dan Brown in genre. Conspiracy theory abounds, linking historical facts and exposing different facts and concepts that make you wonder if everything you knew was actually not true. Fascinating read, in terms of all the revelations. So many revelations that it made my head spin, that it made me google and check it out, just as I did when I read my first Dan Brown. It came with all the twists and turns that one would expect, with trusted people turning rogue and corrupt officials that are willing to do everything for the right price.

The best part of the book were the non-stop revelations. It was a walk through history, of a different kind. Right from prediction of the exact time when the Mahabharata was fought, using the astronomical events that were mentioned in the texts, proving that Krishna was not a mythological character but a real life person, who indeed lived on this earth, linking events till the later parts of Indian history, and even world history and the other religions. It was fascinating, to read all that. At the same time,I think the storyline got kind of muddled, somewhere in the process. In the sense that while all the revelations tied up together, it was just too much of it. By the end, I felt it was more about these startling revelations/conspiracy theory than the actual story line. And the ending, for me, it was quite lame. Disappointing in the way that Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol was.

What really amazes me is the amount of research the author must have done to come up with a book like this. Research as well as a thorough knowledge of the subject that he is writing about. So many things are linked up so well, Mythology, history, possibilities of nuclear technology in the olden days, Chemistry, Symbology, it’s almost never-ending.. Even to do the research, one must have a clear idea about what one is looking for, that I believe is just amazing. And to put it all together in a story, takes talent, and for that, I have immense respect for the author.

While it was a great read, I wish the ending was more powerful. And I wish there was a little less information. I love historical books, but in this one, I felt there was a bit too much information, which after a point, started getting a little boring for me. But then, that’s probably just me. What I loved about the narrative was Krishna’s story that was narrated alongside the happenings in the story. I loved that. It came across really well, added to the flavour of the storytelling. All in all, it is still a book I would recommend. Despite the shortcomings, It’s still an interesting read, but for me, probably a one-time read, yet I would still go ahead and try to read the other books by the author.

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When the Snow Melts by Vinod Joseph

Ritwik is in big trouble. Completely in debt, thanks to gambling and his fondness for Old Monk rum, he is being hounded by loan sharks who are out to get him.

Ritwik Kumar, a veteran spook, had been sent by the Indian Government to the Intelligence Assesment Group (IAG) in London, where intelligence agents from countries all over are fighting the war against terrorism. However, Ritwik is not functioning at his best. His alcoholism has led him into embezzling office funds and taking out loans all over the place. He needs to return the money to his boss, as well as the loan sharks.

The only way Ritwik finds to save himself from both General West(his American boss in the IAG), and the merciless loan sharks is to defect to the Al Qaeda. Of course, things are not as smooth as he would have liked. Not only do his new friends/allies start to doubt him, he also falls in love with one of his new allies Junaid’s wife Nilofer. Nilofer is treated badly by her husband Junaid, a foot soldier of the Al Qaeda who is a complete believer of it’s ideology. Ritwik is affected by Junaid’s treatment of Nilofer. Not that he can do much about it. After all, Ritwik, has other more urgent concerns, like staying alive, chances of which start looking bleaker by the hour.

So what happens next? Does Ritwik come out of all this mess alive? You’ll have to read it to find out.

My verdict. Vinod Joseph’s book is a fast moving thriller which keeps you on your toes. I did have an inkling of what could be the possible outcome, which was indeed true, but despite that, there was one twist at the end which completely took me by surprise. The descriptions of London and Basingstoke had nostalgic value for me, so that was an added bonus. Suspense, torture, international intelligence, fundamentalism, double crossing intelligence agents all made it an interesting read.

Some parts of the book did not sit very well with me, though. There is one particular sequence in the beginning of the book where Ritwik is called ‘the Man’, ‘the Old Monk drinker’ alternatively. It actually got me confused. That might just be me – but I felt that it detracted from the flow of the book, because I had to re-read to figure out what was happening. But then, as I said, that might just be me.

I also found the constant reference to Old Monk, a wee bit annoying. It almost felt like a commercial.

Apart from that, I really enjoyed the book. It was a first time read for me, a thriller by an Indian Author, and I am glad to say that I enjoyed it too. The best part for me, was the fact that it had an Indian angle, of how 9/11 effected Indian intelligence efforts and the power struggle in the subcontinent. As one of the Pakistani diplomats in the book says, all that Pakistan wants is to go back to the pre-9/11 era, when they could use the Taliban to help them in Kashmir. 9/11 brought the Talibans into the US’s focus, and that changed it all. It also gives an insight into lives of intelligence officers and the trials and dangers that they face . Lured by the money(and other considerations), there must be plenty of double agents out there, who have no qualms giving out their nation’s secrets.

I would definitely recommend it to everybody who likes books in this genre.

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