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The Bankster By Ravi Subramanian- Book Review

Some writers are blessed with a great skill of verbal imagery. Ravi Subramanian is one such author. He does not need a large number of pages to reach where he wants you to go, a page or two will carry enough flow, impact and imagery to transport you to Angola. The web of blood diamonds, illegal arms transaction, forms the backdrop of this fiction, while the main story plays around in the corporate confines of banking industry, an area which the author knows well about, amply demonstrated in his earlier books, "The Devil in the Pinstripes" and "If God was a Banker". In his fourth book, Ravi sticks to the world of banking, which is a good thing.
Being from the same industry, he understands the nuances of the industry, various pushes and pulls under which very human feelings get to play in the industry. Though most corporate and their people, who at times are termed as corporate warriors, and aptly so, face the similar lures and threats as the characters of the story, there triggers of actions vary from industry to industry, and Ravi beautifully covers this as he explains the way, Vikram Behl, the Retail banking head creates a web of deceit with his small time corruption, and how his greed to win eventually leads to something evil of such proportions which no one would have imagined.
The tale of intrigue and suspense touches on terror funding  and how blinded by greed and ambition, whole of GB2 bank is seeped in, the fictional Bank in which Vikram works, furthering his sphere of influence and scale by carefully drafting foot-soldiers like Nikhil in his army of corporate mercenaries with the help of scheming HR head, Tanuja, as he rescues the latter from self-created mess. The shifting of Nikhil as cluster head of retail banking from Pune to Mumbai carries some uncanny resemblances of John Grisham's, but seemingly aware of the close inference, author makes the story take a swift turn with the Vikram's benevolence towards Nikhil left somewhere, without much exploration as one might have expected.

The story moves between Mumbai and Kerala for the much part, and the Angola angle was merely to infer the international angle to the story. The shady, parallel dealings of the character, there in Angola, and elsewhere, all under the employment of CIA, initiates the journey of international espionage, left in the middle, seemingly, with a hurry to get back to the known and familiar world of banking, leaves the reader wanting, for something similar to a Bourne or Matarese Circle.

The other backdrop, however works well as the character of Krishna takes shape in Kerala, and then the story draws in the real drama which took place in India, last year with Nuclear protests taking place in Kudanakulam (referred here as Devikulam). Real incidents are used deftly and interspersed well, which will sure find consonance with Indian readers such as the foreign hand which eventually is forcefully deported, and political profiteering playing a role in creating unrest to oppose the nuclear plan in Kerala as was alleged by Government.Through the episode detailing the panel discussion in Television, resulting in the fall out between Krishna and the wily activist, Jaya Kumar, one can almost hear Arnab Goswami, NewsHour debate of TimesNow, the popular News channel in real life. This play of real life into the fiction, breathes in a touch of real in this tale of fiction.

I personally feel that in fiction, every character introduced ought to serve some function in the build of the story and must surely play out that function in full. Some characters in this story, to my mind do not find the full play of their significance in the story, and one such is Nikhil. He character seems to have been drawn with some vagueness, merely placed to bring forth the cunning and pettiness of Vikram Behl. With the sacrifice of Nikhil's character build up, however, author finds more time to work on the personalities of Vikram and the mischievous HR head,  Tanuja, which reflects in how well these characters develop. By the time you have met them through couple of chapters, you feel you know them in real. The command and comfort of the writer is hard to escape reader's notice every time he touches the familiar terrain of banking world, whether to explain the feeling of helplessness and loss of Harshita, in the throes of mid-life career crisis, threatened by new star performer in Zinaida, ready to break a rule or two to win; or to explain the cut throat competition and constant race to book a sale. Anyone who works in sales, banking or not, can easily identify with the subdued jealousy of Harshita, the pressure for performance by the senior management staff like Nikhil and Branch head, Anand, and how under pressure, all difficult deals flow smoothly through the system of tough compliance in the quarter/ year end.

Karan Punjabi, comes in as Raymond's friend and ex-employee to solve series of deaths of bank employees, including Harshita, Pranesh and Raymond, as last in the row. How the high priestess of Banking, Indrani, grants all access to Karan and how an ex-bank employee and rookie journalist, becomes an investigator is little confusing, but then, we needed someone to unearth the truth. Hemant, the head of Fraud control, could have been made a better protagonist to resolve the suspense, but by then the web is so well-manufactured and suspense is so palpable, that one would have to be absolutely ungrateful to complain the choice of protagonist, or even his obliquely referenced romance with Kavya. The build-up is perfect and the tension by then is nail-biting.

As an interesting trail of clues, is persued by the investigating team of Hemant, Kavya and Karan (in reverse order of prominence), leading them to Kerala, into the flow of funds to Kerala from illegal international sources through bogus front company which had opened account in the bank under question. One is almost on the edge of the seat when Vikram is summoned, in the concluding sections and then something unbelievable happens, which would be unjust to the author to be opened up in a review and will be spoiler. The book deserves to be picked up and read. One word of caution, better start reading it at right hour, as it is quite unputdownable. I picked it up at eleven in the night, and went reading till the last page, which arrived at three into the morning, to enter yawning to my own real world of competitive sales next day.

The book ought to get at least 4/5 and should form want-to-read for anyone who loves reading thrillers.

Note: This book was offered to me for review, by BlogAdda, under the Book Review Program.
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