review: sacred games

7 03 2009

I’ve finally finished Sacred Games, and what a fantastic book it is!  It’s just a sprawling novel, very Dickensian in its scope and interwoven stories, and a completely enjoyable read.

The novel focus on Sartaj Singh, a police inspector, who is stuck in a middling position with little to no hope of a long overdue promotion.  An anonymous tip leads him to crime lord Ganesh Gaitonde, who has returned to India after spending many years abroad and is holed up in a bunker.  This is just the starting point of a truly epic novel as Singh become involved in an investigation about Gaitonde’s return to India.  Interspersed with Singh’s investigation of that case and others are Gaitonde’s own story of how he became one of the most powerful gangsters in India.

The stories overlap and intertwine and things you thought weren’t all that important are reintroduced at a later point in the book.  Chandra carefully weaves his plot so that all the strands connect, though often in random and unexpected ways.  My one complaint with the book is that I felt there was too much of an emphasis on this right towards the end of the book in the chapter entitled”Two Deaths in Cities Far from Home.”

The characters are all well-rounded, full of flaws and failings, and Gaitonde, in particular, is a captivating creation, a powerful man, but one with deep feelings of insecurity and loneliness.  What I also loved was the sense of place that Chandra captured throughout, in his use of language and quotes and songs and smells.  It isn’t a world that I think I would want to live in, but I certainly enjoyed observing it as a fly on the wall.

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