A mysterious murder at the Qutub Minar triggers a call to ace journalist Chandrasekhar from his cop acquaintance, Inspector Syed Ali Hassan.
The victim is unlike anyone Chandra has ever seen: a white Caucasian male who has all the looks of a throwback to Greek antiquity.
And, what begins as a murder enquiry soon morphs into a deadly game of hide-and-seek within Pakistan’s ISI and India’s RAW - the Research & Analysis Wing - the uber-agency of Indian intelligence.
A shadowy group is planning the deadliest nuclear strike in history; Chandra, his friend Meenakshi Pirzada, a history professor, and Hassan soon find themselves in a race against time to avert a sub-continental nuclear holocaust.
The action starts at Delhi, but soon shifts to Pakistan and then the mountainous valleys of Afghanistan. As the story moves to its hair-raising climax among the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan, the trio find themselves caught up in a terrifying vortex of danger and death, where nothing is what it seems….
“May 2011. Osama bin Laden has been killed by US Navy Seals in his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Pakistan’s ISI and the Army have their back to the wall. Relationships with the Western world hit rock bottom.
On the other side of the border, India is also gripped by a crisis: a crisis of scandal and political paralysis. This is the overall backdrop against which the book opens,” said Aroon Raman, author of The Shadow Son.
The author also believes that a well-written work of suspense has to have three things going for it: an ‘authentic’ feel, a taut plot that grips the reader and pulls him or her along, and strong characterisation.
According to him, if the author is capable of bringing these to the story - any story - than he or she has a great deal of leeway on the choice of the overall theme of the book.
“I have read suspense thrillers with enormously varied thematic substance: legal (John Grisham, Steve Martini), murder and detection (Caleb Carr, Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Lawrence Sanders), action (Lee Child, Stephen Hunter), political/period (Tom Clancy, Ken Follet).
In other words, the great thing about a suspense thriller is that it can accommodate an enormous variety of periods, backdrops and themes.
This is its most intriguing aspect, and one that gives the reader a huge and varied canvas to enjoy,” he added.
With respect to Indian literature, there are several authors trying to break ground in thriller.
And, Aroon believes that thriller as a genre in India is yet to be fully exploited as a niche.
"A book without any literary merit will fail as a thriller. For it to succeed it must have atleast a modicum of it. Most Indian writing in English is still serious and relatively high-brow stuff.
Barring vernacular thriller writers (such as the great Surinder Mohan Pathak in Hindi) the thriller writer is still a rare bird in India; and adventure/thriller writing in this country has yet to frame its identity.
One can have a well-written and a badly or indifferently written thriller. The main criterion by which a thriller is to be judged is: does it ‘thrill’ or hook a reader? If it does, then it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do," said Aroon.
So what's next for Aroon Raman?
"Well, I love history. I have written a book of adventure set in Mughal India at the time of Akbar. Tentatively called Abduction it will be released next year by Pan Macmillan.
The book is part-fable, part-fact and is the product of considerable research as well," he signed off.