S Hussain Zaidi with his latest book.
S Hussain Zaidi with his latest book.

The Black Orphan: A cop's love, battle against terror in mumbai

A riveting tale of cops and jihadis set in panic-ridden Mumbai, with an unlikely story of endearment at its core.

The world’s most dreaded terrorist has been put down by a US Navy SEAL team. The Americans have avenged 9/11, but forgotten to share the credit with the Indian spies, who helped them with specific intel, especially DIG Ajay Rajvardhan from the National Investigation Agency (NIA). But, our man is a hero. Despite the oversight, as he gets busy saving his own city, Mumbai, from the evil plans of those who want to avenge Osama bin Laden by bumping off India’s top nuclear scientists, one by one, and planning to reduce Mumbai to rubble.

These new faces of terror are harder to track. Unlike bin Laden, their faces are not on the front pages of international newspapers or flashed on TV screens. They are women in burqas, trained by the world’s best to unleash hell on unsuspecting citizens of Mumbai in the name of jihad. And, it is left to Rajvardhan to stop them before the city goes up in flames again.

India’s top crime-fiction writer and former investigative journalist S Hussain Zaidi paints this dark world in his new book, The Black Orphan, where spies and serial killers, jihadis in burqas, and hard-boiled cops rub shoulders with each other as you breathlessly pace through the pages to get to the end of the story.

This is a world Zaidi knows well, having covered the Mumbai underworld in his reporting years, and making a mark for himself as one of the best in the tribe of women and men, who have risked life and limb for a scoop in the narrow bylanes where encounter cops and hitmen traded bullets. What makes The Black Orphan stand out, however, is not your regular Singham-style supercop story, but the subplot of blind love and passion between Rajvardhan and Asiya Khan, a gorgeous lawyer representing a young woman who has been charged with terrorism by the NIA. Can the two unlikely characters, divided by religion, profession and notions of justice, keep differences aside to become one?

The Black Orphan by S Husain Zaidi
The Black Orphan by S Husain Zaidi

The Black Orphan is too thin a book, and too fast a read to spend time on these two unlikely lovers, but the most riveting passages in book are those that detail how a battle-hardened cop falls so dangerously in love with a woman he barely knows, and keeps all his intelligence-gathering skills aside as he fails to stop himself from pursuing an adversary in the court of law. On her part, Asiya Khan leads him on, with just the right dose of encouragement, once she realises his intent. Their love is sealed with a kiss as Rajvardhan defuses a bomb planted at a Mumbai police event where Asiya is also present.

But, can the two carry on in love in a world so divided by terror? Are the main characters in the book who they say they are, or are they hiding terrible truths? Can one good cop save a city from an international terror racket? The Black Orphan will not let you rest till you reach the last page, and have all the answers.

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The New Indian Express
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