T he Shadow Throne is a political thriller that makes for a racy read. That’s not all, despite it being Aroon Raman’s debut novel, The Shadow Throne is a page turner. The characters are distinctly etched, the plot engaging, and the writing literary and taut. This book will be interesting read for history enthusiasts and the politically well informed.
This whodunit is set primarily in Delhi, where a murder takes place at the Qutub Minar.
But journalist Chandrasekhar, a cop Syed Ali Hassan and history professor Meenakshi Pirzada who delve deep into this mystery find more on their hands when the murder morphs into a sub-continental conspiracy that involves rogue elements within the Indian intelligence, putting the country at the risk of a nuclear Armageddon. The action travels briefly to Pakistan and then to Afghanistan.
Inspired by Osama
The story of The Shadow Throne came to Aroon when Osama Bin Laden was killed in an American commando operation. “The coverage that followed in the ensuing months took two forms,” explains Aaroon. “The Pakistanis were very upset because they weren’t informed of the ambush, and even the ISI had egg on their face. At the same time, there was a lot of bitterness in the West that Osama was in Abbottabad, in Pakistan. The relationship between the West and Pakistan plummeted to an all-time low. Pakistan was, in a sense, with its back to the wall. In India, at the time, there were immense internal issues. The situation seemed to me to be fraught with many possibilities, so The Shadow Throne comes out of that.”
Aroon, though well-read, informed, and a history buff, put in a fair amount of research in the early stages. “I did some factual research, particularly on Paksitani nuclear missiles.”
For a detective novel to be engaging, certain factors ought to be borne in mind. “The art of good thriller writing is to keep the reader centred. You’ve got to keep the action moving. The pace must neither be too fast for the plot to fall flat nor too slow for it to die. Descriptions are important to evoke atmosphere, but too much of it slows the pace. So a balance must be maintained.”
Place plays an important role in detective fiction. “Chandrasekhar, the protagonist, undergoes varied psychological states of mind as he moves from one place to another.”
In The Shadow Throne the characters are visible from what they say and do. “Within the first 40 to 50 pages, you will get a good idea of what the characters are like,” informs Aroon. To him, a good detective is one who must “have very strong intuition, logical faculty and the ability to slog long hours.”
In the world of detective fiction, Aroon says that Wilbur Smith, Ken Follett and Jeffrey Archer are in a league by themselves. He next mentions Lee Child, John Grisham, Caleb Carr, Steig Larsson and Sir H. Rider Haggard of King Solomon’s Mines fame. But of them all, Sir Arthur Canon Doyle remains iconic, for Aroon.
Aroon sold his family business in 2007, but retained the R&D unit, which he converted into a new company Raman Fibre Science, a company that encourages innovation in applied science. A lot of the Research and Development is done by boys in the 10 and 12 standards in the local villages. “They are doing fantastic product development,” says a beaming Aroon.
Aroon is a successful entrepreneur, but he doesn’t let his business take up more than 50 per cent of his time. “I engage in an array of activities. I spend time writing, trek, mostly to the Nepal Himalayas, work with NGOs, play tennis and spend time with my family.”
The Shadow Throne (Panmacmillan, Rs. 250)will be released on September 11. Aroon is working on his next novel, an adventure story set in Mughal India.