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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Review: The Bankster by Ravi Subramanian

The WSJ has called him the John Grisham of Banking. Having completed reading Ravi Subramanian's latest thriller, The Bankster, I can understand why. The author's in-depth knowledge of not only banking practices but also contemporary corporate culture,especially the dark side of it- opportunism, exploitation, nepotism and even criminality, makes the narration captivating. However, it is not just banking, in the backdrop of Greater Boston Global Bank (GB2) lies an intricate plot involving illegal money laundering,covert security services operatives, anti-nuclear activists and unscrupulous bankers and politicians. After the mysterious death of three of GB2 employees, ex-banker and journalist Karan Panjabi resolves to get to the bottom of it. A global conspiracy awaits.   


I must confess that when I picked up the book this Saturday morning I was in doubt if I would ever get to the last page. My previous experience with the works of IIM graduates-turned-authors had been unpleasant to say the least. The first few pages did seem to reinforce my bias but once drawn into the plot (or should I say a maze of plots) I had finished it before the weekend was over !

The story opens in Angola with a CIA operative procuring the infamous blood diamonds  but quickly shifts,not just spatially but also through time, to a small town in Kerala,three decades back. However, it is the Great Boston Global Bank or GB2 in Mumbai where the central plot is firmly anchored. The multiple and seemingly unrelated narratives run parallel converging in the climax. As events unfold in the GB2 branch, Ravi Subramanian 18 years long career in banking gives him the ability to describe banking processes and the murky world of corporate politics in intricate detail. In fact, I haven't read his previous books but can understand why the Wall Street Journal has called him "John Grisham of banking".


Yet,the book cannot strictly be called a financial thriller. Covert secret service operations and protests revolving around Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant do play significant part in the plot. At a time when the media has been drawing flak for intrusiveness, Ravi portrays  investigative journalism in positive light. As the story picks up steam, an experienced and highly prized relationship manager and her husband are found dead in Vienna in what at first seems an accident but is later declared as homicide. As the mystery deepens, another employee of GB2 is found dead in Mumbai, alleged to have committed suicide, subsequently, death of another employee sometime back is also found to be murder and not road accident as it had been first recorded as.

 Journalist Karan Panjabi, ex-banker and former GB2 employee and the lead character enters the picture. With the help of a few trusted associates, Karan sets to solve the case and find out the truth behind it. A thrilling ride for the reader begins as Panjabi sets to unravels the mystery.  On the flip side there are a couple of loose ends in the plot but not critical enough to affect the story line. The language could have been better considering the fact that it has all the necessary ingredients that makes an International thriller. Apart from these, The Bankster by Ravi Subramanian is a good read no matter what your literary taste is but if you love thrillers then this one is a must-read for you.



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