Yayyyy….My first spy thriller!!!
A Pakistani spy may be stealing nuclear weapons technology from Europe.
Captain Sablok was a sapper in the Indian Army until he was injured during a covert mission in 1971. Desk-bound and working as an intelligence analyst for R&AW, after two years of filing meaningless reports he may just have stumbled upon a Pakistani spy.
The year is 1974. India tested a nuke just months earlier, and Pakistan is desperate to acquire one. Unfortunately for Bhutto, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, his scientists are nowhere close to building a nuclear weapon. Sablok is convinced that the Pakistani agent is passing sensitive weapons technology to Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, but his evidence is weak. His inexperience in intelligence and his reputation for alcoholism conspire against him, and his Section Chief declines to authorise an operation.
But Sablok has finally found a sense of purpose after two miserable years, and he will not give up without a fight. The only other person he trusts in R&AW is a washed-up Case Officer who was an outstanding field agent once. Sablok convinces him, but can the two of them convince their superiors before the ISI gets all the technology it needs?
Thus begins a gritty and riveting chapter in the history of Indian espionage as Sablok and his team race against time to stop the ISI.
Let Bhutto Eat Grass starts with a kill. A gritty, efficient killing of one soldier by another, driven by the need for vengeance for the suffering of East Pakistan’s innocent civilians. The story unwinds in much the same way- gritty, matter-of-fact political intrigue, driven by a handful agents who take offence to one country’s constant quest to brew trouble, up to the point where lines between duty towards their mission and personal vengeance are blurred.
Working in a hapless system getting murdered by red tape, a mostly ignored ex-soldier turned intelligence analyst, a mid level agent and his reluctant boss set events in motion that can change the power dynamics of the world.
If only the world listened!
Without giving away spoilers (any more than I already have), I want to say that Let Bhutto Eat Grass blew me away and kept me coming back for more. The story flows seamlessly, sets a good pace and doesn’t slack whatsoever. The characters are well fleshed out, their progress natural. Once I started on the first chapter, I could not put the damn thing down. I read it while – brushing teeth, burning toast, doing the dishes, hopping on my feet to calm down a very cranky 2 month old followed by reading the story out loud to the same but considerably mellowed down two month old… etc etc… you get the picture. I loved Agarkhedkar’s dry sarcastic humor. It was the perfect voice to paint a picture of the sorry state of Indian politics in the seventies, and very realistically capture how relatively normal people might deal with the horrific.
I’ll be honest. As my first political/spy thriller, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I had expected riveting chase sequences around the world (spies should chase stuff right? Or at least be chased by a diabolical sociopath bent on destroying nations), dashing heroes (I am a female after all), hot-headed patriotism (because spies…) and diplomatically handled political intrigue (being from a country where a hint of realism on politics can incite a very excitable populace to jump to any number of conclusions. In other words, shit escalates quickly).
Let Bhutto Eat Grass, turned my assumptions on the head and cured me of this silly naivete about how a spy thriller should read like an over the top Mission Impossible or James Bond movie. The dashing hero was the riveting story, diabolical villains took the alarming shapes of our deified leaders and patriotism took a refreshing pragmatic approach. I have been schooled and now eagerly look forward to the sequel next year.