Crime and romance remain the pivotal points of interest to both the authors and the readers for time immemorial. Often we’ve seen that the two have entwined together to provide the readers a radical effect . ” Anti-Social Network ” by Piyush Jha is a value addition to the genre of crime thriller where romance or sex plays not the role of adding some sizzling spice to the narration but has become almost a character.
The title Anti-Social Network is suggestive enough to the reader that the book deals with something murky which largely involves technology and computers and the cover is tempting enough to thriller aficionados.
The plot opens as we find a girl without identity reluctantly agrees to commit something gruesome . And then the race begins. Abominable murders of college students happen in quick succession across Mumbai leaving the investigating officer Inspector Virkar almost clueless. While he continues with his investigation he stumbles upon upon some facts which reveal the existence of a network based highly tech-savvy sextortion group blackmailing vulnerable victims. But Virkar fails to get any lead about the identity of the members involved with this racket.
Meanwhile, he meets a professor of Psychology, Ms. Naina Rai and gets in with some emotional and physical relationship with her. She eventually gets involved in the investigation unofficially as she was worried about one of her students , Sagarika , who is reported to be missing since the day this insane murderer had struck for the first time. Through a series of events Inspector Virkar realizes that the members of the group he is chasing blindly outsmarts him with ease every time with their impeccable knowledge of technology and its most modern usage.
Technologically-challenged Inspector Virkar seeks the help of a drug-addicted computer genius Richard to hack different portals which could give him some leads to his desperate chase. And thus a murder mystery which first appeared to be the outcome of some frenzied vengeance of a schizophrenic mind turns out to be the master plan of a calculative and ingenious brain.
The novel is undoubtedly a ‘page-turner’ and the reader can feel the thrill and speed with which it proceeds. I like the character of Inspector Virkar as he is shown not as a super-cop but as a normal human being who makes mistakes and learns from it. There are certain things of which he knows little and like a common man he tries to understand and master those things . The character of Richard , I like him most for he is a pranky young brat at times but behaves like a responsible citizen when duty calls knowing full well of the dire consequences.
Anti-Social Network is a virtual tour of the grittiest underbelly of Mumbai ,covering all those areas from Crawford Market to Willingdon College to Bora Bazaar and even outskirts of Mumbai where Goanese settlements are likely to be found . Though the city of Mumbai is quite familiar to me still I find it interesting getting down to the nitty-gritty of these places . It has been ideally named as the ‘ Mumbaistan’ series.
The language is simple and perfect for a crime thriller . Use of ‘ Mumbaiya’ colloquial at places may bother some readers but I think it has been rightly used to make the characters look real…it is rather unnatural for a drug-peddler or a ‘khabri’ ( informer) to speak in impeccable English .
There are obviously certain loose ends and being an ardent reader of thrillers , I’ve nitpicked some . Like it’s not possible to enter a plush mall with sharp weapons like a hunting-knife , especially when it only is kept in your handbag . Well, I’ll not lengthen the list , leaving it for readers to find out more .
As a crime thriller , it is successful enough to keep the suspense intact till the last page and can said to be unputdownable . Simultaneously, it produces a dark picture of how technology can be used for illegal purposes and also how the squandering lifestyle of the young generation is making them vulnerable to become either predator or prey.
Recommended for all mystery , crime-thriller lovers.
From my Side it’s 4/5
About The Author
Piyush Jha is an acclaimed film director, ad filmmaker and the author of the bestselling novel, Mumbaistan and Compass Box Killer.
A student political leader at university, he pursued a career in advertising management after acquiring an MBA degree. Later, he switched tracks, first to make commercials for some of the country’s largest brands, and then to write and direct feature films. His films include Chalo America, King of Bollywood and Sikandar.
He lives in his beloved Mumbai, where he can often be found walking the streets that inspire his stories.
The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.