The Wall Street Journal has called Ravi Subramanian “the John Grisham of banking.” A Mumbai-based banking executive, Subramanian is the two-time winner of the Crossword Book Award in the Popular category. In 2013, he won the award for his banking thriller, The Bankster. Set in the fictional GB2 bank in Mumbai, the book is a solid banking thriller with murder, corruption, and nuclear proliferation as its central themes. The book takes us on a journey from South Africa to Mumbai to Kerala to Munich and back again.
Although the book starts slowly, the middle section of the book is a great thrill ride. Here, Subramanian is worthy of his Grisham sobriquet. The structure helps set the pace. The short chapters take us quickly from one location to the next. Each time, we pick up the continuing story in real time.
For foreigners, the books provide excellent insight into Indian banking and corporate culture. Subramanian has an acute sense of the characters who live in the fast-paced, high-stress world of private wealth management. The pressure to sell to HNWIs is intense. So much so, that it drives the RMs in the book to corruption.
The TOI reporter Karan is the strongest character. Unfortunately, he does not appear until midway through the book. He’s the Sherlock Holmes of the book and carries the investigation into the murders forward. He helps pick up the pace in a slow-moving story.
The slow start is a weakness in the book. Although our literary journey begins in a South African diamond mine, we continue onward to Mumbai and become bogged down in extraneous details about banking, the Mainland China dinner chapter, for example. Although the importance of some details becomes evident by the end, we are set up for a big moment that never really develops.
Although the exotic locations will appeal to many readers, at times, the plots in disparate locations seem disconnected, as if we are reading three separate novels. While the Mumbai to Munich plot connection is obvious, the Kerala plot occurred sporadically and did not connect to the other plot lines until the final chapters. That plot seems contrived and forced. Ultimately, we don’t care about those characters or their fates.
Although the book is entertaining, the resolution is ultimately simplistic and unsatisfying. The solution of the murder mystery hinges on a voicemail message and Apple Photo Stream. Perhaps Mr. Subramanian has voicemail at his office, but no one else in India does. When a voicemail is conveniently retrieved at the end of the book, we are skeptical. When incriminating photos are uploaded to a character’s Photo Stream through a questionably short wifi connection, we are incredulous. We are presented with a pretty package tied with multicolored ribbon and expected to accept it politely.
A thrilling tale of banking and corruption that falls flat at the end