Book review: Catching the Departed (2014)

Catching the Departed by Kulpreet Yadav was shortlisted for the DNA-Hachette “Hunt for the Next Bestseller” prize. This book placed in the top 20 out of 300 entries received, but did not win. The book tells the story of Andy Karan, former Indian Army captain turned investigative journalist. Andy is an Indian James Bond with gadgets, guns, and girls. For this first thriller, he’s tasked with investigating a murder. Eventually, the murder investigation leads to a larger plot, and Andy puts himself and his loved ones in danger.

The good

The dialogue is well written, but there’s not enough to keep the reader engaged with the characters. Entire conversations are often summarized rather than spoken. If those conversations had been written using character dialogue, readers would learn much more about the characters in their own voices.

Yadav’s descriptions of the surroundings are good. At times, however, it feels as though these elaborate set pieces would be better served in a fantasy novel, where the writer must create the world for the reader. In a thriller, the descriptions of the Indian countryside only slow the action.

The bad

The book feels too raw for publication. The book’s flaws are fundamental. Unclear antecedents, misplaced modifiers, run-on sentences, and dangling participles abound. The grammatical errors are so egregious that a cursory editorial review would have resolved most issues. For example, the misplaced modifier in the following sentence means that the door has a wrist:

“In the end, he knocked at the wooden door with a loosely flexed wrist.”

But, many issues are much deeper and structural in nature. The timeline does not flow smoothly. For example, we hear a conversation between Monica (Andy’s love interest) and her boss. The next chapter begins with Andy waking up four hours before that conversation occurred. It’s jarring to the reader to hop back and forth in time. Yet, the book contains excruciating details about how long tasks take.

“Andy paced the room. Ten minutes later [sic] he packed.”

Yadav has gone to great lengths to plot the plot, so the timeline confusion is somewhat surprising.

Ultimately, what unravels this book for the reader is the sexist and racist subtext. The female character of Monica is a shell. While Andy’s rescuing the world, she’s stuck in a hotel room pondering how much she loves Andy. If you’ve read a Bond book, you can guess where Monica’s character arc is headed.

We learn the diabolical mastermind behind the plot has three idols: Hitler, the Vietnamese, and the North Koreans. Clearly, no sane person would admire Hitler, but to lump the Vietnamese and the North Koreans together with him is disturbing. A joke about all Punjabi children drinking scotch falls flat and seems to exist solely to poke fun at that ethnic group.

The verdict

Catching the Departed mimics Ian Fleming’s Bond, but lacks Fleming’s style and intrigue.

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