“The Heist Artist” by Vish Dhamija Book Review

I received a review copy of “The Heist Artist” by Vish Dhamija; courtesy – Writersmelon. This is the first time I am reading a book written by Vish Dhamija and he has been touted as India’s answer to John Grisham for some of his earlier books which were legal thrillers.


In ‘The Heist Artist’ – the action starts fast and the book is a quick page-turner that leaves you asking for more. The story narrates the adventures of a con-artist, his attempts to retrieve a missing Van Gogh painting, a cop pursuing the con-artist, a political goon who hired the con-artist in the first place, and some other assorted colourful characters. Our hero or anti-hero; however you choose to describe the primary character goes by the name ‘Captain’. He is a skilled con-artist who abhors violence and after an attempt to smuggle weapons goes wrong; he shifts to Banaras and is disguised as a sadhu. We are also given a brief flashback of sorts that tells us why the Captain has to take up a life of crime and it is quite convincing, akin to a thousand other stories in a similar vein, wherein a person has to take up to a life of crime to make ends meet.

The Captain is called upon by Udham Singh a politician/goon from Uttar Pradesh. He hands a task to the Captain telling him that a Van Gogh painting “Poppy Flowers” is in India and he gives him a list of four potential people who may have the painting with them. The Captain’s task is to identify the owner, steal the painting, and bring it safely to Udham. With a rich reward on offer, the Captain believes it is a one-time opportunity to make a massive pay-out and retire. With a generous advance from Udham, the Captain judiciously gets ready to find the painting. He disguises himself as a Professor of Art from France called Albert Reuben and teaches art in a leading institute in Delhi.

Here’s a bit of history about the painting, courtesy the “Museum of Stolen Art”:

“Poppy Flowers (also known as Vase and Flowers and Vase with Viscaria) is a painting by Vincent van Gogh with an estimated value of $50 million The painting, which is of a vase of yellow and red poppies, contrasted against a dark background is a reflection of Van Gogh’s deep admiration for Adolphe Monticelli, an older painter whose work influenced him when first he saw it in Paris in 1886. Egyptian officials erroneously believed they had recovered the painting only hours after its theft when two Italian suspects attempted to board a plane to Italy at Cairo International Airport. The same painting had been stolen from the same museum on June 4, 1977, and was recovered ten years later in Kuwait. The painting is small, measuring 65 x 54 cm, and depicts yellow and red poppy flowers. It is believed that van Gogh painted it in 1887, three years before his suicide.”


In this chaos, there is an incorruptible policeman who is on the hunt of the Captain and aims to bring him to justice. He tries to figure out where the Captain vanished after the botched attempt in smuggling weapons. The Professor/Captain manages to figure out the identity of the person who now holds the painting and by a weird twist of fate gets to see it and vouch its genuineness. Now that he knows where the painting is stored; it is owned by a millionaire/businessman Bipin; he plans the theft. When Udham is informed about this he plans to get the painting from the Captain and kill him. He assigns Sonia a former escort who now works for a detective agency to track the Captain’s activities; he also sends his henchman Damodar to ensure that the painting is stolen and brought to him perfectly.

What happens next? Is the painting stolen by the Captain, Sonia, and Damodar? Is the Captain killed by Udham and Damodar? What is Sonia’s role in the entire chain of events? Does the cop track down the Captain before the theft happens? If you want to find answers to all these questions; then you must pick up “The Heist Artist” by Vish Dhamija. It has all the ingredients for a blockbuster movie. Go for it, you won’t be disappointed.

You can buy the book from Amazon – https://www.amazon.in/Heist-Artist-Vish-Dhamija/dp/9353026024

Happy reading!


These Savage Shores by Ram V.

Ram V. is a popular name in the Indian comic book scene. Regular comic-book readers would remember him from the early days when ‘Aghori’ won several awards. Then “Black Mumba” happened as a QuickStarter project and cemented his position as a storyteller of repute. He has gone on to create award-winning comics / graphic novels for several leading publishers.

these savage shores

I would like to plug in this interview published on Factordaily that will give readers an idea of the skills of the supremely talented Ram V.


Recently, there was a tweet from Ram offering review copies online for honest reviews and shamelessly I requested for a review copy, do remember I am not a book-reviewer of repute whose reviews are published in newspapers and comic-book review websites. I was pleasantly surprised when Ram with all his humbleness and magnanimity shared a review copy.

I received Issue Two of “These Savage Shores”. The cover is magical and the story starts in Calicut in 1766. The challenge for a reviewer is to not reveal too much and yet influence the potential reader to buy a copy of the book. The art-work is magical, the story-arc well developed. If you love reading about warriors and beasts with a tinge of the supernatural and fantasy, then I am sure you will love this series. This issue builds up expectations nicely and I am sure this is going to be another gem in Ram’s fast-growing collection of brilliant work.

The comic is published by Vault Comics and this issue is priced under $4.

This gets a full five stars and my wish remains that Black Mumba gets re-published by whichever firm that holds the rights to the tale.

‘Shunya’ by Sri M – A Book Review

Over the years, there have been very few books of fiction that have left a profound impact on me. The blog has been lying dormant for a fair while for the want of something concrete to write. Do I write about my recurring visits to the hospital with my mother vacillating between critical and extremely critical or about the failure of finding purpose in life! No one cares about reading dull verse masquerading as poetry of the soul. Political commentary and sports analysis has its own perils. So what does one do? Write about a good book. No further boring you my dear readers. Let’s head into the book right away.

‘Shunya’ is the first work of fiction by Sri M. Sri M is someone whom I was not aware of and when I signed up for the book review program from the good folks of Westland India, I did up a fair bit of reading on him and was quite intrigued.

Blurb of the book:

He appears out of nowhere in a sleepy little neighbourhood in suburban Kerala. He calls himself Shunya, the zero. Who is he? A lunatic? A dark magician? A fraud? Or an avadhuta, an enlightened soul?

Saami—as they call him—settles into a small cottage in the backyard of the local toddy shop. Here he spins parables, blesses, curses, drinks endless glasses of black tea and lives in total freedom. On rare occasions, he plays soul-stirring melodies on his old, bamboo-reed flute.

Then, just as mysteriously as he arrived, Shunya vanishes, setting the path for a new avadhuta, a new era.

This first novel by Sri M is a meditation on the void which collapses the wall between reality and make-believe, the limited and the infinite. With its spare storytelling and profound wisdom, it leads us into the realm of ‘shunya’, the nothingness of profound and lasting peace, the beginning and end of all things.

Set in a village near Trivandrum in Kerala. The book chronicles the tale of an enlightened soul Shunya who lands up in the village unannounced. We meet interesting characters like a toddy-shop owner who is scared out of his wits at their first meeting. The shop-owner offers him a place to stay and then numerous changes happen in the village. We are introduced to different characters in the village and how Shunya Swami’s arrival has a lasting impact on the lives of the villagers. We also have visitors like Kumar who becomes the Swami’s protege, Diana, Bob, the politician who is skeptical at the beginning, the Namboodiri, the young lovers from two different communities, the corrupt church-conversion tout. The list of characters goes on.

This book has a fair bit of philosophy woven into it and works quite well for those looking for an introduction to a ‘path’ or wisdom. The ending seems rushed and was the only weak point for me in the whole book.

I would recommend this book for lovers of fiction and spirituality. Go for the book, you won’t be disappointed.

Buy from Amazon

Happy reading and till we meet again – May you find what you seek 🙂





300 Days by Bragadeesh Prasanna – A Study into the Transformation of a Friend into a Published Author

Title – 300 Days

Author – Bragadeesh Prasanna

Type – Kindle Edition

Genre – Romance

Source of Book – Early draft copy provided by the novelist.

Price – Rs 166.

Link to buy

This is not a review. This is my attempt to document the transformation of a person, an artist who tries to create art, succeeds and tries his best to publish it, but is pushed down by publishers, who seek a pretty face first, and look at the manuscript later. I met Bragadeesh about three to four years back. I met him as a part of the Chennai Bloggers Club. I recollect very clearly, we met at Café Coffee Day, Ispahani Centre along with some more bloggers. The meeting was to decide how to take CBC forward as a body of bloggers.   Neither of us in our wildest dreams thought that we would be admins some day. Bragadeesh is currently ‘makkalin admin’; Sindhu and I are regular admins 🙂 I digress – let me return to the reason and purpose behind this post!

Over the years, I have seen Bragadeesh transform in front of my eyes. His writing is impressive, he takes a lot of pains to think out scenes in his head and then put pen to paper or fingers to his laptop keyboard. From “Polly”, “300 Days”, “Chilakkama” the title of the book went through various changes. He participated in the WRIMO novel project and typed at a furious pace to complete the first draft in a month. This is when he was in a KPO working night-shifts – mind you. A few of us – Vidhyalakshmi, Vidyasankar, Bhavia were privileged enough to read the first cut of the novel and each of us was spellbound.

How could someone with so much pain, so much anguish, still remain selfless and believe in love?

The manuscript went through rigorous editing by Ms Sridevi Datta.We would keep asking when is the book launch? For over a year, I would have irritated him with one question – “When are you setting Polly free?” – Refer Vidhyalakshmi’s post wherein she drew a beautiful parakeet with 300 etched with perfection.

<I have super-talented blogger friends>

There was tremendous turmoil in his personal life, from losing his job because of Obamacare, switching to another KPO and going up to set up India operations and becoming the head of Indian operations for a small firm focused on furniture and lampshades sold in the USA and Europe, he battled every storm with care.

The Accident:

It was a busy day at work and Srilakshmi – another wonderful lifestyle and food blogger cum published short story writer phoned me – “Mahesh, Brags met with an accident!” I was dreading the day when this would happen, I had told him 100 times to wear a helmet and thankfully government rule forced him to begin wearing the helmet. I called up Suresh, Bragadeesh’s elder brother, he apprised me of the situation and said that they were in the Rajeev Gandhi Hospital, opposite Central Station. Till I met him that evening, I was worried like a mad man. He was injured badly, his face swollen, nose fractured, hand fractured, he was in terrible pain, but he still smiled. I always carry Anjaneyar Kovil kumkumam with me, I gave it to Appa and told him to apply it. I said – “He will be fine”. His mother was equally worried, that evening will remain stuck in my mind forever, we are reduced to mere puppets, the Lord pulls strings, we are just characters. He recovered slowly, the worrying factor was his ‘memory-blanks’. A lot of things from the past are clouded in mystery forever!

Rebuilding the Tale:

A long painful recovery later, he worked with renewed focus on vigour on the tale. There would be chats about rejections from publishers. I kept telling him, we can publish, let us approach a printer in Triplicane and publish. Balamani Sir a senior blogger had published his first novel similarly and he had managed to sell a fair number of copies. He was insistent – “No, I want a good publisher, who believes in me!”

Reality and the Launch:

The reality, that publishers cater to a demography that wants Durjoy Datta and Chetan Bhagat clones and not exactly a revisionist romance; finally dawned on Bragadeesh. He launched the book on Amazon as a Kindle book on Prason’s daughter – Anya’s birthday. Prason and Bragadeesh are like Deva and Surya from “Dhalapathi”. They are inseparable and Prason features in the novel as well.

The Story:

The book follows the premise of the ‘seven stages of love’. Jai and Sravani are the lead characters. Is their love story one that transcends all barriers? What is the intriguing meaning of 300 Days? Why can’t an adult man and woman just remain friends? Does family come before love? Can one love someone and marry someone else? How far will you go in sacrificing yourself for the one whom you love?

These are some questions to which you may find some answers when you read the book!

Plot and Pacing:

A good book is one in which you are drawn into the characters. Even if I had not known the author personally, I would have still loved this book. The pacing varies, the editing could have been tighter, we would wish for a different climax, but then some tales are meant to be like this. But there is hope at the end! A new beginning perhaps!

The Cover:

It is fascinating in its minimalist design – a sure-fire winner – special appreciation for the cover designer!

The Road Ahead:

As I sit and type this seemingly long post, I have the author’s next manuscript in the adjacent window :)! It is a beautiful tale of love, hope, redemption, loss, pain and success and jealousy in the fascinating world of music. A sure-fire winner, which I hope will be published by a leading publishing house soon!

A Note to you Bragadeesh:

I have said this once, I will say it a hundred times. I don’t have many friends in real life, you are one among the few people, with whom I share my secrets, you are a part of my wolf-pack. I will do everything in my power to remain your friend.

As you grow in stature as an author and mentor other authors as part of the Chennai Writers Circle, I shall only be happy and proud of your success.

I am proud to be a brother to this emotional guy who cares so much, loves unconditionally, but can be angry for the most trivial of things. You believed in life and love and have moved on with so much pain! Why fight over silly issues?

One for all, all for one!

Good luck to you as always!

“Songs of the Mist” by Shashi

These are trying times wherein everyone is being questioned about roles, designations, rules and ‘conflict of interest’.  I had the chance to beta-read end edit a manuscript by fellow CBC-member and India’s leading spiritual blogger – Shashi – “Songs of the Mist”.

I was captivated by the manuscript. No two thoughts about it – it was good. The challenge was to structure and rephrase words in a way that would appeal to the younger generation for whom the book is primarily written. I am happy to say that to a fair extent amidst various contributors, we have done an extremely good job!

The contributors include Nandhitha Hariharan and Rajesh Venugopalan.

The book is a love story cum spiritual journey. Ashutosh, Ayan, Calliope, Anishka, and the elusive monk are the key characters.The tale goes back and forth and in time and the description of the Himalayas transports you to the snow-capped peaks. I do not wish to reveal a lot about the plot

The book incorporates the essence of the Song Divine – the Bhagvat Gita and is the first in the “Monk Key” series. It is one man’s search for his true identity and his quest to sort out for once and for all the purpose of his creation in the bigger scheme of things! All the people whom he meets in this journey, their conversations and their intertwined lives get featured in the book.

You can buy the book here –

I also attended a reading of the book last Friday at the Leela Palace in Chennai it was graced by Timeri Murari renowned novelist and playwright. There was a Carnatic Music performance and display of paintings as well. It was a wonderful event.

Lovely pics from the event can be seen here- shot by the legendary fine arts enthusiast Jothivel Moorthi – http://www.jovemac.in/songs-of-the-mist-book-reading/



Private India – Blogadda Book Reviews Program

Title: Private India
Author(s): James Patterson, Ashwin Sanghi
Language: English
Genre: Fiction/Thriller/Crime
Publisher: Arrow/Random House India, Year Published: 2014 July
Pages: 480
ISBN-13: 9780099586395 , ISBN-10: 0099586398

I first heard that Ashwin Sanghi was working with James Patterson on a novel set in India, at the beginning of this year, at ‘The Hindu Lit for Life Literature Festival’ in Chennai. The announcement had me excited because JP is a master-writer spinning plot upon plot and is I believe among the rare few people who does not suffer from Writer’s Block. The prolific output of work is testimony to the statement above 🙂

JP surprisingly was a recent entrant in my reading list; read one of his books about three years back and then a friend gave me a full bunch of his ebooks with about 15 or 17 of his works and it was an absolute blast reading his books.

Ashwin Sanghi has won the title of India’s Dan Brown and his books have found success with the steady mix of history, mythology, science and politics. I enjoyed ‘Chanakya’s Chant’ and look forward to reading more of his solo-efforts.

Now let me tell you a bit about my reading tastes – I am a bit crazy about serial killers and murder mysteries. There was a time when I hoped I would go on to do an MPhil and a PhD and my thesis would be ‘Serial Killers in Fiction and Reality’. Well fate had other plans and all I do is read books and write reviews when time permits. Jo Nesbo has been the single biggest novelist who has managed to charm his way into the hearts of readers with his Harry Hole series and his translator deserves equal merit.

Now moving back to ‘Private India’:

In Mumbai, women are being strangled and killed with a yellow scarf. Strange motifs and symbols are being placed next to their corpses. Private India, a team of super exclusive private investigators is brought into action and headed by Santosh Wagh, ex RAW, the team of Nisha Gandhe (ex Mumbai CID), Hari Padhi (tech wizard) and Mubeen (forensic expert) take it upon themselves to try and find the killer before he strikes again.

Step-by-step the case unravels, the book is paced fast and lots of secrets tumble out. I do not want to add too many details as this would make reading the book boring. The book is a great read for those unfamiliar with the works of JP. To seasoned readers of books by JP and other crime-thriller masters; this book is a bit of a letdown.

It is evident that the descriptions of Mumbai references to the various forms of the Goddess and the Navrathri are by Ashwin Sanghi – but somewhere deep down I felt this book was going like a bit of a tour guide for international readers. Somewhere there seems to be a disconnect, I am just not able to put it clearly, perhaps I am wrong and it is my personal viewpoint. May be if I had not read any of JP’s books before I would have waxed eloquent and offered five stars. Read some of JP’s earlier books and you will feel the difference.

Mahesh’s Rating: Three stars out of five for this thriller.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

JUICE by Mohit Jain – Book Review

This is the second book that I have received from ace-teacher, inspirational speaker and author – Mohit Jain. The previous book that I had reviewed was Four Corners of the Circle. You can read the review here.

J.U.I.C.E. stands for – ‘Join us in creating education’

The book has an intriguing cover in blue – with the outline of a cocktail glass designed with various words.


The book focuses on explaining tough and complicated principles in management and economics through simple tales that can be easily understood and retained in memory.

One of the other aspects that I liked in this book are numerous illustrations and cartoons with some text in them. These ensure that readers are not bored and the interest in the book is maintained throughout.

The writer takes various incidents from his own life – his stint in Direct Marketing, his evolution as a teacher and motivational speaker and uses these incidents to cover a number of topics that are part of the curriculum in all management programmes.

I would love to write more about this book – but then it would rob potential readers the joy of reading the concepts that have been explained in easy to understand ‘no-nonsense’ style.

My only sore-point with the book is some spelling errors that have crept in – then again the message and the value of this book to management and economics students is much higher than the minor irritant of a few spelling mistakes.

I would whole heartedly recommend this book to students; please buy this book. I wish I had read this book, when I was younger 🙂

Buy from Flipkart.

Priced at just Rs 199 – equivalent to a movie-ticket and parking at a multiplex – please invest money in this book – you will not be disappointed.