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Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra

Sacred Games

by Vikram Chandra

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,723426,640 (3.86)172
Receiving an anonymous tip that could lead to the capture of a powerful criminal overlord, Bombay police officer Sartaj Singh is nearing his goal when he realizes that his imminent confrontation with the crime lord is part of a more sinister agenda.
  1. 20
    Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (oliver40274, VisibleGhost)
    oliver40274: A wonderfully written saga that takes you into Bombay life on the streets.
  2. 10
    Red Earth and Pouring Rain by Vikram Chandra (amygdala)

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» See also 172 mentions

English (36)  Italian (2)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (42)
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
it got off to a good start and i thought it was going to be a tasty, epic read. but the writing and characters turned cliche and trite after the first hundred pages, and remained that way until a single nice chapter at the end. not bad enough to stop reading, but not worth recommending. ( )
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
This doorstopper weighs 780 grams and has 947 pp. not including the glossary (which I am very thankful was included) or the other P.S. material included by Harper. However I never felt I was bogging down in detail or wishing it would just conclude. It was an eye-opening read about India and I am glad I finally read this book.

It's hard for me to condense this book into a paragraph or two but I'll give it a try. The main story involves a policeman in Mumbai, one Sartaj Singh. His father was also a policeman but he has been dead for some time. His mother, who was born in the Punjab which became part of Pakistan after Partition, was still alive but lived outside of Mumbai in a small hill town. As would be obvious to anyone from the Indian subcontinent Sartaj Singh is a Sikh. He is divorced so he spends most of his waking hours working. One day he gets a phone call in the early morning telling him where he can find the notorious crime boss Ganesh Gaitonde. This is quite a coup because Gaitonde was thought to be in hiding outside of India. Gaitonde is living in an almost indestructible underground bunker and before Sartaj manages to break down the upper structure he talks at some length to Sartaj. As Sartaj breaks in Gaitonde shoots himself; there is also the body of a woman in the bunker with him. Before Sartaj can really do a proper investigation the case is taken over by members of the Indian spy agency. However, Sartaj is asked to do some work on the case and doing so he discovers that the dead woman was JoJo Mascarenas, a television producer and agent for actors and actresses. This brings him into contact with JoJo's sister, Mary, with whom he falls in love. He also helps uncover a plot by the Pakistani government to flood the Indian economy with fake money and another plot by a religious zealot to explode a nuclear device in Mumbai. Sartaj also has more mundane duties like intervening in a marital dispute and picking up bribes for his superior officer. Sartaj is not a perfect person but the reader can't help but like him.

The main plot is interspersed with other narrative threads with one very significant exploration of Ganesh Gaitonde's life which his spirit narrates after his corporeal death. This is a look at the dark underbelly of Mumbai and beyond and it should have been highly distasteful but was somehow fascinating (sort of like looking at a traffic accident as you drive by). There was also a thread about how the Indian Partition affected Sartaj's mother and her family which was heartbreaking.

There are characters from all the different religions in India which I found particularly interesting. Chandra shows everyone as having good and bad qualities just as real people do. One comes away from reading this book with an admiration for how well the Indian society works despite all the different beliefs. ( )
  gypsysmom | Mar 29, 2019 |
It took me about 100 pages to feel committed, but then the remaining 800 were well worth it. My library copy must be a first edition, because other editions have a Hindi glossary. Necessary, since there are more than a smattering of Hindi words - mostly cussing, because a majority of the talking is done by a mob boss, his gang or a big city detective and his co-workers. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
Well, the Mumbai part was memorable, the city's energy and chaos comes through in this book and was the only thing that kept me going through all 900 pages of it (that and the 20 hours I spent in the air in the month of march!). The plot, the characters, the concept, oh well, nevermind, it is potboiler material, the dialogue between the characters is a little stilted, and the protagonists are all a uniform shade of gray with well defined and unchanging virtues and vices. It was disappointing, but I finished it and liked that fact that I could read a potboiler novel set in Mumbai. ( )
  RekhainBC | Feb 15, 2019 |
This is not one novel, but several interlaced. At its most basic, it’s a police procedural with the indomitable Sartaj Singh carrying out his low-tech job as a police detective in Mumbai. Like all the best modern literary detectives (such as Mankell’s Wallander) Sartaj is a decent, complicated, divorced and troubled man. Unlike most, he lives in a world where graft and corruption seem to be a part of everyone’s life, including his own; he takes bribes, he beats confessions out of captives and he feels guilt about it all. Put him in London or New York and he’d be detestable. In Mumbai, he’s a champion! He is a superb creation and I fervently hope to meet him again.

Interleaved in Sartaj’s daily muddling through, Ganesh Gaitonde, a major Mumbai crime-boss tells us his venal life story. Although some of his history is fascinating, this is the least attractive part of Sacred Games. I was uncomfortable with this narrative for a number of reasons. Firstly because Gaitonde dies in the first hundred pages and I saw no literary justification for this life-story narrated in the first-person. Secondly, because his self-justification began eventually to jar on me. Thirdly, because the key plot leading to his downfall smacked a little too much of a Stephen Siegal thriller with nuclear bombs and last minute rescues. Nevertheless, Gaitonde’s story had its merits; it’s witty, frequently original and it introduces Jojo, the woman who refuses to meet him but who provides him with girls. The foul-mouthed, corrupt Jojo is one of this novels fantastic originals. It is through her that we get to explore aspects of Bollywood and the depths the ambitious and unconnected must stoop to in order to succeed.

More than anything else, what I really loved about Sacred Games was its principle character, India. I knew nothing about India before I picked up this book and it has mesmerised me. Flashbacks take us back fifty years to Partition when India and Pakistan went their separate ways and tens of millions of people were displaced. We get insights into a state which is simultaneously modern and feudal. The book is steeped in politics and religion. We are treated to many brief but fully fleshed-out biographies of people from all strata of society, loosely connected to the main storyline, but fascinating for themselves. This is a novel we want to enter and get involved with its very real inhabitants. I continuously wanted to intervene, to use my privileged insider-knowledge of all their stories to correct the accidents of history, set them straight and help them out.

Some reviewers have criticised the Insets, chapters which recount stories outside the main thread of the narrative, as distracting to the reader. Personally, I found that these were the elements that elevated the book beyond good to GREAT. The author uses these tales to underline that none of the characters ever knows the whole story. In this way, the reader has a perspective that the characters miss. We see, for example, mitigating circumstances in the life of the cop killer. I particularly liked the story of the two sisters, separated by the Partition, who end up living long and rewarding lives in opposite camps.

I can’t remember when I was so ‘involved’ in a story. This is the book that will bring me eventually to visit India. ( )
1 vote tchelyzt | Jul 15, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vikram Chandraprimary authorall editionscalculated
Orsini, FrancescaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Anuradha Tandon and S. Hussain Zaidi
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A white Pomeranian named Fluffy flew out of a fifth-floor window in Panna, which was a brand-new building with the painter's scaffolding still around it.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Sartaj Singh, ispettore Sikh della polizia di Bombay, è un uomo sulle cui spalle pesano un matrimonio fallito, una carriera perennemente all'ombra di un padre ingombrante e irraggiungibile, e una solitudine che ogni giorno si fa più opprimente. Vive e lavora in una città che oltre a fargli dono della sua sensuale bellezza lo aggredisce con una violenza e una corruzione alle quali non si è mai assuefatto e contro le quali non riesce a segnare significative vittorie. Un mattino però il telefono squilla, una voce chiede, brusca: "Vuoi Ganesh Gaitonde?". Gaitonde, il temutissimo, imprendibile gangster, si trova infatti asserragliato in una casa-bunker alla periferia della città, e ha in serbo mille storie da raccontare. Storie di conquista e di sconfitta, di uomini e donne presi dal rapace meccanismo del vivere e del morire in nome di cause giuste, sbagliate, o, senza nessuna ragione. A partire da Sartaj e Ganesh si snoda così davanti al lettore una narrazione fluente e fascinosa che assume pian piano l'enigmatica fisionomia di un arazzo in cui la disordinata molteplicità del mondo trova un suo inesplicabile e tuttavia perfetto disegno. Il pedinamento di pericolosi criminali e lo smascheramento di trame delittuose che coinvolgono i livelli più diversi della società indiana servono così da pretesto a Chandra per raccontare una storia che unisce i ritmi serrati dell''hard boiled' e le pause silenziose della poesia, il sentimentalismo alla Bollywood e il magistero dell'alta letteratura. Amore, potere, guerra, luoghi eterni della vita e del narrare, si stampano così, pagina dopo pagina, sul corpo dell'unico, vero protagonista di questo incantevole romanzo: la città di Bombay, l'odierna Mumbai, crogiuolo di una contemporaneità globalizzata che però reca in sé, tenaci e antichissime, le proprie radici d'oriente. Immergersi nel suo incessante brulichio significa tuffarsi nel fiume vivo del presente che ci circonda e al tempo stesso mettersi in ascolto dell'eco indistinta di miriadi di esistenze e di vicende passate. Per questo "Giochi sacri" è uno di quei libri che cambiano la vita.
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