An ambitious rookie reporter, a veteran news editor with a secret, a trigger-happy policeman, a sensational kidnapping: The Price You Pay is the story of Delhi, told through the eyes of the journalists who frame it, and the outsiders who claim it.
When Abhishek Dutta joins the Express as a trainee journalist, he has no idea how his life is about to change. Assigned to the crime beat by chief reporter Amir Akhtar, Abhishek encounters a motley cast of characters: DCP Uday Kumar, the ‘Dirty Harry’ of Delhi Police; ACP Crime Branch Mayank Sharma, who becomes a close friend; Samir Saxena, channel head of News Today, who mentors Abhishek’s move from print to electronic journalism; and dreaded gangster Babloo Shankar, who runs the Delhi mafia from exile. As he rides his beginner’s luck to unearth one sensational scoop after the other, Abhishek will soon discover that in the dog-eat-dog world of crime and politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies; it is every man for himself.
With a plot that twists and turns like the inner lanes of the city, Somnath Batabyal’s debut novel takes you into the dark underbelly of India, where common lives are mere pawns of deadly power games and where corruption lies at the very core.
Winter has arrived, mostly or at least lurking at the door here. All you need is a fast pacy thriller to cuddle under blankets with coffee. I was looking for a good desi thriller on investigative journalism and Somnath Batabyal seems to have launched a great one for his debut. Investigative journalism, or what we commonly term as ‘crime reporting’ is a tough job. It sounds easy and looks good to people like us, the daily readers who follow a newspaper crime colmn or turn on some news channel for that handsome reporter.
We have been brought up on thrillers and mafia books based radically in Mumbai with pioneer books like Shantaram and Sacred Games. I for one, would love to read more about gangsters and journalists based in the other metros like Delhi and Calcutta. These cities are stereotyped with softer labels but they have very active mafia operations with key activites like kidnapping and extortion.
The author has based his story successfully in Delhi and explored the city both in the lights of an outsider and an insider. ‘The Price You Pay’ is essentially the story of Abhishek Dutta, with other important characters like senior DCP Uday Kumar, ACP Mayank Sharma and chief reporter Amir Akhtar. Abhishek Dutta is from Benares who tries to adapt to Delhi and finds it ‘lifeless’ at a point. On the other hand, Amir Akhtar being born and brought up in the city, considers it his own and would not like to live anywhere else in the world. We keep meeting such people in our daily circles who agree to disagree on their preferences of places to belong.
But, this book is not about Abhishek and Amir fighting over Delhi. It is also the story of Uday Kumar and most wanted retired hurt gangster Babloo Shankar planning a grand comeback. The meteoric rise of Abhishek as a crime reporter in Amir’s newspaper is blended wonderfully with the gangster’s plots. The author not only provides a sneak peek into Delhi’s most vintage newspaper office but he has also shared insider information about how a television news channel works these days. Readers who take daily news lightly as well as the news guzzlers would find this book very entertaining. Everyone wants to know what goes on behind the glass facades of glossy news channels and pretty news readers.
The book is no mean feat pulled off by a seasoned journalist (the author) letting us into his world for a while. It is definitely recommended as one of the best crafted debuts this year. The flavour of Delhi comes out beautifully from this aromatic book garnished with snippets of the Delhi lingo without adding them too much to spoil the book. I would love to read a sequel with perhaps Abhishek Dutta as the protagonist.
My Rating: 4.5/5
Somnath Batabyal has worked as a journalist for several years before moving on to be an author. Other books by the author are Making News In India: Star News And Star Ananda published in 2011 and Indian Mass Media and the Politics of Change. He is currently involved in writing another novel, Scoop. Currently he is pursuing a fellowship programme with the University of Heidelberg in Germany in Environmental Politics and Media. He lives in London and is a teacher at the School of Oriental And African Studies. He also occasionally teaches at the Jamia Millia Islamia.
Language: English, Genre: Fiction/Thriller
Author(s): Somnath Batabyal,
Publisher: Harper Collins, Year: 2013
Edition: First, Binding: Paperback, Pages: 296
ISBN-13: 9789350294253, ISBN-10: 9350294257
This book was received from Harper Collins India through the reviewers programme at Indiblogger.