Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Breach by Amrita Chowdhury


Acel, a pharmaceutical company, has come out with a new wonder drug, Colare, that would cure last stage  metastatic pancreatic cancer. Here Amrita Chowdhury has introduced a glimpse of outsourcing and how much the Indian companies have to be on their toes to meet up with the prejudices and angst of their American counterparts. Andrew Rudd, the Head of Research at Acel Biosciences,  had a major peeve against Uday Vir Dhingra - the young leader in the Indian division. So it was on Vir's shoulder not only to prove them wrong but also to shoulder the pressure of introducing the new drug into the Indian market. 

And just as things were gaining momentum, a few weeks before the The US patents application was being filed, a hacker had infiltrated their system in the Indian branch.The story takes us in a journey along with Vir as he struggles to balance his professional and personal life.

Weaving Information Into The Story
Crime Thrillers are a difficult genre to write in. Especially cyber crimes. Not only should you be well researched, but you also have to weave the research material into the story. A very difficult thing to do. Few writers like Robin Cook have done a fabulous job by weaving medical terminologies into a story. 

Have cyber crimes writers achieved the same feat? 
This is one question that has been nagging me for a long time. Hacking, Denial of Service Attack, Easter Egg, Phishing, Spam Viruses or simple Email hooks have always interested me. No I am not a hacker. As Amrita says even with all her research she could not hack her child's IPhone, I too am sailing in the same boat :D 
The Book starts with a lot of info about the world of hacking, introducing the characters and various scenes from all over the world. So by the time I could settle in Maryland, I was boarding a flight to China. So while I did feel the novel was fast paced, but injecting 'bytes' of information in every page slowed me down. And I so wanted to catch the hacker. :P

Romance in the Cyber world
There are two parallel romances taking place but strangely the romance which stayed with me was not the two main romances but  a third one. That of the Sandman. I could feel his loneliness and need to be appreciated and loved. the way Ms. Chowdhury has drawn the world of a lonely man using very few words, is commendable. Though this was not the focus of the story, it did carve a place for itself. 

Emotional Turmoils
Emotions play a subtle role in this story. The corporate world with all its dangers is shown as a 'no personal life zone'.Yet, the way a son cries for his dying mom or the growing tensions between two lovers that is showcased in between adds a soft padding this story required. Or it would have been a Dummies for Hacker series.

A few Loose ends
The love story of Vir and Diti needs a more passionate ending. Leaving it our imagination was not fair :D In fact, both the romances did not seem to have reached its destination at all. Whether it was intentional or not I have no clue; but as a reader I certainly would like to see all the ends neatly tied up. 

The Guessing Game
The biggest USP of a crime thriller is its 'whodunnit' game. I love playing this game and sometimes I do get a thrill of guessing it earlier than the author intended me to find out. I won.

....to be fair, I peaked into the last page. :P

My Love in This story
Hold your breath .. not the HERO.. but Sandman. Was it because his emotions were naked, volatile and one could easily see this passionate disposition? Or was it because suave Vir was more into hiding his feelings? 

And Another ..
Madhu. I personally felt the author has let go of her emotions when she wrote about Sandman and Madhu. I really wish she had done the same with Diti and Vir. 

A few misses. But can be ignored. They don't affect the flow of the story nor make a reader become a grammar Nazi. 


1. Too much information at the beginning. I was totally caught up in the second half of the story. But before that I had to wade through many oft repeated information. 

For eg. 
Pg.2 : A wonder drug to cure late-stage metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Pg 18:  For the first time in the history of Acel, it was doing multi country research for his new dream drug for treating late-stage and metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Page 38: Colare, the latest wonder product in Acel's stable of biotech solutions,was about to be launched. 

2. Emotions take a backseat against the plot. I was almost cheering for the hacker. Though Vir was the tensed one, his emotions are over shadowed by the stories of the hackers. 

3. There are many small stories in this novel, woven together to make the characters reach the same spot. A Jodi Picoult/ Sidney Sheldon/ Harold Robbins Kind. But the weaving here could have been a bit more subtle. I wanted to know the characters better before I was pushed into another scene. 

As I end my review here with the writer's very words..'Knowledge was power, Power was responsibility.'I must comment on the impeccable research done my Ms. Chowdhury. She has shown hacking in all its glory and yet not glorified it. That that is exactly what makes this story so interesting.

A Touch of Humor keeps a reader smiling :)

Sunny Singh, Proprietor
Jasoos Detective Agency Private Limited. 

Would I recommend this? Most Definitely. This book clearly shows how our Indian readers and writers are entering Cyber Thrillers. This might be Ms.Chowdhury's first cyber crime thriller but she is definitely on her way in mastering it. A must read.

Amrita Chowdhury

The Blurb

How secure are your secrets in the virtual world?  Weeks before pharma-giant Acel is ready to file a global patent application for cancer wonder-drug Colare, its offshore data centre in Mumbai is hacked. The charismatic, young leader of its Indian business, Dr Udai Vir Dhingra, finds himself being blamed for negligence and breach of security. Battling market pressures, media scrutiny, livid American bosses and crumbling relationships, Vir must find the perpetrators, or see his career – and his life – spiral downwards. But the deeper he gets dragged into the shadowy world of masked online identities and muddied digital footprints, the more Vir discovers that nothing is easy or obvious, and everything has a price. Set across Mumbai, Washington and Guangzhou, Breach is a compelling and edgy cyber thriller that explores the dark and dangerous underbelly of our increasingly virtual existence

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Meet the Author

Amrita Verma Chowdhury is the author of Faking It, an art crime thriller about fake modern and contemporary Indian art.
She holds engineering degrees from IIT Kanpur and UC Berkeley, where she was a Jane Lewis Fellow, and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon (Tepper Business School). Her work as an engineer in Silicon Valley led to seven US patents for semi-conductor fabrication – something to show for those bad-haired days. She has done Strategy Consulting and Board Effectiveness work in the US and Australia and has spent long nights fitting five-syllable words inside two-by-two squares. She has worked in the rarefied bastions of Ivy League education bringing together ideas and people. She currently works in publishing.
She lives in Mumbai with her husband Sumit, their two children Shoumik and Aishani, and an assortment of pets including a cocker spaniel, a guinea pig and two turtles. She loves travelling, baking cupcakes with her daughter and hearing from her readers.

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At March 17, 2015 at 10:52 PM , Blogger Shilpa Garg said...

Oh yes, this is one well researched and well executed crime thriller. Loved your review and loved reading this book too!

At March 17, 2015 at 10:55 PM , Blogger Reet Singh said...

Dear Rubina, I'm reading this book and thoroughly enjoying it. Fabulous review. ..am hoping to have mine up soon.

At March 18, 2015 at 5:24 AM , Blogger Sundari Venkatraman said...

Excellent review. You have brought to light both the flaws and strengths in the novel. I also found it difficult to cross the first 50 pages. After that, the story picked up and was a breeze to read. I wish the author, editor and publisher had taken a little more care in setting that straight. Like if a reader walks into a bookstore and browses through the first few pages, he/she might not buy the book. And that would be really sad.

At March 18, 2015 at 8:28 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

She has shown hacking in all its glory and yet not glorified it. - what an accurate observation Rubina! I couldn't agree more.

At March 19, 2015 at 4:26 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Wow! Rubina what a detailed and comprehensive review. Do you make notes as you read?
I just loved it. You covered all bases.

At March 19, 2015 at 4:57 AM , Blogger Swathi Shenoy said...

Excellent review Rubina :) I loved this novel too. It was difficult to get a hang of things in the beginning. With so much going on and still not hang of the story. But as the story progressed, I was hooked :)

At March 19, 2015 at 7:31 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Well! I missed this one! And what a detailed review of the book! Yes the tech heavy books tend to get a bit heavy but they are required for some readers who dig things techy but may not know its nuances. (me for one). You must've been really curious Rubina to have peeked the last page sooner! ;D

At March 19, 2015 at 8:39 PM , Blogger adite said...

Great review. It definitely piqued my interest. Cyber crime thriller as a new sub-genre is perhaps only to be expected but to be able to do justice to it requires not just a fantastic grasp of all things techie but also the ability to weave a compelling story. Looking forward to reading Breach.

At March 21, 2015 at 7:34 AM , Blogger The Book Club said...

Thanks Shilpa :)

At March 21, 2015 at 7:34 AM , Blogger The Book Club said...

Will be looking forward to it Reet :)

At March 21, 2015 at 7:36 AM , Blogger The Book Club said...

Thanks Sundari :) Yes.It's a good book to keep on going. The second part kept me stuck to my kindle.

At March 21, 2015 at 7:37 AM , Blogger The Book Club said...

Too many criminals are glorified nowadays..Why add our list to it :P

At March 21, 2015 at 7:38 AM , Blogger The Book Club said...

Make notes ? :P Will tell you the secret in a PM :D Thank you. Humbled.

At March 21, 2015 at 7:38 AM , Blogger The Book Club said...

Same here Swathi. Read your review too. It is really very good.

At March 21, 2015 at 7:39 AM , Blogger The Book Club said...

I am a really bad mystery reader in that way. I love knowing things and not knowing it gets to me..:P Conan Doyle would have killed me :D

At March 21, 2015 at 7:41 AM , Blogger The Book Club said...

I am so looking forward to your review too Adite.. I really wonder how you will take the story. Something tells me - you will love it :D


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