‘Checkmate’ by Hrishikesh Joshi is a light but speedy entertainer. As the title of the book suggests, the story is all about moves and counter moves. While the book cannot be claimed as an edge of the seat type of thriller, the book is quick and to the point. Reading this book gives you a feel of watching a Bollywood movie. In fact, the book has all the ingredients to convert it into a good masala movie.
The plot follows the story of a plane hijack and Indian government’s attempts to deal with this hostage situation. Two terrorists capture an Indian plane going to London. They threaten to kill all the passengers if their demands are not accepted by the Indian government. These terrorists want Indian government to free three dangerous militants from the Indian prison. The Prime Minister of India is in soup as the life of more than a hundred hostages hangs in limbo. Would government accede to their demands or take some military action? There is an unexpected twist in the end, which surprises you. This unexpected twist keeps the readers engrossed. There is also a love story, which brings some lighter moments. However, such lighter moments are very short and sporadic as not much space is given to develop this sub story. Development of this sub plot and a stronger first half of the book would have certainly made this book a more enjoyable read.
Additionally, I think that the depiction of the mental conditions of hostages stuck in the plane would have helped to bring the emotional quotient in the book. The thought of what could happen if you were stuck in a similar situation as these hostages are bound to cross your mind.
The book can be finished in one sitting as it is not only fast paced but also not lengthy. Furthermore, the author has beautifully maintained the thriller component, which forces you to keep turning the pages. Though there is drama, it never overshadows the thrilling component. The author has beautifully balanced these two in the book. However, at the same time, the author has not dedicated enough time to develop the characters of the book. Consequently, while you like some traits of some of the characters in the book, not even a single one leaves deep impression on you. For example, character of Vikram impresses you but in bits and pieces. The author could have devoted some more pages to develop some of the characters in the book.
The language of the book is simple and easy to follow. The dialogues are small. However, the narration could have been better. There is a monotonous feel in the narrative, which kills the enjoyment time to time. The background scenes could have been developed better. The cover of the book also failed to impress me.
In its 157 pages, ‘Checkmate’ can pass for an ok type of thriller. Some of its portions are fun to read while they last but not compelling enough to desire a repeat.