Fatal Margin, Umanath Nayak, Breach: A Cyber Thriller, Amrita Chowdhury
  1. Crime-time operas

Crime-time operas

Indian authors are shifting gears and revving up the tempo when it comes to home-grown thrillers. We take a look at two such offerings

By: | Published: December 28, 2014 1:15 AM

Fatal Margin
Umanath Nayak
Hachette
R350
Pp 256

Breach: A Cyber Thriller
Amrita Chowdhury
Hachette
R350
Pp 352

INDIAN AUTHORS are shifting gears and revving it up when it comes to thrillers. They may not have fully arrived but are slowly taking off. They are seen to be increasingly challenging the dominance of international heavyweights such as Dan Brown, John Grisham and Tom Clancy, and even rubbing shoulders with tenacious favourites like Agatha Christie.

Two new offerings which are moving in that direction are Fatal Margin by Umanath Nayak and Breach: A Cyber Thriller by Amrita Chowdhury. What makes the books engaging is the fact that they have been written by authors who are considered to be experts in their chosen fields.

Take for instance, Hyderabad-based Nayak’s Fatal Margin. One tends to recall and discuss medical thrillers written by Robin Cook or Arthur Hailey but the genre is rarely explored in Indian fiction. The book somewhat fills that void. Also, Nayak is the HoD of head and neck oncology at Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad; so that explains his choice of protagonist in Veer Raghavan. Veer is an intelligent, hardworking and revered surgical oncologist, who is the face of a growing cancer centre in Mumbai. He is an ambitious surgeon recognised for his indisputable surgical prowess. Written in a racy style, the book traces how even the best of doctors can, if they aren’t watchful, falter from adhering to ethics.

Fatal Margin goes beyond exploring the nexus between pharmaceutical companies and doctors for financial gains. It explains how a surgeon like Veer could ‘under-perform’ cancer surgeries so as to leave ‘positive margins’ that could cause relapse of the disease and thereby necessitate patients to cough up huge sums to undergo another cutting-edge procedure.

The catch lies in the fact that the new method, executed with a high-end gadget, hasn’t received FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval. Veer also siphons off funds with the hope of starting his own cancer specialty hospital.

While the plot explores the legal ramifications of Veer’s actions and traces his downfall and whether he manages to rise above the storm, his family remains at the background.

On the other hand, Chowdhury’s Breach is a cyber thriller set in today’s world that takes the reader across India, the US and China. It explores the dark and dangerous underbelly of our increasingly virtual existence and dependence. Chowdhury’s plot puts the protagonist, Dr Udai Vir Dhingra, into the middle of everything.

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 blamed for negligence and breach of security. Battling market pressures, media scrutiny, livid American bosses and crumbling relationships, Udai 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 Udai discovers that nothing is easy or obvious, and everything has a price.

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