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Mainak Dhar
The 1st Assassin
Mainak Dhar, author
I once worked for the government, going into missions that never officially happened, killing enemies we never officially killed. They gave me a bunch of medals, partly for doing my job well, mostly to keep my mouth shut. I still work for the government, but now I ride a desk, barely tolerated by my boss, barely tolerating myself. My world is turned upside down when I am put on a task force investigating an assassination plot against the US President. Nothing is as it seems, the enemy always seems to be one step ahead of us, and I must keep myself and those I care about alive long enough to get to the bottom of this conspiracy. The clock is ticking, the body count is mounting, and the assassins never stop coming.
The prolific Dhar (Sniper’s Eye) sweeps readers into a breathtaking tale of espionage and conspiracy set against the rich background of India in the first installment of his Unit 22 series. Popularly called “the most decorated officer alive,” Major Aaditya Sen of the Special Frontier Force of the Indian government’s Research and Analysis Wing has lost his friends in an operation in the Kashmir region. He finds himself trying to cope with a desk job, a crippling post trauma syndrome, and his mother's cancer relapse, for which he blames himself. Following a breakthrough in his treatment, he’s assigned to a joint task force with American representatives to investigate a plot to assassinate the U.S. President in his upcoming visit to India. But as events unfold, it seems that an even deadlier and more far-reaching conspiracy may be in the works.

This propulsive spy-thriller is a wild ride into India's complicated, and sometimes bloody, inner and outer affairs, and it comes wrapped in a mixture of high action, deep intrigues, dark humor, and loads of cultural tidbits that will delight thriller lovers and anyone fascinated by the world’s largest democracy. Dhar gives thoughtful attention to dealing with emotional and psychological problems, allowing readers a glimpse through the first-person narrative into the mindset of a decorated but broken soldier, who is paying a high price for being good at his job. “I could live with that,” Sen, the narrator, tells us. “I’d learned to live with a lot worse. For example, I had learned to live with myself.”

Readers will be absorbed as Sen searches for the truth while fighting against enemies from within his own company as well as outside forces—and his own demons. Dhar mindfully stirs his protagonist from brutal moments to tender ones, including the time he spends with his mother. Though the execution of individual moments varies in success, the crisp action, thought-provoking plot, and compelling protagonist will leave readers hungry for more.

Takeaway: A gripping India-set thriller about a jaded soldier facing an assassination plot.

Great for fans of: Sean McFate’s Shadow War, Mukul Deva.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A