Pulsating action all the way 
Reviewed by Vikrant Parmar

Blood Red Sari 
by Ashok Banker
Harper Collins. Pages 287, Rs 299

Three women, three locales, one situation; compelling action, breathtaking suspense, conjoined climax — pretty much defines author Ashok Banker’s novel Blood Red Sari, the first in his Kali Rising Series. The narrative moves along like great thrillers in different halls of a multiplex where the denouement is slated together in the main hall.

It Banker’s world, women dominate. They swear, they slap, they kick, they throw and more often than not, it’s the males who are at the receiving end. The women do not lose composure under duress and treat life-threatening situations like just another day at office; they are sexually liberated and live in a world where strength transcends gender. The novel is an ode to feminism and one can’t help but agree with the author’s claim — "toughness wasn’t an exclusive male privilege."

The wheelchair-bound lawyer from Delhi, Nachiketa, who suffers brutish domestic violence only to emerge a winner; Sheila, owner of an all-women gym in Kolkata and Anita, a private investigator in Thiruvananthapuram, whose brothers are out to kill her, are the protagonists who face hell because of a ‘yellow manila envelope’ dispatched to each of them by one ‘missing’ social worker friend Lalima. The contents of the packets become immaterial as each one runs a race against imminent death. Right through the scheme of things, the three women jostle to save themselves from unknown adversaries, who are out to annihilate their existence for reasons beyond them.

Nachiketa, Anita and Sheila find support in Rajendra Powar, Father Francis and Stanley Wu, respectively, in an otherwise sordid turn of events where their lives hang in the balance.

Time is suspended as the action unfolds within a day; the plot rockets ahead on the wings of Banker’s razor sharp narration and albeit the action takes place at three different geographical locales, it moves along with remarkable contiguity. A terror plot of great intensity, Blood Red Sari exposes the world of money laundering, black marketeering, human trafficking, drug lords, capital markets, financial upheavals, hedge funds, illicit profits, institutional investors, multinational corporations, conglomerates, extortion, murder-for-hire, larceny, armed robbery, slave trading`85all ground together into a mix that becomes a composite whole that lays bare the grimy nooks of the universe of crime.

The author’s excellence speaks through each line; deviations are a rarity and the narrative races to its logical conclusion in his dexterous hands. There are no reasons why Banker’s sequels to Blood Red Sari Burnt Saffron Sky, Rust Black Heart and Silver Acid Rain — should not be not eagerly awaited!