"The greatest evil lies deep inside."
You are stumbling along a dark corridor; frightened and extremely wary of your companions, each of whom has a secret they would rather take with them to their grave. Daylight is at least five levels above your head and between you and freedom there are booby traps that could roast you alive in your skin.
At the very outset, author Arnab Ray's latest book The Mine makes no pretense that it will be pleasant or humorous as his blogs have come to be known as. The prologue is nothing short of gory. The book starts sluggishly, taking its time to build the drama and the background of its main protagonist Samar Bose, a specialist in industrial security systems and electronic surveillance.
The jaded spy has inner demons that he keeps at bay with night time barbiturates. A missing daughter, a prodigious brother left half-witted by brain seizures 30 years ago, a dead wife and a house inhabited by the ghosts of past form the crux of Bose's existence.
But his life goes for a spin one day when he wakes up to a visitor at his home who offers him an unconventional and highly clandestine job and four hundred thousand dollars to get it done.
Buried deep underground somewhere in the vast expanse of Rajasthan's scorching desert is a high-security secret mining facility. The workers are cut-off from all outside contact and paid a generous compensation for their forced isolation.
Operations hit a roadblock when the workers discover what appears to be an ancient place of worship buried deep in the ground with grotesque carvings on its dome. The miners who come in contact with the dome soon find themselves wracked by terrible nightmares.
A full blown revolt on their hands, the management is forced to call in five experts from specific fields to investigate the series of events and calculate the risks of continuing with the operations. But when the chief operational officer of "the consortium of investors with interests in mining, energy and infrastructure" gets killed, it is up to the five experts to find their way out of the maze leaking the deadliest nerve gas known to man and rigged with horrifying traps.
If you have read Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, you will immediately draw the analogy between the Biblical quotes (in this case a series of mysterious and supposedly Pagan sayings) and their application in grotesque murders of victims. The riveting plot explores every level of psychological manipulation to lead readers into a bloodfest of gore, horror, trauma and retribution.
The Mine borrows its basic premise from the slasher classic Saw II. You are trapped in an underground chamber with a nerve agent incapacitating you and inducing visions at every step of the way, you have to initially guide and eventually beat your companions to emerge alive. Where have I heard this plot before?
But three things work fabulously for The Mine. As psychological thrillers and mind game fictions go, Ray's book ranks at the top. The 282-page book is gripping from start to finish. There are not many authors exploring this genre and Ray may have started a trend. Lastly, the language is so effortless that you tend not to notice some plotholes and the diabolically smart ending takes your breath away. It is a thrilling read and my recommendation would be to go grab your copy. The book is worth it.
The Mine; Arnab Ray; Westland Ltd; 282 pages; Price: Rs 195