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A Roller Coaster Ride Through the World of Espionage
A review of Bunker 13: A Novel by Aniruddha Bahal

Navdeep Singh Bains is a California-based senior financial analyst and an affiliate of the U.K.-based Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (A.C.C.A.).

The Sikh Times, Aug. 13, 2003

Aniruddha Bahal's sublime debut novel will have you gasping for air every time you begin to drown in the central character's world of hedonism.

MM, the protagonist, is an ex-army officer turned investigative journalist in Indian Kashmir attempting to cozy up to rogue Indian army officers who deal in confiscated drugs and guns.

Major Rodriguez, a former rival cadet and friend, is the brains and guts behind the operation. MM undertakes many risky daredevil assignments with the wild and daring army man in order to win his trust.

MM is portrayed as a serial thrill seeker and gets his kicks in a number of ways including skydiving while high on drugs, double-crossing the Russian mafia, and sleeping with his editor's daughter. Clearly, MM is not the type who would score well on a morality test.

The book later reveals that MM is an agent for India's intelligence service, R.A.W., and is willing to help sell Major Rodriguez's hardware to finance R.A.W. activities and put away a nice retirement package for himself.

However, MM lives by the maxim: the bigger the chase the bigger the thrill. Not content with selling drugs and weaponry, he decides to barter India's pride and glory - its precious nukes.

His one redeeming quality seems to be that he has fallen head over heels in love and plans to spend the rest of his life with his newfound sweetheart. However, there is a surprise in store for him.

The novel's author is a former investigative reporter, cofounder, and C.E.O. of the Indian news outfit, Tehelka, which revealed corruption at the highest levels of the world's fourth-largest army.

His exposes led to the temporary resignation of India's defense minister, George Fernandes.

Such was the gravity of the case that Bahal and Tehelka had to face the full force of the Indian government's wrath. It is horrifying to contemplate the element of fact in Bahal's fictional Bunker 13.

Bunker 13's major flaw is its complexity. It is difficult to believe that MM can be involved in so many clandestine operations and still have time to party.

Even Ian Fleming's James Bond would have a tough time keeping up with MM. A simpler plot would have sufficed but the book still makes for an exciting read, albeit not for the faint-hearted.

Judging by the 75,000 copies churned out for the novel's first printing, the publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, anticipates a hit.