Book Review: Paperback Raita by Will Rhode

I got this as part of a “3 for £1” offer and had never heard of it before, so my expectations weren’t high.

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The book follows a rich, English slacker called Josh who’s spent much of his life dossing around Asia, drifting and getting high.
His rich, semi-estranged father dies and being an eccentric character adds a bizarre caveat to his will. Josh will only get his 5 million if he writes a novel, and a bestseller at that. His dad hopes this will give him a kick up the arse, and himself immortality as his name has to appear in his son’s work.
Josh struggles along, half heartedly working as a journalist in India, investigating a shady drug smuggler. But then he meets the mysterious, sexy Yasmin and somewhere along the way gets involved in a plot to rob the drug smuggler of his money, drugs and gems and live like a king.
From there Josh becomes embroiled in double crosses, conspiracy and the Indian mafia.
It sounds like your average thriller, but with an Indian twist, but Rhode does it very well, having his narrator’s mind wander to memories and Josh taking odd detours on his journey.
These little deviations, along with the exotic, surreal setting of India ensure its an entertaining ride and you forgive a few predictable turns.
Rhode should also be rewarded for his courage in creating a protagonist like Josh, who, at times is hard to root for due to his mass of flaws.
He’s petty, selfish, kind of stupid, cowardly, whiny and a fantasist. There are moments when you want to reach into the pages and throttle him. But with the story told from his point of view and his thoughts exposed to the reader you get some understanding for his many failings.
Rhode makes him painfully realistic and throws in enough soft edges and insecurities to work against the mound of flaws, but its a close run thing.
There are a few tense moments and you get caught up with the various misadventures, but there’s not a big enough sense of dread and danger.
Also, as I said, some of it is predictable and you can’t quite buy into some of the stupidity shown by some of the players.
The book it reminded me of a bit was Alex Garland’s The Beach.

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(I think that’s a fan art cover not an official one which is a shame as its a beaut. The copy I read had Leonardo DiCaprio plastered on the front, as my big sis bought it at the height of her Leomania)
Its nowhere near as good or as powerful as Garland’s book, but it has two similarities:
The narrator’s a bit of a tool who’s world view is coloured by movies and books they’ve seen.
And, both, despite some of the nasty stuff that goes on really made me want to visit the countries their set in.
Verdict: A few clunky plot devices and thriller conventions aside this is a fairly well written, enjoyable book. Rhode shows courage and skill in getting you to root for a hero who’s kind of a scumbag. 6/10
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO

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