3 out of 4 stars
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It's May 2009, Sathāsivam is summoned by Vēlupillai Pirabāharan, the supreme leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and his right-hand man, Pottu Amman. The two leaders know that it's the end, at least for them, so they hand over the right to leadership of the LTTE to Sathāsivam. He is to go to Tamil Nādu, lie low for about a year after the final battle before rebuilding the movement, then strike when the time is right. The two leaders are ready to go down with the reassurance that their single dream, to achieve their independent state of Eelam, lives on. Hope springs eternal.
A few years later, Jagath Fonsēka, Superintendent of Police of the CID, is investigating the disappearance of Charlie Peng, a spy who has a great cover. Peng has been reported missing by the Chinese embassy. This investigation leads Fonsēka and his team into the discovery of an extensive web laid down by Sathāsivam. The LTTE is back, maybe stronger than before; its groundwork perfectly laid, with training camps scattered across Sri Lanka. Sathāsivam has a plan that he is sure will work - attack the Perahera (an annual religious festival in veneration of the Tooth Relic of the Buddha), and at the same time steal the Daladā (the Tooth Relic of the Buddha), the outcome of which will surely turn the tides in their favor.
The people believe that whoever possesses the sacred Relic has the divine right to rule over Sri Lanka. This is why it must never fall into the wrong hands. A Raw Deal: Cross-Border Terror by Shyam Dissa outlines the single-minded focus by the members of the LTTE to attain their goal by all means possible, along with Fonsēka's determination to stop them and the possibility of a war.
I liked many things about this book, the first being that both sides were equally presented. The writer did well to introduce the LTTE first - so the reader is not prejudiced right off the bat. The reader is able to empathize and see the story in grey, yet still maintain that the end doesn't always justify the means.
The characters are well developed. Fonsēka's investigative skills are such that he is the best there is, but not too perfect to be believable. He made mistakes, one of which was so fatal that for a moment, I felt such remorse that he did. But just like it's been said, it's the imperfect scenes that wouldn't leave your mind alone. That, and the delightful lessons I got about Sri Lanka. The city of Kandy, where the temple of the sacred Tooth Relic is located, sounds like such a rich place to visit. Especially during the month of the Perahera.
There was nothing that I disliked about this book, although I was surprised that Fonsēka and his partner, Upul, had it easy breaking and entering. I expected that a billionaire, one with something big to hide, would surely up their security measures to insane levels, but what do I know? At first, I thought I'd have a problem with the names, but I didn't. The writer took care not to introduce too many characters at once, especially not those essential to the story. The ending was satisfying. Shyam Dissa wrapped everything up perfectly.
I rate A Raw Deal: Cross-Border Terror 3 out of 4 stars. I encountered more than ten errors, hence the reason for not giving it a perfect rating. I recommend it to those who enjoy reading crime stories - and to those who would welcome history lessons. This book will leave you feeling smarter. And it isn't without its softer parts, because like with Fonsēka - love will always save us, time after time.
A Raw Deal
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