Book Review: When The Snow Melts

Part of Reading Challenge 2013: First Reads

Title: When The Snow Melts
Author: Vinod Joseph
Publisher: Amaryllis
ISBN: 978-93-81506-11-0
Pages: 202
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2.75 of 5
Reviewed for: Author


Afghanistan is on the creative radar for a horde of Indian writers and it is a pleasure to read different angles to a definite chapter in modern history. After Red Jihad, Zombiestan and The Edge of the Machette, on The Tales Pensieve, a review of a book that deals with how law abiders can crossover in the case of Afghanistan too like anywhere else but just how the stakes are higher in this case. How difficult it is to distinguish between truth and fabrication when the stakes scale international levels. How to uncover a man who is trained professionally to work undercover? Vinod Joseph tugs at some humane complexities in his second work of fiction.

We meet veteran spy Ritwik Kumar, the protagonist and Indian government’s representative in the London based International terror-fighting group – Intelligence Assessment Group (IAG) – as he is making a run to the other side. Over indulgence in alcohol and gambling has ridden him of his personal fortunes forcing him into the traps of loan sharks as well involved in misappropriation of office funds. General West, Ritwik’s boss is now in the know-all about his activities and gives his man 15 days to set things right, atleast the office funds. And Ritwik finds the perfect way of doing it.

He defects. To the al Qaeda!!

With years of experience in working in Afghanistan and Central Asia as an undercover agent for the Indian government, Ritwik is a potential gold-pot for the terror mercenaries and for Ritwik it is a run-away from the mess he had got himself into. The situation is perfect – a win-win. But only on paper.

Ritwik is not an easy man to deal with. He did not defect because he believed in al Qaeda’s ideologies but because he was looking for shelter from his employers. Al Qaeda knows this and tries toeing him to fall in line with them. But before that they need to be sure that he is not an undercover agent still. While he is tormented and tested for truth he finds support in the beautiful and only woman in the house he is kept captive. Nilofer is one of his tormentor’s Junaid’s wife and unusually helpful to Ritwik. While IAG are looking for their erstwhile employee and working on one of their pet projects of ridding, Pakistan’s secret service agency, ISI off rouge elements and fundamentalists. In the meanwhile, an ISI head honcho has arrived in London and Ritwik is to undergo his final test involving him.

Vinod starts off with an interesting preamble and the story progresses steadily but it does lose steam en-route. The first major thing that did not work for me was the characterization of Junaid. The back cover claims him to be ‘the al Qaeda fanatic and one-man army’ and all though the narration I did wait for a new angle of the character to present itself apart from the already described hulk-personality. He mostly came across as anything but dumb. The other thing that did not work was the climax. A thriller which has a guessable climax is disappointing and that is exactly the case with When The Snow Melts. It has a potentially potent plot but needed better execution. I would have loved to be surprised at some point, which unfortunately never happened during the narration. A decent read but definitely nothing remarkable.

Happy Reading.



Thank you for the signed copy Vinod Joseph.


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