On the cover of Stephen Alter’s The Rataban Betrayal, Bollywood biggie Vishal Bhardwaj hails the novel for being “A high-altitude thriller! Explosive… ready for celluloid!” Truer words are seldom spoken in the rarefied air of blurbs and high literature. The Rataban Betrayal is a fiercely intelligent thriller which maintains a frenetic pace throughout.
Alter brings to his thriller, set in Mussoorie but focused on Tibet, the same qualities he brings to his other work: impeccable prose, and a deep knowledge of the region, its beautiful but dangerous peaks, its erratic weather, its flora and fauna.
This is a book that is not just a spy thriller, but also a cultural essay and an astute observation on the human psyche. It is simply amazing how well-informed the author is — from the intelligence agencies across the world, the Tibetan uprising to the Tibetan religious rituals and Mandalas — the author offers you nuggets of information you want to read slowly and digest…
Imagine a mix of John Le Carre’s slow unspooling spy novels and the vivid time and place descriptions of Wilbur Smith. Add to this an in-depth knowledge of the Indo-China-Tibet issues, and what you get is a fine espionage thriller that gives a gripping account of the murky International politics… Alter brings to light the shadowy dealings of international espionage, weaving an interesting story around the sensitive Indo-China issues. Throw in a few Indian and American secret service agents, a right wing American vigilante who has sided with the Tibetan rebels, and you have a book that keeps you reading with twists and surprises.
When it comes to writing, author Stephen Alter brings all five senses to the table… From the undercover operatives of R&AW to spies of CIA, Alter has weaved in many layers of truth in his storyline where, unlike American page turners, no organisation has been given a clean chit.
The book maintains a frenetic pace till the end. Alter makes the story read like a screenplay for a Bollywood thriller, albeit a good one.