Despite Financial Thrillers being a sensation globally, not many authors from India have tried this exciting sub-genre. Though Ravi Subramanian and Ashwin Sanghi are notable exceptions, it is ironic that not many present-day authors have attempted anything related to financial fraud. This becomes more startling, considering that some of the present-day best-selling authors have a professional background in the Banking field. Ashish Ben Ajay's first two Novels had a banker as their protagonist, but I believe it is unfair to call them financial thrillers as corporate/financial frauds were not precisely the core plot points in either of them.
A.K, written by Amith Kumar and published by Logos books, aspires to be a legitimate banking thriller and depicts two significant episodes in the life of A.K and his deputy H.M. They work in the financial fraud investigation division of a Corporate Bank. A large-scale Gold Loan fraud has happened in one of the branches of the Bank, and the duo is sent there to investigate the matter and find a solution so that the Bank doesn't have to solicit the services of the Police. How they go about it and whether they manage to pin down the fraudsters is what the Novel is all about.
Coming to the positives, as mentioned before, this one is perhaps the most legitimate financial thriller to have come out in Malayalam in recent times. The narrative is smooth and gripping, and the writer has smartly avoided most cliches usually associated with the genre. This is no murder investigation to begin with (though something is happening towards the fag end of the story), and this alone adds to the freshness in the story. The setting feels fresh and relatable, and Amith Kumar has successfully included many interesting tidbits about the banking sector in the story. Twists and turns happen at regular intervals, and the book's tone also suits the genre. Though a significant portion of the book occurs in a closed setting with serial interrogations and the accompanying leads, the writer has managed to make the proceedings racy to a large extent. A.K. and H.M. come across as Holmes & Watson clones in a corporate bank setting. The occasional banter they indulge in (mainly concerning food and a few fellow characters) tries to make the proceedings light.
On the downside, one major issue I found with the book is the bland language and the overuse of local slang in the main text (nondialogue portions). Typos, grammatical errors, and incorrect usage of words are plenty and some of the dialogues that are supposed to sound 'heroic' end up cringe-worthy! The occasional attempts at humor and world play (including the one involving the protagonist's name, quite early on in the story) also fall flat and feel unnecessary. Also, I thought the dialogue mouthed by the principal characters could have been significantly improved. Though the writer has smartly tried to justify A.K.'s inability to speak in 'sanitised Malayalam' towards the Novel's closing pages, the inconsistent slang and the pointless cuss words he used don't gel well with the intended characterization of the protagonist. The introductory scene meant to establish A.K.'s intelligence and cunningness also fails to achieve the desired effect, as a large portion of the 'solution' seems to have happened by chance!
On the whole, A.K does have its flaws, but it is genuinely a decent read and deserves mention for trying out a sub-genre that hasn't been explored that much in the recent Malayalam Popular Fiction space in recent times!