Book Review: The Edge of the Machete by Abhisar Sharma

Of late, the Indian market has been inundated with plethora of thrillers, spy fictions, fiction built around mythology, romance etc. written by authors who are writing either for the first time or has very little experience vis-à-vis writing. Mostly, what turns out is a sloppily plotted book with flat stereotypical characters and bad writing. Although not a big fan of Indian espionage fiction, I randomly picked Abhisar Sharma’s book ‘The Edge of the Machete’ with skepticism, the second book in the ‘The Taliban Conundrum Trilogy’ and as it turns out my apprehension was completely inaccurate and misguided.

No stranger to narrating stories and recounting events, Abhisar Sharma is a Senior Anchor/ Deputy Editor with Aaj Tak and has covered and monitored events and happenings in the Af-Pak region closely which bequeathed him with vivid insights into the geography and politics of the region.

Amalgamating facts with fiction, the author narrates an enthralling story that entices, allures and immerses the reader till the very end of the book.

In composing a scintillating tale, the author endows insight into the psychology of young jihadis, internal functioning of various terror groups, the constant dissension between the CIA and ISI and Pakistan’s role into promoting and protecting jihadis to advance their own agendas. As presaged by the apposite cover page of the book, a jihadi holding a weapon, the book chronicles the story of Islamic terrorism which is nothing but a camouflage to shield the internal feuds and squabbles transpiring below the surface to seize power in the name of holy war.

Written in the tradition of Fredrick Forsyth and Tom Clancy, the book commences with the grisly and morbid execution of Jason Wilson, the CIA operative, in Pakistan by the new whiz kid of Tehreek-e-Taliban’s Aamir Sherzai who has “flowing, curly hair till his shoulders”, “wispy beard, and…eyes sharply narrowed down at the edge of his nose”. Materializing simultaneously is a game-changing event, in a deserted fort on Peshawar and Khyber border to bring together dissenting terror factions to “decide the future course of the action unfolding in the Af-Pak region.” Determined to eradicate his closest friend, Jason’s killer, Ed Gomez devises a plan to infiltrate a conglomeration of the most ferocious terror outfits in The Beast as Sarfaraz Khan. The Beast where “Jihadis from across the world are converging…a congregation of the faithful, with the fiercest voices of Islam…the launch pad for all…future attacks on Western interests, whether in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.”

Unfolding along side is a story of the British white Muslim, Shaun Marsh aka Shahid Khan; who misled and abandoned by the very person he trusted to show him the path of true faith, lands into the British Guantanamo Bay that scars and damages him beyond recognition. “She could feel the warmth in him evaporating, leaving something very cold and indifferent in its place.” Infuriated, disgusted and abhorred by the attitude of the British government towards Muslims, he also lands up at the Beast to avenge the Muslims persecuted and victimized by the West and to dodge the demons of his own past. Interspersed together with the story of Ed and Shaun is the story of the Indian journalist, Rahul Sharma, kidnapped and held hostage within the Beast by the Taliban. Brought together by providence, all three of them are pitted against the common enemy, Aamir Sherzai, a brutal killing machine whose “eyes reflected his insanity, eerily similar to that of a cat.” The author keeps the reader speculating till the last page, will they also fall prey to blood thirsty machete of Aamir or escape unscathed?

Convoluting the labyrinth of deception and manipulation, the narrator affords understanding into the corrupting influence of power. Ed, who adorns the role of Sarfaraz to avenge Jason, soon gets seduced by the influence and status that Sarfaraz wields in the Beast, “The lines were blurring. The power of Sarfaraz was too seductive for Ed. He knew that if he gave in, he would soon be consumed by his new identity. And once Sarfaraz took over, Ed would never be able to return.” Although a bit implausible and inconceivable, the author ventures into the grey area of psychology where variance between good and bad is not lucid but rather a blur.

Taking the reader on a roller coaster ride, the narrative moves at a brisk and swift pace throughout and keeps the readers’ hooked to their seats till the end, biting their nails in anticipation of the next twist and the climax.

Grisly, violent and full of bloodshed, the book is not for the faint hearted and is an absolute page turner. The author narrates an enthralling story that entices, allures and immerses the reader till the very end of the book.

Title: The Edge of the Machete

Author: Abhisar Sharma

Publisher: Westland

Pages: 342

Genre: Spy Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Buy it from: Amazon Flipkart

About the Author

Abhisar Sharma is associated with Aaj Tak, a news channel of the TV Today Network, as the Senior Anchor/Deputy Editor. He has a vast experience of seventeen years in broadcast journalism, and considers himself a keen observer of the AfPak region. As a journalist, he has covered numerous historical happenings – from the repercussions of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, the Jasmine Revolution in Egypt, to the ill-famed Gujarat riots. His work, Laal Masjid Ka Safed Sach (The True Story of the Red Mosque), won him India’s premier journalism award, the Ramnath Goenka Indian Express Award in 2008-2009. Abhisar Sharma is a passionate traveller, an avid writer and a foodie. He currently resides in Delhi with his wife and two children. (Courtesy: Flipkart)

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