What happens when a former IPS officer and a senior crime journalist work together? You get a fast-paced thriller like "Operation Trojan Horse". Co-written by D.P. Sinha and Abhishek Sharan, the former an officer who has worked "in the intelligence bureau looking after counter-terrorism operations" while the latter a senior crime journalist who has been "reporting on terror attacks in India from ground zero for the past twenty years" it is backed by real perspectives from the trenches.

Sinha, a 1979-batch IPS officer, joined the Intelligence Bureau in 1987 and has worked on several security operations. Sharan has been a journalist covering the crime beat, writing for many leading newspapers here. He has even taken several e-courses on terrorism.

Based on India's war against terror, Operation Trojan Horse is an engaging novel. Thanks to the years of experience in their respective fields, the authors have crafted a plot that is authentic in every sense from the character development to the plot to the settings of crucial action sequences.

Amped by Sinha's expertise in operations involving national security and Sharan's journalistic ability to weave a story, the duo makes for smart writing partners, keeping the plot true and entertaining.

Operation Trojan Horse starts in 1996 and extends till the fateful night of the 26/11 attacks that hit India's soul. The story begins when a young Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist is caught and the hero of the novel, Shekhar Singh of the Counter-Terrorism Cell (CTC) interrogates him.

Shekhar is baffled to find that Pakistan's terror group has been sending men into India as ordinary citizens with the ultimate aim to destabilise peace. Eventually, the CTC decides to 'plant' five agents - Atharv, Anant, Nirav, Rohit and Sahil - to infiltrate the terror network, thus initiating 'Operation Trojan Horse'.

The novel’s first act shows the domino effect post the capture of the terrorist and how these five agents are recruited. The authors make sure that the plot doesn't deviate when the backstories of these important characters are introduced. The book's pace quickens once the recruits are inducted by the CTC and 'taken over' by the terror groups.

Throughout the novel, there are several nuggets of how a state-sponsored terror cell operates and also the internal functioning of India's intelligence agency. At times, reading those sections feels like it is all a part of some gripping long-form article from a magazine.

The authors keep the narrative style under control, ensuring that the plot isn't too dramatic. With tight dialogues and describing the setting of each scene with minimal words, Operation Trojan Horse races quick. What makes the book more believable, unlike other action novels that have spies, assassins or terrorists is that it sticks true to the style of attacks, India has unfortunately faced terror groups over the past decades.

Act Two, the main part of the novel, has a handful of chapters that has the characters prepare their plans to attack India and it makes for a great read.

Towards the end of act two and the final chapters, readers can expect to go through a roller coaster ride as terror networks plan their attacks while the five agents, in coordination with CTC, deliver crucial intelligence to thwart the threats.

In the end, the novel works because it sticks true to the realities of how terrorists plan while the intelligence agencies do their best to stop them.

(The reviewer is a journalist with the Hindu BusinessLine)

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About the Book

Operation Trojan Horse: A book inspired by true events

Abhishek Sharan, D P Sinha

Harper Collins India

Rs 287 (paperback) ; 368 pages