The Caretaker by A.X. Ahmad

Looking for a great summer read? I recommend this well written thriller. It has locales that range from India to Boston to Martha’s Vineyard, lots of action, and sharply drawn characters.

The protagonist, Ranjit Singh, is a Sikh and a former member of the Indian military. Discharged from service due to scandal, Ranjit immigrates to the United States where he barely makes a living doing odd jobs on Martha’s Vineyard. He’s thrilled to land several jobs as winter caretaker for some of the expensive homes. At least until he and his family find themselves running for their lives from mysterious men who want to steal something from one of the homes under Ranjit’s care. The targeted house belongs to a charismatic United States senator, with a beautiful wife of whom Ranjit is particularly fond.

The scenes on Martha’s Vineyard alternate with flashbacks to India and the failed mission that ended Ranjit’s army career so suddenly and spectacularly. I think Ahmad is particularly good at describing setting. I really felt like I was on the glacier with Singh and his men in the scenes set in India. When the action moves to the Vineyard, I could see the empty houses of the rich as Ranjit tended them during the somber days of the off season.

Ranjit Singh is an appealing character with a background I’ve never run across before in a thriller. I found the details of his army career fascinating. The sense of honor that made him a good soldier carries over into his civilian life and is, for me, one of Ranjit’s most endearing qualities. He stubbornly insists on behaving honorably, even if it’s not convenient or worse yet, downright dangerous.

The Caretaker is the first in a trilogy featuring Ranjit Singh from debut author A.X. Ahmad. The second title in the series, Bollywood Taxi, will be published next year. I look forward to reading it.

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