The Caretaker: Book summary and reviews of The Caretaker by A .X. Ahmad

The Caretaker

by A .X. Ahmad

The Caretaker
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  • Published in USA  May 2013
    304 pages
    Genre: Thrillers

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Book Summary

A gripping, evocative thriller about a disgraced Sikh Indian Army captain who works as the caretaker for a U.S. Senator's Martha's Vineyard estate, and becomes ensnared in the Senator's shadowy world.

Ranjit Singh, a former Indian Army Captain trying to escape a shameful past, now lives on Martha's Vineyard, and works as a caretaker for the vacation homes of the rich and powerful. One harsh winter, Ranjit needs a place to stay, and illegally moves his family into an empty, luxurious vacation home belonging to an African-American Senator. Ensconced in the house, he tries to forget his brief affair with Anna, the Senator's wife, and focuses on providing for his family. But one night, their idyll is shattered when mysterious armed men break into the house, searching for an antique porcelain doll.

Forced to flee, Ranjit is hunted by unknown forces, and becomes drawn into the Senator's shadowy world. To save his family and solve the mystery of the doll, he must join forces with Anna, who has her own dark secrets. As he battles to save his family, Ranjit's painful past resurfaces, and he must finally confront the hidden event that destroyed his Army career - and forced him to leave India.

Tightly plotted, action-packed, smart and surprisingly moving, The Caretaker takes us from the desperate world of migrant workers to the elite African-American community of Martha's Vineyard, and a secret high-altitude war between India and Pakistan.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Ahmad debuts with a fast-paced literary thriller, shifting action from the desolate ice-clad Siachen glacier separating India and Pakistan to the posh environs of Martha's Vineyard ... Top-notch effort in the first of a promising trilogy." - Kirkus

"Poignant.... A finely textured story of bravery and knavery." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. This fine thriller debut views disturbing political realism through the lens of Ranjit Singh, a newly immigrated Sikh fleeing danger in India after a politically explosive mistake ends his military career...a cynically smart political thriller that draws parallels of political expediency between Washington deal-brokering and Ranjit's tragic past. Beyond the masterfully crafted, high-adrenaline story, readers will be fascinated by Ranjit's strong Sikh faith, rarely seen in American fiction." - Booklist

"Starred Review. Combinations of the familiar and the unfamiliar provide a read that moves beyond standard thriller fare. Weaving together Singh's Sikh faith with very personal moments, taut action sequences, and events with international significance, Ahmad's thriller should have broad appeal." - Library Journal

"Told with propulsive narrative drive, The Caretaker weaves a compelling story, beguiling characters, and two exotic locales- India and Martha's Vineyard- into a suspenseful whole.  A wonderful debut." - Richard North Patterson, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"The Caretaker isn't just a solid thriller, it's a wonderful novel about clashing cultures and painful histories, held together by Ahmad's crisp writing and his wonderful character of Ranjit Singh.  Shades of Martiz Cruz Smith here, and echoes of Graham Greene. Bravo, A. X.Ahmad." - T. Jefferson Parker, author of The Jaguar and The Border Lords

"Though A. X. Ahmad's The Caretaker is a tightly wound thriller, it is equally concerned with themes of insiders and outsiders, race, culture and class. From protagonist Ranjit Singh, a Sikh who once held a position of status in the Indian Army and is now a disgraced, reluctant refuge in the US, to the African American Senator who came up from poverty to become a powerful and influential leader, to the Senator's wife, from a family of longtime Vineyard residents that lost nearly everything they'd once held, Ahmad portrays a modern American reality where privilege is not predictable and identity is formed in a crucible of contradictions. If this sounds dry and didactic, let me assure you that The Caretaker is anything but - Ahmad has crafted a story that is refreshing, sexy and heart-felt. I very much hope that this is not the last we'll see of Ranjit Singh, an original, complex hero for an uncertain, complicated time." - Lisa Brackmann, New York Times bestselling author of Rock Paper Tiger

"The Caretaker is a powerhouse tale, a literary thriller that's sharply observed and deeply felt. A. X. Ahmad is a remarkable new talent, and his hero, Ranjit Singh, takes his place beside Arkady Renko as a man trapped between the system and his own moral imperatives. The Caretaker is a surprising, gripping love story that manages to be both timely and timeless, and will be a novel people read for years to come." - Joseph Finder, New York Times bestselling author of Buried Secrets and Paranoia

"The Caretaker is a promising debut from A. X. Ahmad with a unique perspective and compelling hero, a novel that shines fresh and welcome light on our complex world." - James Grady, author of Six Days of the Condor

"The Caretaker is a killer book and A. X. Ahmad's Ranjit Singh is a compelling man of action. Ahmad takes his readers on a careening ride from the glacial battlefields of South Asia to the supposedly safer digs of Martha's Vineyard. America may not be ready for a run-and-gun Sikh investigator, but we need him now." - Ed Lin, author of One Red Bastard

"This first novel combines the taut pacing of a thriller with the lush, lyrical writing of Jhumpa Lahiri." - Jenna Blum, New York Times Bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers

The information about The Caretaker shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Vicki O. (Boston, MA)

What an Impressive Debut!
A.X. Ahmad has crafted a riveting mystery with a highly unlikely but engaging hero, Ranjit Singh and he is one of the reasons I enjoyed this so much. Singh has fled his past in the Indian military and now lives on Martha's Vineyard where he labors as a caretaker. When he takes a position working for a Senator, he discovers that the Senator has secrets that could have international implications. As the intrigue unfolds, Ahmad uses flashbacks very effectively to reveal what Singh is hiding and for me this character development is very important. Add crisp dialogue and vivid descriptions and you have a recipe for making me look forward to Ahmad's next book.

Erin G. (Dulles, VA)

Timely, thoughtful thriller
Ranjit Singh is a complex, fascinating protagonist and his presence makes this book a consistently compelling read. Anyone who loves classic, John LeCarre-style thrillers will really enjoy the mixture of international intrigue and thoughtfully portrayed characters. The glimpses of Sikh life and beliefs, in addition to the contrasting views of American and Indian culture, made this a one-of-a-kind read. I hope this will be the start of a series. I'd be very interested in reading more novels with Ranjit Singh as the main character. I was less enamored with Anna, who was possibly too enigmatic, but all in all I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the genre.

Harriette K. (Northbrook, IL)

The Caretaker
Ranjit Singh is a former officer in the Indian army. Disgraced after a court martial and prison sentence following a disastrous military operation, he takes his wife and child to the U.S. where he finds work, finally, as a caretaker in Martha's Vineyard. He is in charge of large homes that are used by the wealthy during the summer months and then closed down for the winter. Circumstances bring him to temporary shelter in the closed home of a powerful U.S, Senator. Then, further circumstances lead him and the reader on a wild journey in which Ranjit uses all his military training and skills to save his family and himself while trying to solve a mystery. If I reveal more of the plot, I will do disservice to the reader. It is enough to say that I was engrossed from beginning to end, The writer has written a masterful thriller, and has also explained many things about the Sikh religion that was a mystery to this reader. I especially like a story that also educates, and this one does. I highly recommend this tale to anyone who loves suspense.

Linda M. (Windsor, CA)

Review of The Caretaker
I really enjoyed this book. Found it to be fast-paced and well-plotted. I liked the way the protagonist's background story unfolded slowly throughout the book. I thought the characters were well written and believable. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes suspense or political intrigue.

Kathy S. (Oshkosh, WI)

The Caretaker by A.X. Ahmad
Others have described this book as a "thriller" and a "novel about clashing cultures and painful histories", and I would agree. I enjoyed the author's flashback approach to explaining the main character's (Ranjit) back story and felt it helped to build suspense. I thought the author did a great job evoking time and place in India, Martha's Vineyard and Boston - lots of little details that drew me into the story and made me feel part of it. The plot was engaging and held my interest until the last page. My only complaint is that I had some difficulty in the middle of the story believing the way that Ranjit assumed that the Senator's wife would help him and be interested in his problem, although it was clarified in the end. Overall, an excellent, engaging debut!

Toby S. (Seattle, WA)

Very captivating novel with many intrigues
Having just finished "The Caretaker" A .X. Ahmad, I realized that I had stopped reading only once to take a break while reading this captivating novel. The pace of the plot was in the fast "thriller" category, and the several simultaneous themes were brought to a climax with much clever and ingenious techniques. The protagonist (a former Captain in the Indian army in its battles with Pakistan who has moved his family to the US) was a most sympathetic character. While by no means did I find the plot truly plausible (I can't imagine it REALLY being realistic)), it was an entertaining and absorbing read especially when I suspended my normal common sense. The author is obviously knowledgeable of the countries in which the novel takes place and overall it was very much an impressive literary debut.

...23 more reader reviews

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A. X. AHMAD was raised in India, educated at Vassar College and M.I.T., and has worked as an international architect. As Amin Ahmad, his short stories and essays on immigrant life have been published in The Missouri Review, The Harvard Review, The New England Review, Narrative Magazine and The Good Men Project. He was a finalist for Glimmertrain's Short Story Award, and has been listed in Best American Essays. He lives in Washington, D.C, where he teaches writing.

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