The Hidden Agenda by Ajinkya Dharane

This review is published on Reedsy/Discovery.

The story begins in Ottawa, Canada at the home of Dr. Emily Rogers, an epidemiology expert at Health Canada. She learns a secret from a letter written by her father who had passed away a month ago, leaving the reader with a sense of what the secret might be but wanting to know more. Jack Wilson is the next main character introduced, beginning his morning at a police department in Ontario in his role as an inspector with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). As the lives of Emily and Jack intersect, the story moves from Canada to China where they launch a mission to save the world and perhaps themselves.

The story is a fictional mystery against a backdrop of a virus pandemic, told from the third-party perspective. In some instances, the author shared too much from this perspective, stating the obvious. For example, “There were no glass walls or windows open to hallways. Jack believed that the company wants to keep the activities behind the doors private.” The second sentence could have been omitted, left to the reader to make that deduction.

The theme intertwines the global crisis with family ties, justice and power. The story line moves quickly, and the surprise ending wraps it up well. However, I had difficulty relating to any of the characters or feeling empathy for them. I could not get behind the family losses that caused Emily and Jack so much suffering. I did not feel vested in the close-knit bonds between Emily and her father, and between Jack and his grandfather. Likewise, I did not feel their loss. I also found certain characters unbelievable and simplistic. Mr. Lee is the chairman of one of the biggest corporations in Asia, yet his character is unguarded and weak with a dialogue uncharacteristic for someone in that position.

The twists and turns of the story piqued my curiosity, propelling me forward in the book. With some work on helping the reader connect with the characters, the book has the potential to evoke emotions of loss, fear and love as well.

 

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