Time warp

There's a single chapter in Ashwin Sanghi's The Rozabal Line that spans 13 viewpoints across 2,800 years in 9 different locations. One paragraph, you're in Tibet 1935, and a few pages later, you've already jumped three other timelines to reach Kalinga in 800 BC.

Surprisingly, by that stage in the book, you're used to this sort of time and space hopping, and the often overwhelming onslaught of historical fact and fiction (the book attempts to blend both). But the approach underscores the important question of how much you take away from this oft-silly, oft-entertaining book. The unfortunate answer: Not too much.

Cut from the same cloth as Dan Brown's Angels and Demons and the Da Vinci Code, and with shades of Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games— The Rozabal Line is a thriller. It attempts, like Brown, to unravel giant, global, usually religious, conspiracy theories with a melange of factual information garnished with liberal flights of fiction.

Set in 2012, the racy plot jumps from location to location, and across time, and while interesting in parts, never adds up coherently. There's a secret army plotting the end of the world, another equally secret organisation plotting the first one's downfall, and a third...you get the idea.

While the writing is simple and straightforward, this is prose written not tersely, but with the overwrought dullness of a general knowledge book—entire pages of descriptions seem straight out of an encyclopedia, and are rarely compelling.

The characters are also a problem—some are potentially interesting such as a Japanese assassin, a RAW agent, a spirit medium but the structure of the book gives them so little time to develop that none of them really resonate.

The Rozabal Line is for those interested in eclectic conspiracy theory. It drags in Indian religion and myth into the Da Vinci code stage, combining that lore with some subcontinent history. But, coming as it does in late 2008, when the wave of post-Da vinci code resurgence in exploring early Christian history and the inter-connectedness of religions has more or less subsided, it feels a little late to the party.