The Ace of Shadows review: Captivating tale of covert espionage operations
Counterintelligence wars are often more engrossing than conventional wars when waged by spies who have fought them in times and places neither seen nor heard except passing references with wry smiles and harmless codewords known only to a handful who walk the shadowy hallways of secret spy buildings in the nation’s capital.
These wars are fought in daily turmoil without the headlines of the newspapers claiming victory the next day. Who appears as “the ace of shadows”? Only the enemy knows his defeat, and that is victory.
Ace of Shadows written by Balakrishna Kamath, a former Intelligence Bureau officer, is a gripping tale of covert espionage operations. It takes readers to this battlefield, where there are no weapons and operations are less about bravery and more about stealth, thrill, suspense and courage as the game becomes perilous. for agency operatives facing off against Pakistan’s relentless Inter-Services Intelligence. .
It is set in the period 1989-1990, when espionage and intelligence gathering still relied heavily on human intelligence. The ISI team desperate to execute its military doctrine – bleed India with a thousand cuts and the high-stakes game of smoke and mirrors, is centered around Indian spy Yashwant Narayan Godbole, who crafts a unconventional and risky plan. The plan is to allow a suspected ISI agent to escape from Agra prison, only to dismantle one of ISI’s largest and most sinister plots – Mission Blackrock – which could have have disturbing internal and international ramifications for India.
Kamath, who has spent nearly four decades in counterintelligence, leaves readers spellbound for most of the book as Godbole sets out on his mission, criss-crossing several Indian cities in a thrilling, long and hot pursuit that takes him to the the most unlikely places, only to realize how deep ISI’s network has penetrated the tiny alleyways where an ordinary tailor or confectionery owner might be part of a dark terrorist plot.
The counter-intelligence operation led by some of the most powerful yet humble detectives unearths some of the darkest secrets of ISI officers bullied by Pakistani army brigadiers who rap them for “rash footage of ‘adventurism’.
“When it comes to serious operations against India, the ISI is driven by an inflated sense of hubris rather than realistic and calculated actions. They have put this nation in great embarrassment many times,” said Major General Mohammad Ghafoor, who is the manager of spy Damji Bhai Savla, a tailor in Agra.
But was Godbole’s action in freeing Savla from Agra prison a calculated risk? Was Savla an indispensable Pakistani agent or a bigger ISI asset? To learn more about Godbole’s extraordinary skills as a spy and Kamath’s rare insight into counter-intelligence operations, go to Ace of Shadows. It’s a must-read for those who love fiction based on espionage and intelligence operations, and cherish racy writing. Kamath’s first novel velvet glovesa thriller released in 2018, was a hit and is being adapted into a web series.
According to Kamath, “Deception is one of the most powerful weapons in security and intelligence maneuvers. To make it look real, you need to play with perfection. A small sacrifice for a great cause.”
”When it comes to appreciating the essence of espionage and counterintelligence in our part of the world, there can be no better canvas [than the Indo-Pak rivalry],” he writes. Rightly so, both sides will agree.
Ace of Shadows
By Balakrishna Kamath
Edited by Leadstart
Price Rs 349