The first glimpse of the sea on Marine Drive filled my heart, if not my head. I turned away from the red shadow. I stopped thinking of that pyramid of killers, and Sanjay's improvidence. I stopped thinking about my own part in the madness. And I rode, with my friends, into the end of everything.
Shantaram introduced millions of readers to a cast of unforgettable characters through Lin, an Australian fugitive, working as a passport forger for a branch of the Bombay mafia. In The Mountain Shadow, the long-awaited sequel, Lin must find his way in a Bombay run by a different generation of mafia dons, playing by a different set of rules.
It has been two years since the events in Shantaram, and since Lin lost two people he had come to love: his father figure, Khaderbhai, and his soul mate, Karla, married to a handsome Indian media tycoon. Lin returns from a smuggling trip to a city that seems to have changed too much, too soon. Many of his old friends are long gone, the new mafia leadership has become entangled in increasingly violent and dangerous intrigues, and a fabled holy man challenges everything that Lin thought he'd learned about love and life. But Lin can't leave the Island City: Karla, and a fatal promise, won't let him go.
Set mostly in modern Bombay, Roberts's sequel to Shantaram defies easy categorization, one of its many charms. The dashing hero Lin (short for Lindsay), an Australian fugitive, is worldly, two-fisted, rides a motorcycle, has a social conscience, quotes great writers and, as the book opens, struggles bravely to get over his lost love, Karla, who's now married to wealthy power broker Ranjit. Lin's working to forget Karla via a new girlfriend, Lisa, with bittersweet results. Lin works as a passport forger for the local crime syndicate. He narrates his interactions with many larger-than-life street types in an energetic and often salty first person. Roberts's cast of characters, while colorful, is also dauntingly large, and there's a sense of entering the story in the middle. A reader unfamiliar with the earlier novel will need some time to get grounded. To counterbalance, Roberts keeps the action moving and the narrative engaging. The sprawling and episodic plot involves minor scrapes with crime kingpins as well as local tensions between Iranian and Afghan emigres in the city. Sensing Lin's obsession with Karla, it is Lisa who engineers a reunion of the two ex-lovers. Violence ultimately shatters the love triangle, which is the strongest aspect of this strong novel. This series of robust, retro capers with contemporary trappings will have readers feverishly turning the pages.