Published by
Minotaur (2013-05)
Original language
Thriller / suspense fiction


by Ahmad, Amin

The Caretaker is a literary suspense début, which creates a new hero for our times: Ranjit Singh, an Indian immigrant caught in a web of American political intrigue.

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.
Ranjit Singh is a Sikh, once an Indian army captain, a frontier war veteran. Ranjit was involved in a friendly fire incident and imprisoned. Upon release, he knew his life was in danger from a corrupt general. With his wife and daughter, Ranjit sought refuge in America. His wife’s uncle, a Boston grocery store owner, financed their flight, but Ranjit chafed under the uncle’s patronizing attitude and demands for cheap labor. Ranjit moves his family to Martha’s Vineyard and struggles with a landscaping business. As winter arrives and work disappears, Anna Neals, young second wife of a Massachusetts’ senator, the nation’s longest serving African-American legislator, asks Ranjit to work as a caretaker for the Neals’ vacation home. Her request seems innocuous, but Anna is an emotionally damaged woman. The story unfolds in the present, with flashbacks to the mission that cost Ranjit his military career, often in the form of hallucinations in which Ranjit’s loyal sergeant appears.

Trapped between lack of money and his wife’s depression and loneliness, Ranjit temporarily shelters his family in the senator’s island house, the first step in an inexorable spiral into personal chaos. Their trespass is discovered when two men break in searching for computer records that could wreck the senator’s political career. The action shifts to Boston and then back to Martha’s Vineyard, with hairbreadth chases and violent confrontations. The operatives arrest Ranjit’s wife and daughter as illegal immigrants and then threaten deportation, attempting to extort the computer records from Ranjit. Ahmad writes with intimate familiarity of Boston, Martha’s Vineyard, and the Sikhs and their culture, but his best work comes in his characterizations of the ambitious senator, caught up in Indian and Pakistani duplicity and North Korean chicanery; Anna, the grieving and lonely wife; and the Singh family’s stumbling through the swamp of cultural discordance. Top-notch effort in the first of a promising trilogy.

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.

Available rights (1)

Language Territory Type Vendor Status
German World All

Mohrbooks Literary Agency
Ronit Zafran

Available View on Rightsdesk


...well-written debut... 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.

Review: Library Journal (starred)

“Though Amin 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 sound 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.”

Quote: Lisa Brakmann

"THE CARETAKER is a promising debut from Amin Ahmad with a unique perspective and compelling hero, a novel that shines fresh and welcome light on our complex world."

Quote: James Grady

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.

Quote: Richard North Patterson

A Conversation With: Author A. X. Ahmad

Quote: New York Times

The Caretaker is a wonderful and suspenseful debut novel.

Review: The New York Review of Books

“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.”

Quote: Richard North Patterson

This fine thriller debut views disturbing political realism through the lens of Ranjit Singh... Beyond the masterfully crafted, high-adrenaline story, readers will be fascinated by Ranjit’s strong Sikh faith, rarely seen in American fiction.

Review: Boolist

Mr. Ahmad spoke with The Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time about his unconventional approach to writing, what to expect from the remainder of his trilogy and the future of the Indian-American novel.

Quote: Wall Street Journal

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, Amin Ahmad.

Quote: T. Jefferson Parker

THE CARETAKER is a powerhouse tale, a literary thriller that’s sharply observed and deeply felt. Amin 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.

Quote: Joseph Finder

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.

Review: Kirkus

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