A Case of Exploding Mangoes takes the mysterious plane crash of Pakistan´s military dictator General Zia ul- Haq in 1988 and out of it spins a story that involves Zia, two lovers, a blind woman´s curse and, of course, mangoes.
The story is mainly told through the eyes of Ali Shigri, an officer in the military, stationed at the academy. He is seemingly sucked into the intricate web of conspiracy theories and suspicions of the intelligence when his friend and lover Obaid dissapears. Ali himself is actually trying to avenge his father´s death, who may or may not have been ordered to be killed by general Zia. While Ali is imprisoned, he meets a Maoist and sweeper who had been trying to organize the sweepers, then the mango orchard owners. Another cell is later inhabited by a blind woman who cursed Zia. And these are just three who are after the general. Zia himself is plagued by tapeworms, the First Lady, and paranoia. Then there are the usual intelligence and military people around him, who have their own agenda. With all these possible assassins, someone has to succeed.
This book is foremost a political satire, brutally funny in most parts and just brutal in others. Ali Shigri is a likable narrator, at times deeply amused he comments on interrogation methods as if he were a teacher grading essays. He is interesting, sarcastic, and takes his time letting the reader know his part in the heap of conspiracies.
Hanif paints general Zia as a paranoid idiot, deeply religios and superstitoius at the same time. He is lazy, fat and constantly ridiculed by his wife. Zia gives code red when his randomly pointing at a page of the bible (done everyday like a horoscope) seems to contain a warning.
Who did what to rid the country of Zia and who actually succeeds is a thrilling story and Hanif introduces a ridiculous amount of possible candidates and reasons but in the end they are all neatly tied up.
I enjoyed this book immensely and was in turns amused and shocked but always occupied with keeping track of all the plot strands.