Book name: A Rising Man
Author: Abir Mukherjee
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Format: Print, ebook, audiobook
Publication Date: 2016
Star Rating: 5/5
Abir Mukherjee’s ‘Wyndham and Banerjee’ series of crime-fiction novels is set in India during the British Raj.
A Rising Man is his debut novel, and it won a host of awards including the CWA Gold Dagger and the CWA Historical Dagger.
The series is a police procedural. In fact, the whole of A Rising Man is told in the first person through Sam Wyndham’s eyes.
Captain Sam Wyndham is a young widower and survivor of the trenches of World War One.
He is a policeman in London but applies for a transfer to the Imperial Police Force in India in 1919 for a fresh start away from the trauma of war and the loss of his wife.
Arriving in Calcutta, Sam has barely settled in before the body of a dead English man is found in a local part of town.
The body is that of Alexander MacAuley, a civil servant. He has been both stabbed and had his throat cut. A note has also been stuffed into his mouth.
The embarrassment and shock of a white man’s body in a local part of town, where MacAuley has no reason at all to be, is intense.
It deepens when Sergeant Banerjee identifies the building opposite as a brothel, though Sam and his sergeant can get nothing of substance out of those inside.
Sam comes under pressure to solve the crime, bearing in mind the identity of the victim (an aide to the Lieutenant Governor) and the assumption that he was killed by an Indian.
Sam’s Detective Sub-Inspector John Digby resents Sam’s appointment as Detective Inspector over his head.
However, with Sam’s experience in London, the appointment is warranted.
Political interest in the case is high, and Sam has to fight a turf war with military intelligence to keep the case.
A failed robbery aboard the Darjeeling Mail, which but for MacAuley’s death would have been carrying hundreds of thousands of rupees, by professional criminals becomes immediately linked to the murder.
Are the two crimes intertwined, or has Sam been sold a pup?
A Rising Man was a cracking story. The plot was complex, but the story was well told and I was gripped right to the final page.
Abir Mukherjee doesn’t pull any punches about the British in India, and that’s a good thing. There is too much sentimentality about the history of the British on the sub-continent which recent films and TV series are only just beginning to counter.
A sympathetic detective and sergeant, a vivid location and history, plus some refreshing honesty about the political and social backdrop meant that A Rising Man offered a great deal to the fan of murder mysteries.
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