Monday, 19 June 2017

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

Set in Calcutta 1919, A Rising Man is written from the viewpoint of Captain Sam Wyndham, newly off the boat to take up the reins as detective inspector in the Imperial Police Force. The murder of a senior civil servant, Alexander MacAuley, throws him in at the deep end, the body discovered near a brothel in a part of town not normally frequented by British sahibs after dark.

Assisted by Sergeant Digby, passed over for promotion and barely polite, as well as Cambridge educated Sergeant Banerjee, Sam is soon aware of an undercurrent of civil unrest. A note on the body suggests the murder is the work of terrorists trying destabilise British rule.

When a rail worker is killed during a train hold-up, a known terrorist gang is suspected and Sam finds himself working with military intelligence, who operate on a shoot first, ask questions later basis. It’s an uncomfortable relationship for someone who has seen too much unnecessary death in the trenches.

Mukherjee has recreated Calcutta under British rule, the heat, the grandiose architecture and the politics of the day. While it is suggested that the British may have had good intentions at one time, as one character says, ‘India makes hypocrites of us all’, and it is obvious that many in power put gain above public good.

While giving the reader pause for thought, the story still has plenty of action to keep you whizzing through the pages. Sam takes a bullet and gets beaten up more than once, earning both admiration and sympathy from potential love interest, MacAuley’s secretary Annie Grant.

A Rising Man is the first Sam Wyndham book, and it’s a nicely paced whodunit, well researched and peopled with terrific characters. Mukherjee’s second Sam Wyndham novel has been nominated for a Dagger award, which gives me hope that this is just the start of an unmissable series.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: A Rising Man

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