This is the first of the series of Sam Wyndham novels by Mukherjee, and they’ve been on my list for a while, after they won a few crime prizes way back when. There’s another two in the series that have been published since, so I have some catching up to do. But it’s been nice to dive into some escapist crime at a time when work has been hectic and the world seems to continue to go due south.
These are set in India just after the First World War, and Wyndham arrives in Calcutta to join the police force and is swiftly embroiled in a murder with far-reaching complications. What starts as potentially a domestic matter escalates right to the higher echelons of the British empire in Calcutta, and Wyndham has his mettle, his ethics and his bravery tested by turn.
It is decent rollicking fun: perhaps a little overlong, and with a little too much ‘displaying’ of historical research; but nevertheless I felt pretty well embedded in 1919 Calcutta as the plot continued to wind up in tempo and complexity, not least because of some excellent, vivid description. Wyndham is an engaging lead, and his sidekick Surrender-not and he have a nice line in wry humour and dry wit.
What raises these slightly above the average crime / police thriller is the weaving in of the Empire, issues of race, and India’s gradual move towards independence – which is mostly done subtly. What Mukherjee probably couldn’t have predicted was how much of that content would seem so relevant in 2018 Britain.
BUY IT NOW; A Rising Man (Sam Wyndham Book 1)