MURDER IN THE LAST DAYS OF THE RAJ: A RISING MAN

Getting tired of the same old thrillers and mysteries with the same locations, the same kinds of protagonists, the same kinds of crimes?  Why not pick up a new historical mystery and immerse yourself in the city of Calcutta in the period between the two world wars?  Why not take out A Rising Man, by Abir Mukherjee and give yourself a treat?

a rising man

The protagonist of A Rising Man, Captain Sam Wyndham, used to be an officer in Scotland Yard, but that was before The Great War, which turned his whole world upside down.  In need of a change of scene and a change of life, Wyndham says yes to the offer to join the police force in Calcutta, India.  The teeming tropical city is like nothing he’s ever experienced before, and he is out of his element with the inhabitants of the city and with the way things are done in the Raj’s police force, but he is thrown into a murder investigation before he can really get his feet under him, or come to terms with the ghosts of his recent war experiences.

 

It is not a normal murder case. The victim is a senior British officer, body found in a sewer, with a provocative note left in his mouth warning the British to get out of India or else.  Given the tense political situation in the city, which is hovering on the verge of riots and even revolution, there’s tremendous pressure on the police to find the killer and quickly.  Wyndham is matched with two assistants, the arrogant John Digby, jealous because Wyndham got the job he thought was going to be his, and Sergeant Banerjee, an Oxford-educated Indian and one of the few  Indians who is actually a part of the police force.  Of course, the police have a suspect, on whom they want to pin this crime as quickly as possible, but as the investigation proceeds, Wyndham becomes less and less convinced that this “terrorist” was really the murderer, and more and more convinced that there’s a deeper problem here and that the case is much more complicated and far-reaching than anyone else is willing to suppose.

 

A book that dives deep into the world of Calcutta before Independence, that looks at relations between the British and the Indians and among members of those groups, and that gives you a good police procedural mystery in the bargain: what’s not to like?  The suggestion that this book is the beginning of a series just adds to its interesting qualities, so get in on the ground floor and make the acquaintance of Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee now.

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