Review Blog

Jan 09 2018

A necessary evil by Abir Mukherjee

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Vintage Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9781911215127
(Age: Senior secondary to adult) Highly recommended. Themes: Crime fiction, India, Historical fiction, Racism, British Raj. When Captain Sam Wyndham and his sergeant Surrender-not Banerjee attend a local prince who is in Calcutta for talks about cooperation between the principalities in 1920's India, they did not expect to be witnesses to the man's assassination. Surrender-not is mystified, the prince was an acquaintance from school, and he must go to the funeral in the principality of Sambalpore to ensure that he and Sam can investigate further.
But the palace is not what they expect: no one can be trusted, least of all the major in charge of the investigation, having already seized someone as the culprit.
Wyndham's opium craving comes to the fore, clouding his judgement and making him impatient and suspicious of those near to him.
His one time lover, Annie Grant is also in the palace, a guest of the prince's brother, Punit, now heir to the throne, and Sam is able to use her to get closer to the people he wants to question: the women within the court closed to him, a white male.
These books make fascinating reading, recreating the India of the Raj in the 1920's with a backdrop of unrest, of wanting the British gone, of racism, the wealth of the principalities and the caste system. The first in the stories introduced the former Scotland Yard detective Sam Wyndham and his sergeant, Surrender-not, in A Rising Man (2016) a duo with underlying tensions as Surrender-not, the Harrow educated man of considerable depth and knowledge is subordinate to the flawed Wyndham. Forays into the zenana, the private world of the harem, a tiger hunt and splendid dinner with the maharaja with a silver train on the table taking the champagne to the guests, all add spice to this multi layered story.
For lovers of crime fiction, historical fiction, tales of the Raj or simply a tale of the tension between the two main protagonists, this is a treat.
I thoroughly enjoyed every word particularly the foreshadowing of the eventual demise of British rule in India.
Fran Knight

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