Wednesday, 9 August 2017

A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

A Necessary Evil is a follow up to Abir Mukherjee’s debut novel, the historic crime thriller, A Rising Man, which was shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize.

A Rising Man was set in Calcutta in 1919, at a time when the Quit India movement was beginning to gain ground and the British were cracking down – often with extreme violence – on any hint of rebellion. The book established Mukherjee’s main characters – Captain Sam Wyndham, recently widowed and a WWI veteran, a new recruit to the Calcutta police, and his Harrow-educated, Bengali Detective Sergeant, Surendrenath (Surrender-not) Banerjee,.

A Necessary Evil takes a slight side step from the politics of British India into one of the fabulously wealthy, pseudo-independent princely states, Sambalpore. Mukherjee states that the book was inspired by the Begums of Bhopal, a dynasty of Muslim queens who ruled from 1819 to 1926. Indeed, the book gives a fascinating glimpse into the power wielded by the royal wives and concubines from the seclusion of the zenana.

Mukherjee paints a wonderfully detailed picture of a time in Indian history that is often overlooked. Every page sings with local and period detail. Sam, the outsider, is our eyes and ears in this setting, noticing what others take for granted while learning to recognise his own blind spots, while Surrender-not is both Sam’s guide and ours. But that detail is never allowed to get in the way of the intrigue and action that drive the fast-moving plot – one that this time includes assassination, diamond mines, palace intrigue and a tiger hunt!

Mukherjee has plans to extend this series over several years, tracking the decline of  the British Raj and the rise of independent India. I, for one, can’t wait to follow Sam and Surrender-not on their journey. I highly recommend you come along for the ride.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved:
A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee, The Crimson Petal and The White by Michel Faber, Finding Takri by Palo Stickland

Avoid If You Dislike: Descriptions of Big Game hunting or opium addiction.

Perfect Accompaniment: Omelette with plenty of fresh chillies, and chai.

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Available on Amazon

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