2017 Book of the Year. A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

Book of the Year.  A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee.  This debut historical mystery featuring Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee in post-WWI Calcutta is a wonderfully complex tale.  Its central character and narrator is the recently-arrived detective, formerly of Scotland Yard and with a small opium problem, who gives readers a first-hand account of his struggles to adapt to the world that is India at the time.  There is the stifling bureaucracy filled with corruption, the money-hungry English capitalists, the violently paranoid military intelligence organization trying to keep the Raj in power and the developing native nationalist groups trying to bring it all down.  The death of a high-ranking official in a Black Town alleyway brings Wyndham and his Cambridge-educated Indian sergeant in contact with all these elements as well as the normal unsavory denizens of the city’s underworld.  This core mystery is elaborate and Mukherjee also does a fine job of developing secondary characters from each of the complimentary groups.  Not since the early books in the Joe Sandilands series by Barbara Cleverly has there been such a good mystery set in the Jewel in the Crown.

This year I also read Arjun Raj Gaind’s debut mystery, “A Very Pukka Murder,” set in 1909 India.  Although I liked the protagonist, Maharajah Sikander Singh, and there is potential in the supporting cast, I found the plotting unimaginative and formulaic and the “reveal” was tediously long.  I will not be reading this series any further.

For all my previous “books of the year” lists, see my dedicated page for these titles.


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