Another scenic book review for you this week as I’m reviewing Abir Mukherjee’s debut thriller, A Rising Man. Set in Calcutta in 1919, if you like Indian Summers and a good political thriller you’ll love this book. It’s as atmospheric as it is perplexing.
Judging by the advert at the back of the book, this is set to be a new series which I’m not overly keen on. I can never keep my attention on one character long enough to read more books about them (except of course the Leith lot, we’ve covered my Irvine Welsh obsession).
The story follows Captain Sam Wyndham, a police officer transferred to Calcutta investigating the murder of a high-ranking government type. He’s assisted by two subordinates, the unashamedly racist Seargent Digby and delightfully quick Seargent Surendranath (Surrender-not) Banerjee.
The writing is incredibly atmospheric, Mukherjee does a wonderful job of impressing upon the reader the searing heat of Calcutta. But what I enjoyed most is the political aspect, Mukherjee has done his research and I think (in my uneducated opinion) the representation of casual racism in the British empire is fairly accurate. The misguided British attitude of moral superiority is represented fantastically well.
More than that though, he uses the opportunity to deconstruct the nature of this attitude and make a statement about internalised racism,
“I knew that an Englishman should ever show doubt in front of a native, lest it be interpreted as weakness. No one had explicitly told me, it had just sunk into my consciousness as if by osmosis. But why should my agreeing with Surrender-not be a sign of weakness?”
Of course, the entire concept of racism makes no sense at all but now I’m getting sidetracked.
I knew from the first few interactions between Captain Sam and Surrender-not that this was going to be a great friendship.
Surrender-not has just as much gumption as Sam and is much more amusing. Surrender-not’s accidental awkwardness cuts through Captain Sam’s cynicism and brings light to a dark period in Anglo-Indian history.
A fantastic debut for Abir Mukherjee, if you’re suffering withdrawals from Indian Summers I’d give this book a go.