It’s 1919 and Sam Wyndham, a Scotland Yard policeman who had a traumatic time in the trenches in WWI and then lost his wife to the peacetime influenza, has been recruited to join the police in Calcutta. He is thrown straight into the deep end when a senior civil servant is found murdered. Efforts to prevent him learning the truth and direct his investigation into channels acceptable to the authorities come right from the top.
Abir Mukherjee paints what I’m sure is an accurate picture of the British in the Raj with their snobbery, violence towards the natives, cupidity and indifference to justice and fair dealing. The book is carefully plotted. And yet I feel able to grant it only three stars. There are signs here of a great deal of promise and I shall certainly want to read Mukherjee’s next book in the series, but it isn’t possible to ignore the shortcomings of A Rising Man. The characterisation is thin – the main characters are more than cardboard cutouts, but not much more – and Mukherjee relies too much on the Deus ex Machina; long-standing readers of detective fiction have become tired of the hunch that tells the detective what the answer to the mystery must be. We demand more than that, and Mukherjee does not – yet – deliver it.
It’ll make a good TV series, though, and I’m sure someone is working on that right now.
My latest book, How To Make Money As A Freelance Writer, has been nicely received:
“In essence, this book is like being taken to the school gate, but not inside. Lynch has put the satchel with all the necessary gear on your back. . .the onus is upon you to get on and act upon it.”
— Rosalind Minett
“There is enough information in this book to set any potential freelancer on their way if they follow the steps outlined.”
— Martin Brown
That’s exactly what I wanted to write: a book that says,
- This is what you do
- This is how you do it
- This is what can happen if you don’t.
A practical guide for practical people.
There’s a Kindle version and the paperback is carried by Gardner’s in the UK and Ingram Spark everywhere else, so you can get it at your local bookshop – but you can also get the paperback from me at a special price (£5 instead of £7) from now till 21st May. Just go here and enter the code “may offer” at checkout
My heart bleeds for the Syrian children Cameron has agreed to take into Britain. These children will be in the care of local authorities. They’ll be “in care,” and if there’s one thing that children in care rarely experience, it’s care.
When I wrote Zappa’s Mam’s a Slapper, my hero, Billy, survived his time in care and went on to triumph. I wasn’t writing out of ignorance. There are successes among children who’ve been in care; some have been public figures and some you may know personally. For every success – for every Billy – there are hundreds failed by the system.
Don’t blame the social workers; social work departments are underfunded and understaffed, and they can’t win because they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. That goes double for care homes. It wasn’t a social worker who showed Billy the way out – it rarely is. In his case, it was a teacher. I could (though I won’t) name the real-life teacher I based Miss Taggart on. As Billy himself says when someone fails to understand his background, ‘I was lucky. More lucky than you can ever imagine.’
In a few years time, I don’t doubt that we’ll hear a few – a very few – heart-warming stories about people who arrived here as child refugees and have made their mark in broadcasting or the arts or some other field. We’ll also, if we can be bothered to listen, hear about hundreds of others: the girls who are on the street and the boys who are doing drugs and thieving. Weep for them. They’ll have received an inadequate education which will have fitted them for no other form of life. Just like the innumerable products of care we have on the streets and in the prisons today.
If you imagine that many of these children are going to be adopted, you don’t (and I speak as the father of adopted children) know much about adoption in this country. If you think that, after the initial well-publicised burst of activity, the care system is going to be adapted to suit their needs you don’t know much about that, either.
It will end in tears, and the children will be the ones crying them. And what will we hear then from the virtue signallers and the self-promoters and the politicians? Nothing. Not a damn thing.
Two women who have never met each other before and never will again exchange glances one fraught morning in wartime Rome. Wordlessly, they make a pact concerning the seven-year-old son of one of them. This book is the working out of the results of that pact.
Today is the 30th of April, I finished the book last night, there are two thirds of the year still to go and I cannot believe that in all that time I will read a better book than this one, or one that gives me more enjoyment. Virginia Bailey is a wonderful writer and she has gone to the very heart of this story. The characters live and breathe in every sentence, the events are totally believable, and anyone who by the final page is not utterly absorbed is an oaf who should never be allowed to open another novel.
It is only looking back that I see (through my tears) how brilliantly done the complex structure is. Very few writers make it onto my list – that special list that says “You must read everything this author writes.” Virginia Bailey strolled onto it with ease.
Return To Reviews Of Other Writers’ Books