A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

A Rising Man

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.

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