‘A Rising Man’ is Abir Mukherjee’s debut novel and the first in a series featuring Captain Sam Wyndham who after working as a detective for Scotland Yard, serving in WWI and losing his wife to the flu epidemic, has now joined the police in Calcutta.
It is 1919 and even though there are rumblings of dissent from the natives, India is still very much run by the British who mostly manage to keep the locals in their place. So when a Senior British Official is found murdered in a run down part of town, Sam and his team are given the investigation. His two colleagues are the very arrogant Inspector Digby and native born but British educated Sergeant ‘Surrender Not’ Bannerjee.
But Sam doesn’t only have the investigation to contend with. He is constantly diffusing tension between his two colleagues, he is a morphine addict, and he must fight against colleagues looking for an easy native scapegoat.
The plot is complex, but Sam eventually finds his man.
But more than that, we were treated to the sights and sounds of early 20th century India, with the patronising British masters, the downtrodden locals and those caught somewhere in the middle.
The story conveyed the feeling that the Raj was about to implode, I was surprised to read that this didn’t happen till 1947.
I feel very uncomfortable reading about colonial history (British or any other) but the novel did a good job of highlighting it for what it was. Mukherjee, a Brit with Indian heritage was able to show the story from both sides.
Despite my discomfort, I am planning to continue with the series and I’m looking for to the next addition – ‘A Necessary Evil’.