I received this book through NetGalley for an honest review.
This book starts off with some smart remarks about a dead man lying in a sewer. I was hooked from the first line. Captain Wyndham just arrived in Calcutta to work for the police force leaving Scotland Yard and his troubled past behind. He has barely a moment to adjust to life in this new and exotic place before heading up a murder investigation of a senior official. He is teamed with a native on the force and begins diving into witnesses and possible motives. The inner workings of the government prove to be more extensive than he bargained for. He is manipulated into keeping his investigation going in one direction, but eventually prevails in finding the truth.
The best part of this book are the elements included to visualize the setting. Rickshaws for transportation, stairwells smelling of respectability (disinfectant), and the decaying dwellings crawling with humanity. I can see, hear, and smell India. A reader wants to be thrown into the setting with a historical fiction novel. It makes the story come alive.
I knew very little about British occupation of India before reading this novel. In fact, I have rarely seen a novel set in India. I have since begun major research on the occupation, and I believe the author does a wonderful job of showing both sides of the equation. The British implemented the Rowlatt Acts which allowed cases to be tried without juries and internment of suspects without trial. They had strict control of the press, and allowed enormous powers to the police. The author does a wonderful job of tying in the history and viewpoints while the story unfolds. Wyndham experiences these differences from his original posting which allows the reader to understand the hostility some felt at the time. Revolutionary ideas and uprisings were not uncommon in India. A quote from a native working under Wyndham sums up their opinion perfectly: “Does British justice mean justice only for the British?”
This is the author’s debut novel. He came into writing later in life, and truly did an outstanding job. This book is fantastic and makes me somewhat jealous that someone can write so perfectly on their first attempt. I look forward to reading the second installment of the series due out in June of this year.
Fun Fact: The author entered a crime writing contest and won with the first 5000 words of this book! If you have ever wanted to submit your writing but were scared, don’t be! Give it a try and see what happens.