Review: A Rising Man, 2016 (Sam Wyndham 1) by Abir Mukherjee


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Vintage Digital, 2016. Format: Kindle edition. File size: 2768 KB. Print length: 392 pages. ASIN: B019CGXRZM. eISBN: 9781473522466.

cover.jpg.rendition.460.707 (2)Synopsis: India, 1919. Desperate for a fresh start, Captain Sam Wyndham arrives to take up an important post in Calcutta’s police force. He is soon called to the scene of a horrifying murder. The victim was a senior official, and a note in his mouth warns the British to leave India – or else.With the stability of the Empire under threat, Wyndham and Sergeant ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee must solve the case quickly. But there are some who will do anything to stop them…

My take: A Rising Man, Abir Mukherjee’s debut novel, is set in 1919 Calcutta. The story features Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee. Wyndham, a former Scotland Yard detective, after serving his country during the Great War, losses his wife and child in a flu epidemic, on his return to England. Seeking a fresh start, Wyndham joins the Calcutta Imperial Police Force,  accepting an offer from Lord Charles Taggart, his old superior during the war, and actual Commissioner of Police in India. Without almost no time to acclimatise himself, he finds himself involved in a murder investigation. The victim, Alexander MacAuley, a senior official, has been found stabbed to death in a shanty area of the town with a crumpled paper stuffed in his mouth, warning the British to leave India. With rising political dissent, the stability of the Raj is threatened. Wyndham, a newcomer and with no previous India expertise must rely heavily on his team, arrogant inspector Digby, who makes no secret of his contempt for the natives and feels offended for not been promoted to the position that currently holds Wyndham to which he believes to be entitle, and Sergeant Banarjee. Banarjee, the youngest son of a Calcutta barrister, like the rest of his brothers was educated in England. His father would have liked him to have entered the Indian Civil Service but, against his father’s view, Banarjee joined the police force instead. When being asked for his reason to do so, Banarjee explains that one day they may have Home Rule or the British may be forced to leave India completely. Either way, India will need the skills to manage the posts that will become vacated, including the law enforcement forces, as much as many others.

I’ve found A Rising Man, a very impressive debut, that ticks all the boxes of a good historical crime novel. Mainly, an exciting time period and an extremely engaging setting;  a well documented and nicely told story; excellent characterization, and a rich and well-constructed plot. The only quibble I would make is that, some of the views, often expressed in the course of the novel by its main character, have seemed to me far too advanced for the time period in which the action takes place. I find somehow difficult to believe that some of Wyndham’s ideas could have been even thought at the time, no matter how idealistic is his role, as evidenced in the following passage: ‘Our justification for ruling India rested on the principles of impartial British Justice and the rule of law. I we were willing to pervert the course of that justice, …….., then our justification for ruling, out moral superiority, would amount to naught.’  But in any case this is a minor remark, after all A Rising Man is an outstanding historical thriller and I look forward to reading with much interest the rest of the books in the series. Ultimately Taggart tells Wyndham: ‘Justice is a matter for the courts, Sam, and is best left to better men than you or me. Our job is to maintain law and order within His Majesty’s province of Bengal. We are here to keep the status quo.’ Highly recommended.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the author: Abir Mukherjee was born in London, but grew up in the west of Scotland. Married, with two small children, he now lives in London and spent the last twenty years working in finance before achieving his literary breakthrough. Mukherjee submitted A Rising Man to the Telegraph Harvill Secker Crime Writing Competition in 2013. The competition, for unpublished would-be crime writers, attracted 427 entries that were whittled down to just 6. A panel of judges then deliberated over these 6 finalists and declared A Rising Man their unanimous winner. A Rising Man was shortlisted for the 2017 CWA Gold Dagger and won the 2017 CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger Award. Mukherjee’s second novel, A Necessary Evil, was published, in hardback and ebook form, in June 2017 to be followed by Smoke and Ashes, in June 2018. Harvill Secker has signed two new books from Abir Mukherjee. The books will be the fourth and fifth entries in the Captain Sam Wyndham series, set in 1920s Calcutta (as it was then).

A Rising Man has been reviewed at FictionFan’s Book Reviews, Crime Fiction Lover, Crime Thriller Girl, Criminal element, Clothes in Books, Mysteries in Paradise, Crime Time, Raven Crime Reads and Raven Crime Reads (2),

Penguin UK publicity page

Pegasus Books US publicity page

Official Website of Abir Mukherjee

Abir Mukherjee on the history of Calcutta 

Author interview with Abir Mukherjee about Calcutta crime novel A Rising Man 

A Rising Man – Abir Mukherjee Talks To Crime Time 

Extract: A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

audible

A Rising Man,de Abir Mukherjee

Sinopsis: India, 1919. Desesperado por empezar de cero, el capitán Sam Wyndham llega para hacerse cargo de un puesto importante en la policía de Calcuta. Pronto lo llaman a la escena de un horrible asesinato. La víctima era un alto funcionario, y una nota en su boca advierte a los británicos que salgan de la India, o de lo contrario. Con la estabilidad del Imperio amenzada, Wyndham y el sargento ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee deben resolver el caso rápidamente. Pero hay algunos que harán cualquier cosa para detenerlos …

Mi opinión: A Rising Man, la primera novela de Abir Mukherjee, se desarrolla en 1919 en Calcuta. La historia está protagonizada por el capitán Sam Wyndham y el sargento Surendranath ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee. Wyndham, un antiguo detective de Scotland Yard, después de servir a su país durante la Gran Guerra, pierde a su esposa e hijo en una epidemia de gripe, a su regreso a Inglaterra. En busca de un nuevo comienzo, Wyndham se une a la Policía Imperial de Calcuta, aceptando una oferta de Lord Charles Taggart, su antiguo superior durante la guerra, y actual comisionado de policía en la India. Sin casi tiempo para aclimatarse, se ve involucrado en una investigación de asesinato. La víctima, Alexander MacAuley, un alto funcionario, fue hallada muerta a puñaladas en un barrio de chabolas de la ciudad con un papel arrugado en la boca, advirtiendo a los británicos que salgan de la India. Con el aumento de la disidencia política, la estabilidad del Raj se ve amenazada. Wyndham, un recién llegado y sin experiencia previa en la India, debe confiar mucho en su equipo, el arrogante inspector Digby, que no oculta su desprecio por los nativos y se siente ofendido por no haber sido ascendido al puesto que actualmente ocupa Wyndham, al que cree tener derecho, y el sargento Banarjee. Banarjee, el hijo menor de un abogado de Calcuta, fue educado en Inglaterra como el resto de sus hermanos. A su padre le habría gustado que ingresara en el Servicio Civil Indio, pero Banarjee, en contra de la opinión de su padre, se incorporó a la policía. Cuando se le pregunta por el motivo para ello, Banarjee explica que un día pueden tener autonomía o los británicos pueden verse obligados a abandonar la India por completo. En ambos casos, la India necesitará las competencias para administrar los puestos que quedarán vacantes, incluidas las fuerzas del orden público, tanto como muchos otros.

Encontré A Rising Man, una primera novela muy impresionante, que cumple todos los requisitos de una buena novela histórica criminal. Principalmente, un emocionante período de tiempo y un entorno extremadamente atractivo; una historia bien documentada y muy bien contada; excelente caracterización, y una trama rica y bien construida. La única objeción que quisiera hacer es que, algunas de las opiniones, a menudo expresadas en el curso de la novela por su personaje principal, me han parecido demasiado avanzadas para el período de tiempo en el que tiene lugar la acción. De alguna manera, me resulta difícil creer que algunas de las ideas de Wyndham pudieran haber sido pensadas en ese momento, sin importar cuán idealista sea su papel, como se evidencia en el siguiente pasaje: “Nuestra justificación para gobernar la India descansaba en los principios de imparcilaidad de la Justicia Británica  y del imperio de la ley. Si estamos dispuestos a pervertir el curso de esa justicia, …….., entonces nuestra justificación para gobernar, nuestra superioridad moral, equivaldrá a nada.” Pero en cualquier caso, esta es una observación menor, después de todo A Rising Man es un excelente thriller histórico y espero leer con mucho interés el resto de los libros de la serie. En última instancia, Taggart le dice a Wyndham: “La justicia es un asunto de los tribunales, Sam, y es mejor dejarlo a hombres mejores que tú o yo. Nuestro trabajo es mantener la ley y el orden dentro de la provincia de Bengala de Su Majestad. Estamos aquí para mantener el status quo.” Muy recomendable.

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Abir Mukherjee nació en Londres, pero creció en el oeste de Escocia. Casado, con dos hijos pequeños, ahora vive en Londres y pasó los últimos veinte años trabajando en finanzas antes de alcanzar su reconocimiento literario. Mukherjee presentó A Rising Man al certamen de escritura de novela negra organizado por The Telegraph y Harvill Secker en el 2013. El concurso, para promesas inéditas de escritores de novela negra, tentó a 427 participaciones, que quedaron reduciidas a sólo 6 finalistas. Después, un comité de jueces examinó estas 6 novelas finalistas y declaró por unanimidad ganadora a A Rising Man. A Rising Man fue finalista al CWA Gold Dagger de 2017 y ganó el premio CWA Endeavor Historical Dagger de ese mismo año. La segunda novela de Mukherjee, A Necessary Evil, se publicó, en tapa dura y como libro electrónico en junio de 2017, seguida de Smoke and Ashes, en junio de este año. Harvill Secker ha obtenido los derechos de dos nuevos libros de Abir Mukherjee. Los libros serán la cuarta y quinta entrega en la serie protagonizada por el capitán Wyndham, ambientada en la década de los años 20 en Calcuta (como se llamaba entonces).

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6 thoughts on “Review: A Rising Man, 2016 (Sam Wyndham 1) by Abir Mukherjee

  1. Great review. You are right that in many ways Sam is a very progressive character for this era though he has some instincts that still reveal some attitudes we would regard as old fashioned.

    I don’t think it bothered me because I felt that his experiences in Ireland had already given him a cynicism towards the Empire and policing though he would certainly be in the minority for holding such views at that point.

  2. Glad you enjoyed this one, and thanks for the link! I thoroughly enjoyed it and the second in the series, and I’m now looking forward to the new one. I loved the way he managed to present the Indian viewpoint as well as the British one, and enjoyed Banarjee as a character as much as Sam.

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