Publication Date: June 7th from Harvill Secker
Source: Review Copy
Haunted by his memories of the Great War, Captain Sam Wyndham is battling a serious addiction to opium that he must keep secret from his superiors in the Calcutta police force.
When Sam is summoned to investigate a grisly murder, he is stunned at the sight of the body: he’s seen this before. Last night, in a drug addled haze, he stumbled across a corpse with the same ritualistic injuries. It seems like there’s a deranged killer on the loose. Unfortunately for Sam, the corpse was in an opium den and revealing his presence there could cost him his career.
With the aid of his quick-witted Indian Sergeant, Surrender-not Banerjee, Sam must try to solve the two murders, all the while keeping his personal demons secret, before somebody else turns up dead.
I love this series.
I’m not a fan of historical crime for the most part – that is to say it is not my go to genre – but I made an exception once for “A Rising Man” and haven’t looked back since. When I read these novels it is always the characters that make me stay or go and Sam Wyndham is one of those that never fails to enthrall me. Also Surrender-not. Enough said.
Anyway, in “Smoke and Ashes” Sam discovers a body whilst, well, not exactly in a sensible state, the book opening with this discovery and a chase across the rooftops – at that point I pretty much didn’t put it down until I was done. This is how they get me every time. Sam is walking a very thin line in “Smoke and Ashes” and boy did I walk it with him all the way.
The way this author has of setting you down in a completely different place and time is incredible – the power of words on the page, in talented hands, to transport you away from your life, is a wonderful thing and Abir Mukherjee has that talent in spades. Historically authentic, beautifully written and characters you root for even when they are not anywhere near perfect, all of that makes for an escapist, thought provoking read.
As well as the current mystery, we have that brilliantly formed friendship between Sam and Surrender-not, the delicate balance of his ongoing off kilter relationship with Annie and his battle with addiction – it is pacy yet considered and absolutely riveting all the way through. The characters are layered, the setting vivid, the backdrop of the British Raj and the fight for independence at the heart of it , all of that comes to vivid, wonderful life.
Cracking dialogue, immersive scene setting, beautifully crafted I do think actually that Smoke and Ashes is the best yet. No pressure for the next then.