A Rising Man ★★★★☆
Genre(s) | Mystery, Historical Fiction, Crime, British Empire/India
Goodreads Rating | 3.93
Humpo Show Rating | 4.00
Published | 2016
Publisher | Vintage
After surviving the horrors of the First World War, former Scotland Yard detective Sam Wyndham arrives in Calcutta to take up a new post in the police force. No sooner has he touched down in the hot and humid city that he is tasked to investigate a murder of a British official. This investigation takes Wyndham and his Indian-born Sargeant Banerjee into the dark underbelly of the British Raj and the rising political dissidence that is occurring due to the treatment of the natives by the hands of the Brits in power. A Rising Man is the first in a series of atmospheric and intoxicating historical crime novels set in India.
The mystery is well-crafted, the red herrings are convincing, and there is an interesting blend of characters. The mystery that A Rising Man concerns itself with is that of the murder of a British high ranking official. What makes the murder more shocking is the fact that he was stabbed in the back, had his throat cut, and had a note stuffed in his mouth warning Britain of their presence in India. Given that the murder was of a British official, and the murder had the hallmarks of a political act, Wyndham’s investigation is not going to be a simple one. He has to contend with interference in his case from the Lieutenant Governor and Section H (military), who are vesting an interest into the case that is not altogether productive in obtaining the truth.
A key aspect of the story is the commentary on the morality of the British Empire in India. It would have been quite easy for Mukherjee to make his main protagonist an unblemished character as he is writing with hindsight, but by adding some faults to his character, Mukherjee has succeeded in creating a realistic and complex protagonist. The differing perspectives was also a good inclusion by the author, as he avoided having black and white characters (in terms of opinions), there were grey areas which helped to contribute to an engaging novel. The presence of Banerjee in the story is imperative for the commentary on British rule over India as the reader has access to a native voice, who despite the pressures surrounding his occupational position and native position, managed to let his feelings be known to Wyndham, who was more receptive than others such as Sub-Inspector Digby, the British Establishment, and the Brits that have emigrated to Calcutta.
A Rising Man showcases Mukherjee’s immense descriptive powers which are in full view when he details every area of Calcutta, from the claustrophobic back-alleys to the opulent palaces, his writing style helps to weave a great mystery that is matched by the setting in which the story occurs. This is an interesting mystery that whets the appetite for the future novels in this series, which is also matched by the strong characters that look set to be regulars alongside Wyndham and Banerjee.
The Humpo Show | Richard