A Necessary Evil ★★★½
Genre(s) | Mystery, Historical Fiction, India
Goodreads Rating | 4.07
Humpo Show Rating | 3.55
Published: 2018 (Originally published in 2017 by Harvill Secker)
Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee of Calcutta Police investigate the assassination of a Maharaja’s eldest son, and heir to the throne of Sambalpore. Their investigation takes them to the lavish kingdom, which contains the beautiful Palace of the Sun as well as observing the royalty that fund their lavish lifestyle with the fortunes brought to them by the diamond mines.
In his follow-up to the brilliant A Rising Man, Mukherjee writes of another Indian mystery set during 1920 where Wyndham and Banerjee attempt to uncover the truth behind an assassination, as well as bringing justice to the deserving and undeserving players. They find that the Sambalpori realm is infected with conflict, and that the mysterious world in which they have entered is vastly different to Calcutta, let alone London.
The political scene is set early on. Britain is trying to keep hold of a country where unrest is bubbling away. The most important man in India, the Viceroy, is anxious to avoid being responsible for losing Britain its ‘Jewel in the Crown’. While he awaits his successor, he aims to establish the Chamber of Princes to suggest that change is underway.
Prince Adhir, the heir to the princely state, Sambalpore, is a modernist whose attitudes are in contrast to the religious elements of his future kingdom. Following Adhir’s death, his brother Punit, becomes next in line to the throne, but he is more interested in ladies than running the kingdom.
Mukherjee crafts an atmospheric narrative set in the vibrant and searing Indian kingdom that has a turbulent political climate and weather alike. It is a complex and interesting portrayal of the culture, attitudes, and practices of the Indian Princes as well as the British rule in India. I particularly liked the sub-plot of the “Golding Report”, which was more the kind of historical fiction that I enjoy – a gripping blend of political undertones and mystery. Although the Sambalpori kingdom is the main focus of the story – the religious and political angle didn’t move fast enough.
A Necessary Evil is a good mystery, featuring a tiger hunt, assassinations and a complicated religious and political system that runs an Indian kingdom which is quite apart from the rest of the country.
The Humpo Show | Richard