Calcutta has been much less safe for murderers and brigands since Captain Sam Wyndham and his Indian assistant, Surrender-Not Banerjee, hit the crime-solving scene, first in A Rising Man, then followed up by 2018’s A Necessary Evil. They return this month in Abir Mukherjee’s riveting novel of the investigation of a serial killer, Smoke and Ashes. Having returned from the Great War, Wyndham takes on the role of captain in the British Imperial Police, finding it essential to keep secret one major aspect of his life. In the aftermath of the war, he has developed a rather severe opium addiction. An opium den is no proper place for a policeman, of course, so when Wyndham is present at a den that gets subjected to a raid, he beats a hasty retreat. In doing so, he comes upon the brutalized body of a Chinese man, a man who clearly suffered grievously before being put to death. Murder piles upon murder, and Wyndham must walk the fine line between investigating the crime without exposing himself as an addict. Mukherjee has a substantive grasp of colonial Indian history, and his books have the feel of a modern-day and much more progressive Kipling, full of high intrigue and derring-do, yet overlaid with the day-to-day reality of a struggle with addiction.
Smoke and Ashes
Captain Sam Wyndham and his Indian assistant, Surrender-Not Banerjee return in Abir Mukherjee’s riveting novel of the investigation of a serial killer, Smoke and Ashes.