Smoke and Ashes (Sam Wyndham, #3)

by Abir Mukherjee

Monday, September 16, 2019

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The strongest outing yet for Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee, who I noticed he did start to call “Suren” in this book - an abbreviated version of his full Indian name rather than the the anglicisation “Surrender-not” which sounds like a slur to my ears but also sounds typical of the colonial period and the British treatment of anything they couldn’t be bothered to understand.

Calcutta in the 1920s really came to life here; from the grand mansions to the opium dens to the military enclosures to the boatmen on the Hooghly river, and the city is populated by groups from all parts of India, including peacefully protesting followers of Mahatma Gandhi, the ever-present British military and the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) is about to visit. What could go wrong?! I like the way the author shows all the diversity within the population, no one’s ever just an “Indian”, you learn all about the different peoples who make up India along the way. I think I said in writing about one of the earlier books that Sam (as a white British man) seems too liberal for his time, but I think it works better than way for the modern reader.

The plot in this book took a bit of getting into, there’s a real web of plot lines being spun and they all get tangled up together very knottily. I liked how Sam covering up his increasingly worrying opium habit was an essential part of the conundrum rather than just period and place specific decoration to the story.

I’m looking forward to the next in the series.