A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

a rising man

I’m delighted to have A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee for review today as one of the reasons I’ve been cutting back on blog tours and posts is so that I can actually read the books from the U3A book group I attend. A Rising Man is our January book.

A Rising Man is published by Vintage, a Penguin imprint, and is available for purchase through these links.

A Rising Man

a rising man

India, 1919. Desperate for a fresh start, Captain Sam Wyndham arrives to take up an important post in Calcutta’s police force.

He is soon called to the scene of a horrifying murder. The victim was a senior official, and a note in his mouth warns the British to leave India – or else.

With the stability of the Empire under threat, Wyndham and Sergeant ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee must solve the case quickly. But there are some who will do anything to stop them…

My Review of A Rising Man

Following his time in WW1, Captain Sam Wyndham takes up a new post in India.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Rising Man, not least because the evocative descriptions of India transported me back there after a recent visit. I thought the use of the senses in conveying scenes and atmosphere worked especially well. Even more effective, however, was Abir Mukherjee’s fabulous research so that his attention to detail gave an unparalleled authenticity. The history, the culture, the geography woven into the story made India as much of a character as any of the people. Indeed, I found Abir Mukherjee’s style quite Dickensian at times with Calcutta as much of a presence in this story as London ever is for Dickens.

The plot is so carefully crafted that I found it spellbinding and it drew me in almost against my will. After the dramatic opening initially I found it a little slow until I attuned myself to the pace and realised it matched perfectly the speed of Indian bureaucracy and afforded the reader the opportunity to get to know Sam and Surrnder-not intimately, as they are gradually developed, with the promise of more detail in future books. I shall certainly be reading more about this duo because I enjoyed A Rising Man so much. I also found echoes of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock stories that provided huge satisfaction for me as a reader without the references ever becoming a pastiche. What I found so entertaining was that I had my theories and suspicions, but I didn’t guess the manner in which they were revealed at all. I also loved the mini cliffhangers at the end of chapters so that I was compelled to read on. Abir Mukherjee has a very tantalising style. I thoroughly appreciated the dark humour of many of Sam’s thoughts and words too.

Typical of the intelligence of the way A Rising Man is written is the title. There are so many resonances of the title throughout the narrative. I can’t mention them all as that would spoil the story, but the concept of the ordinary Indian rising up against British oppression, Sam’s recovery after the events of his past, Surrender-not’s position in society, the political and cultural hierarchy and so on, all reverberate making for a very satisfying read.

On occasion I felt quite uncomfortable reading A Rising Man. White attitudes to people of any colour, the inherent racism and sexism and, sadly at times, the feeling that not much has changed when it comes to corruption, all underpin the story, so that it feels fresh and modern at the same time as being totally historically convincing. I found the way WW1 echoes through Sam’s behaviour actually very moving, even though it isn’t a major theme of the narrative.

I’m not sure what I was expecting in A Rising Man, but what I got was a very entertaining crime story with vivid characters I believed in and cared, about alongside an authentic and evocative setting that had me hooked and wanting to read more. I really recommend Abir Mukherjee’s writing. I thought A Rising Man was super.

About Abir Mukherjee


Abir Mukherjee grew up in the west of Scotland. At the age of fifteen, his best friend made him read Gorky Park and he’s been a fan of crime fiction ever since.

The child of immigrants from India, A Rising Man, his debut novel, was inspired by a desire to learn more about a crucial period in Anglo-Indian history that seems to have been almost forgotten.

A Rising Man won the Harvill Secker/Daily Telegraph crime writing competition and became the first in a series starring Captain Sam Wyndham and ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee. It went on to win the CWA Historical Dagger and was shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award. Abir lives in London with his wife and two sons.

To find out more, follow Abir on Twitter @radiomukhers or visit his website. You’ll also find him on Facebook.

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