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The Shadows of Men

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Calcutta, 1923. When a Hindu theologian is found murdered in his home, the city is on the brink of all-out religious war. Can officers of the Imperial Police Force, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee track down those responsible in time to stop a bloodbath? Set at a time of heightened political tension, beginning in atmospheric Calcutta and taking the de Calcutta, 1923. When a Hindu theologian is found murdered in his home, the city is on the brink of all-out religious war. Can officers of the Imperial Police Force, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee track down those responsible in time to stop a bloodbath? Set at a time of heightened political tension, beginning in atmospheric Calcutta and taking the detectives all the way to bustling Bombay, the latest instalment in this 'unmissable' (The Times) series presents Wyndham and Banerjee with an unprecedented challenge. Will this be the case that finally drives them apart?


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Calcutta, 1923. When a Hindu theologian is found murdered in his home, the city is on the brink of all-out religious war. Can officers of the Imperial Police Force, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee track down those responsible in time to stop a bloodbath? Set at a time of heightened political tension, beginning in atmospheric Calcutta and taking the de Calcutta, 1923. When a Hindu theologian is found murdered in his home, the city is on the brink of all-out religious war. Can officers of the Imperial Police Force, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee track down those responsible in time to stop a bloodbath? Set at a time of heightened political tension, beginning in atmospheric Calcutta and taking the detectives all the way to bustling Bombay, the latest instalment in this 'unmissable' (The Times) series presents Wyndham and Banerjee with an unprecedented challenge. Will this be the case that finally drives them apart?

30 review for The Shadows of Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Walsh

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This exceptional series of historical novels combine social, cultural, political, and religious backgrounds with intriguing crime investigations and mysteries. This 5th addition to an immersive series transports readers to the early 1920s when cracks are forming in the British Raj. It is not only informative about that turbulent era, it places the reader in two different mindsets as they are changing and evolving leading to the future termination of the British Empire in India. The British have This exceptional series of historical novels combine social, cultural, political, and religious backgrounds with intriguing crime investigations and mysteries. This 5th addition to an immersive series transports readers to the early 1920s when cracks are forming in the British Raj. It is not only informative about that turbulent era, it places the reader in two different mindsets as they are changing and evolving leading to the future termination of the British Empire in India. The British have the aura of superiority, elitism, and the belief in the necessity of solid control over the natives due to a conceived inability to govern themselves. Unequal justice, ruthlessness, and cruelty are combined by pillaging the wealth and resources from their Jewel in the Crown. Political demonstrations for independence are at a standstill with Mahamata Gandhi in prison. Shadows of Men adds the voice of Sergeant Surendranauth Banerjee (now called Suren for short) to the narrative. His perspective and that of Captain Sam Wyndham mirror the evolving mindsets of many in the nation. Suren is a valuable member of the Imperial Police Force and an intelligent, London-educated Brahmin. He is the friend and often working partner of Captain Sam Wyndham. Suren feels the inequality. He is conflicted about his role in perpetuating the British colonial police system and is estranged from his family, who favour independence and home rule. He has been unable to enter some segregated British venues impeding his investigations, and when interviewing English suspects, has been subjected to racial slurs and bigotry. In this story, Suren realizes to his horror that as an Indian, he can expect no justice from the British legal system. He is dispensible and an easy scapegoat. Commissioner Lord Taggart assigns Suren to the surveillance of a Moslem political figure and to follow him in secret. The story's beginning could be titled the 'Misadventures of Suren Banerjee.' While following the man, Suren stumbles on a body in a house in the poorer part of the city. The dead man is a Hindu theologian, and Suren believes he must have been killed by the Moslem he had been following. To cover up the murder and avoid religious strife, he commits an act that sets Calcutta aflame with religious zealotry, and both Hindus and Moslems are victims. Suren finds himself arrested and charged for the murder of the Hindu scholar and could be executed by hanging. Taken from his jail cell to Lord Taggart, in hopes that Taggart will testify to his innocence, a bomb is set off, severely injuring Taggart. In the confusion of the blast, Suren runs for his life. He becomes a suspect in setting off the bomb that has almost killed Taggart. Now a fugitive from injustice, Suren calls on his friend, Sam Wyndham, to help prove his innocence. Wyndham is Captain in the Imperial Police Force. He has come to Calcutta to escape his past in the trenches of WW1, the death of his wife in the flu pandemic, and is a recovering opium addict. Wyndham came to India with the colonial mindset of superiority over the natives. He is beginning to see the unfairness and inequalities of British rule and feels more at home in Calcutta than in London. He knows that helping his friend surreptitiously may end his position in the police force, but because of friendship and belief in Suren's innocence, he agrees to help. They have assistance in a flight to Bombay from Annie Grant, feeling that the information they seek there will help free Suren. Once in Bombay, a wealthy Parsee lady offers them aid and guidance. A man claiming to be a Parsee businessman newly arrives from Burma, but they are warned he is not what he seems and could be dangerous. Surprising and helpful information is communicated by the head of Station H, the military intelligence office in Calcutta. It is discovered that a discredited member of the British intelligence unit has been planning to stir up riots between Moslems and Hindus in an attempt to prove that a religiously divided India can never govern itself and needs prolonged British authority and control. During his time as a fugitive, Suren's beliefs evolve and are confirmed. He sees that the British claim of superiority and that their rule of India 'for its own good' is hypocrisy. He realizes that his loyalty and service for the Raj were all for nothing. Wyndham is also reevaluating his place in India and his commitment to the Raj. I cannot wait to see where their journeys take them next, whether together or separately. This is a compelling, atmospheric, well-researched, and character-driven series with a background of political, cultural and religious strife.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Shindler

    Abir Mukherjee has developed a historical fiction series that is filled with social commentary.Set in 1920’s India when the British Raj is starting to crumble, the novels present well executed plots while examining the role of social class and race in a multiethnic society that is under foreign rule. This fifth iteration of the series takes place in 1923 when India is a cauldron of explosive tensions. Gandhi is in prison, riots and fires leave dead bodies laying about and local political election Abir Mukherjee has developed a historical fiction series that is filled with social commentary.Set in 1920’s India when the British Raj is starting to crumble, the novels present well executed plots while examining the role of social class and race in a multiethnic society that is under foreign rule. This fifth iteration of the series takes place in 1923 when India is a cauldron of explosive tensions. Gandhi is in prison, riots and fires leave dead bodies laying about and local political elections are imminent.Our protagonists, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranauth Banerjee are members of the Imperial Police that are charged with quelling these civil disturbances.Both men hold responsible positions in the colonial machine yet both men are outsiders. Wyndham has come to India to escape memories of the Great War and his London past.He feels more comfortable in Calcutta than he did in London but struggles to understand the nuances of Indian culture while having reservations about the British ruling structure.Banerjee is an upper class,London educated Brahmin who is conflicted regarding his role in perpetuating the colonial power structure. Banerjee, in the course of carrying out a clandestine assignment for the police commissioner, gets arrested for the murder of a prominent Hindu religious leader. He is facing execution and realizes that he is being targeted as a scapegoat and will have no support from the Imperial Police force that he has served so diligently.He manages to escape and calls on the surreptitious aid of Captain Wyndham in order to clear his name.Their efforts take them to Bombay where they enlist the help of a wealthy Parsee woman.Moving between the wealthy and improverished layers of society, they are tasked with navigating and deciphering the conflicting agendas of religious factions as well as negotiating the political machinations of a stratified, class entrenched society. The plot is delivered through the voices of both Wyndham and Banerjee. The dual perspective is a departure from previous books, which were driven forward by Wyndham’s voice. The expansion of the narrative voice is very effective, presenting different views of the Raj from two divergent cultural and ethnic backgrounds.Both men have become disillusioned with a colonial hierarchy that presents a facade of enlightened rule while pillaging India’s resources for the benefit of the Empire and dispensing uneven justice. Their reasons for drawing these conclusions, though, are based on widely contrasting interpretations of events and motives. The contrasts provide a layered and complex look at the society in which they exist. “ The Shadows of Men” is a skillful depiction of historical events and a portrait of a conflicted society whose contrasts between opulence and poverty exacerbate the religious schisms and social strictures that beset a troubled political system. The experiences of Wyndham and Banerjee illustrate these conflicts on a personal level.Both men are seeking to define their sense of identity and belonging in the complex Indian society. Their stories underscore the difficulties that arise when trying to discover a safe landing space within a ruling structure based on irrational distinctions. As the novel concludes, both men’s quests for self definition remain unresolved. I can only look forward to discovering in future books how their respective journeys unfold.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    4.5 stars Abir Mukherjee is an author who grows and grows in confidence and daring. The path he has taken to lead his characters, and his readers, to the point where this novel can be told from two POVs, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee, is incredible. I wonder if this was his plan all along. Having Suren's voice is a joy, but I can't help but wonder if this series would have been as popular if it had been this way from the start. Sam's journey in accepting the equal humanit 4.5 stars Abir Mukherjee is an author who grows and grows in confidence and daring. The path he has taken to lead his characters, and his readers, to the point where this novel can be told from two POVs, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee, is incredible. I wonder if this was his plan all along. Having Suren's voice is a joy, but I can't help but wonder if this series would have been as popular if it had been this way from the start. Sam's journey in accepting the equal humanity of his fellow police officer, one which began with not even attempting to say his name correctly, is also ours. It has forced me to ask questions of myself and my reading choices. Would I have still chosen this series if it had been only Suren from the start? I don't know. But having walked this path with Sam, I know that even without him and despite my love for him as a character, I could and would continue if he were gone. Banerjee is more than enough. In this instalment, the double POV allows the author to build tension through what is thought vs what is said and done, using each man's choices to further both the plot and to build the relationship between them. It is skilfully done, the duo well supported by fascinating new minor characters as well as the usual eccentric crew. While book 4 remains my favourite, The Shadows of Men is a novel written by an author at the height of his powers. I can't wait to see where he takes us next. ARC via Netgalley

  4. 4 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    The terrific Wyndham/Banerjee series set in Calcutta continues. It's the 1920s, and British rule is slowly disintegrating but still clinging on, making for a fantastic, meaty setting. This is a terrific instalment that begins with a bang when Sergeant Banerjee is arrested for murder. The great thing about this series -as well as the beautifully realised setting and the fantastic compelling historical /political background, obviously - is the friendship between Sam and Surendranath. Sam has a dev The terrific Wyndham/Banerjee series set in Calcutta continues. It's the 1920s, and British rule is slowly disintegrating but still clinging on, making for a fantastic, meaty setting. This is a terrific instalment that begins with a bang when Sergeant Banerjee is arrested for murder. The great thing about this series -as well as the beautifully realised setting and the fantastic compelling historical /political background, obviously - is the friendship between Sam and Surendranath. Sam has a developing conscience about British rule and respect for Suren and indeed sense of India as his home even as he knows he oughtn't be there. Suren has a growing nationalist feeling which goes hand in hand with his growing self-confidence and competence - which actually have a lot to do with Sam's friendship. They manage to be on opposite sides and the same one, to be friends who don't truly understand each other, to have a real relationship across the divide of class, race, nation and seniority. Plus, great murder plot. Excellent stuff.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    Excellent,he surpasses himself with each book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ming

    I finished this book within a few days. It was a conflicted experience: I wanted to keep reading AND I didn't want to reach the conclusion. This was a fast-paced and engaging read (please see my numerous highlights). #5 focuses more on Suren and features alternating perspectives between Suren and Sam. Suren is a keeper. I find him to be the more intriguing character (than Sam who is pretty darn intriguing). Suren has the British accent that could cut crystal though that and his misnomer, Surrende I finished this book within a few days. It was a conflicted experience: I wanted to keep reading AND I didn't want to reach the conclusion. This was a fast-paced and engaging read (please see my numerous highlights). #5 focuses more on Suren and features alternating perspectives between Suren and Sam. Suren is a keeper. I find him to be the more intriguing character (than Sam who is pretty darn intriguing). Suren has the British accent that could cut crystal though that and his misnomer, Surrender-Not, are barely mentioned here. #5 sees both Suren and Sam older, more mature but still adventurous. They make a perfect foil for one another. In a review of an earlier title in this series, I noted how the author smartly eviscerates British colonialism. He is consistently sharp and biting and witty at doing this; and I enjoy it immensely. In that earlier review, I referred to how British "shiet" is gleefully exposed. A fellow reader, a "karen," immediately took umbrage and clutched her pearls. Well, the effects of colonialism have been further laid bare since...and this series does so with a keen eye. What is also intriguing here is the morality tale that Mukherjee depicts; the religious and political extremism is contemporary and still dangerous and dysfunctional. I describe this extremism as a doubled-edge sword that has two pointed ends. I look forward to more of Suren and Sam. Calcutta in the 1920's is fascinating. The British Raj was brewing a bitter stew. This read was a look into the past and reflected issues which are relevant today. It was a smart and fun ride. And it's one I'd embark on again.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Brilliant! This series just gets better and better. It was inspired to split this novel between Sam and Suran’s viewpoint and really added an extra dimension to the book. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Raven

    In these troubled times, reading is the ultimate balm to soothe the soul, and allows your mind to be transported to other countries, other lives and different worlds. This series by Abir Mukherjee is a constant delight, and one of the few where I genuinely wait in anticipation for the next instalment. Set in 1920s India before the end of British empirical rule, and featuring Captain Sam Wyndham and his trusty Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee, Mukherjee once again immerses us in a vivid and captiva In these troubled times, reading is the ultimate balm to soothe the soul, and allows your mind to be transported to other countries, other lives and different worlds. This series by Abir Mukherjee is a constant delight, and one of the few where I genuinely wait in anticipation for the next instalment. Set in 1920s India before the end of British empirical rule, and featuring Captain Sam Wyndham and his trusty Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee, Mukherjee once again immerses us in a vivid and captivating tale of murder, social unrest and derring-do, and this one has more than a few additional surprises in store… It is so intrinsically important when reading historical books, whatever genre they are based in, to truly transport the reader to the time, setting and atmosphere of the particular period and location of the book. Mukherjee consistently achieves this with his portrayal of Calcutta, and later in the book Bombay, in a time of racial tension, religious conflict, and the unbridgeable gap between the richest and poorest in society. These societies are literally powder kegs of tension and frustration, as the conflict between Hindu and Muslim intensifies, compounded by the underlying resentment and exploitation of British rule. Rioting, violence and protest erupts, the city burns and the casualties are many, with the British having little clue how to control this situation, and meeting violence with violence. “Then came the religious riots, in towns and cities up and down the country. We, for our part, gave it a name: communalism, which was a nice, polite term for the indiscriminate butchery of people who happened to worship a different god.” Against this backdrop, Wyndham and Banerjee become immersed in a murderous conspiracy that can only lead to an even more severe escalation of tension, and an investigation that will have dangerous ramifications for them both. I really enjoyed the way that Mukherjee put more of the spotlight on Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee in this book, and although we are aware of his more intuitive and compassionate characteristics from previous instalments, this book really allows him to demonstrate not only the more gullible side of his character but also his fortitude and ingenuity in extracting himself from some incredibly tricky predicaments. As a consequence of this Wyndham assumes more of the role of bagman, continuing at times to be “an irritating arse” as one character comments, and it was good to see the shift in influence as the book progresses, as each then have to form a united front again to avert the dangerous consequences of the investigation they are immersed in. It should be noted though that in times of extreme peril for them both, a couple of steadfast and resilient female characters help ease the path of their investigation- art mirroring life once again, and adding another frisson to the unfolding story. I have a huge affection for Wyndham and Banerjee, with the complexities of their professional and personal relationship, and the honesty and gentle joshing that exists between them, which cements their unquestioning loyalty and trust in each other. Bear this in mind as the closing chapters hit home… For anyone who has tuned into Abir Mukherjee/Vaseem Khan’s podcast-The Red Hot Chilli Writers– you will no doubt be aware that Mukherjee is a wee bit of a comedian, and once again there are some wonderful little moments of self-deprecating humour within the book. The casual observance that any social event will attract writers, especially thriller writers, if there is free drink involved, and the sheer tedium experienced by women who chose to marry accountants- “well, who doesn’t marry an accountant and end up regretting it?” Wyndham’s laconic wit is once again in evidence throughout this one, and the spiky humorous retorts of Banerjee are always a pleasure with their perfect comic timing. The Shadows Of Men may have been a long time coming with a publication delay, but so worth waiting a couple of years for. Vivid, atmospheric, packed with historical detail and bolstered further by superb characterisation and sharp injections of wit, this really was a perfect read. As ever highly recommended, and desperate to know what will happen next in this consistently excellent series.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Veronique

    Ever since I discovered Abir Mukherjee and his series set in Calcutta, I have been amazed. Somehow, this author succeeds on improving with each title. First, his writing skills, bringing a piece of 1920s India come alive on the page, in all its splendour and horror. Somehow you can feel and taste it all! Then by combining the murder mysteries with the historical events rocking that part of the world. Finally, by creating a fascinating voice in that of his main character, Captain Sam Wyndham, a m Ever since I discovered Abir Mukherjee and his series set in Calcutta, I have been amazed. Somehow, this author succeeds on improving with each title. First, his writing skills, bringing a piece of 1920s India come alive on the page, in all its splendour and horror. Somehow you can feel and taste it all! Then by combining the murder mysteries with the historical events rocking that part of the world. Finally, by creating a fascinating voice in that of his main character, Captain Sam Wyndham, a man trying to put himself back together after the horrors of war and of losing his wife, and developing him by pushing him mercilessly. I must admit I wondered where Mukherjee would go with this fifth instalment. Well, call me impressed! Building on the events of the last book, Shadows of Men is now told from two POVs, Sam, but also Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee. That was one courageous decision, but it works brilliantly, adding another dimension to this world. Plus, I love how these two have grown, both personally and in their mutual respect. Truthfully, Mukherjee has succeeded in opening up this series to something very exciting. The world is literally his oyster, and I cannot wait to see where he takes us next!

  10. 4 out of 5

    eyes.2c

    Bliss, my library request just arrived! 23/3/22 And that comment was prior to my reading of this latest episode in the story of two characters I have come to love, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee, of the Imperial Police Force, Calcutta. Suren has been ordered to an undercover operation by Police Commissioner Lord Charles Taggart. Only everything goes wrong, a respected Hindu is found murdered. An action that has crowds taking to the streets in outrage. The authorities are o Bliss, my library request just arrived! 23/3/22 And that comment was prior to my reading of this latest episode in the story of two characters I have come to love, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee, of the Imperial Police Force, Calcutta. Suren has been ordered to an undercover operation by Police Commissioner Lord Charles Taggart. Only everything goes wrong, a respected Hindu is found murdered. An action that has crowds taking to the streets in outrage. The authorities are on high alert. Banerjee (Sure)n is in the gun and proving he’s undercover on orders becomes nigh on impossible. Particularly when Taggart is shot. Suren and Sam must try to prove Suren’s innocence. The chase leads to Bombay. Suren realizes there is one law for the British and another for Indians. That realization sits heavily. Another wonderful tale, with cutting edges of insight from Abir Mukherjee. I so love this series!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chetan

    Sam Wyndham is turning out to be one of my favorite detective philosophers. Solving crimes in a turbulent political climate where the moral hypocrisy of the British Raj is highlighted stronger than ever.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mary Picken

    I have loved each and every one of the Wyndham/Banerjee books, and The Shadows of Men is no exception to that. What I especially love about them is that they are both illuminating and entertaining. Abir Mukherjee writes well; his books have an excellent flow with tension, drama and atmosphere, but most of all shine with such vivid characterisation. But..let’s come back to the atmosphere for a second. Mukherjee draws you in to this India. A place of strife, conflict and so many contradictions. A p I have loved each and every one of the Wyndham/Banerjee books, and The Shadows of Men is no exception to that. What I especially love about them is that they are both illuminating and entertaining. Abir Mukherjee writes well; his books have an excellent flow with tension, drama and atmosphere, but most of all shine with such vivid characterisation. But..let’s come back to the atmosphere for a second. Mukherjee draws you in to this India. A place of strife, conflict and so many contradictions. A place where 5,00O rupees is not enough but 5 rupees is too many. A place where the British domination of the Raj is a colonial disgrace, robbing the country of its riches all the while claiming to be the bringers of ‘civilisation’ all while their knowledge of Indian culture – such as that typified by the Bengali poet and philosopher Tagore – the first non-European winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 – was non-existent. The Shadows of Men is set in 1923 and the edges of colonial rule are crumbling. Ghandi is in prison. Protest is growing, insurrection is fermenting and the streets are alive with protest. It is for the Imperial Police Force to try and keep order, even as the streets erupt in a fury of dissent and riots are never far away. In Mukherjee’s Calcutta, you can feel the tension rising and you know that the position of Sam Wyndham’s colleague and right hand man, Surendranath Banerjee is going to be tested more than ever before. One of the delights of this series is that you can see Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee growing in confidence, alongside the growing confidence of Mukherjee’s writing which is now very skilled indeed. Embedded in his fascinating storytelling, his pitch perfect descriptions of the times and various factions in Indian politics, there is also a delightful, wicked humour. In a departure from previous books, The Shadows of Men is told from the perspectives of both Wyndham and Banerjee and what a fascinating insight that delivers! Sam has come to appreciate and trust Surendranath like a brother, but it has been a slow won progress and the rest of the British have no more time for Surendranath and his Indian colleagues than to use them for their own ends. So when Surendranath is given a secret commission to follow Gulmohamed by Lord Charles Taggart, Police Commissioner – a commission that is both dangerous and ignores the difficulties Banerjee must face in carrying out this task – it’s not surprising that it does not end well. Banerjee is arrested for murder and arson and knowing that his days are numbered unless he can clear his name, he absconds and reaches out to Sam for help. Together Surendranath and Sam set out to discover who is behind the murder of a Hindu theologian and religious leader, Prashant Mukherjee and what has become of the man Surendranath Banerjee was tasked with following. Sam relies on his good friend Annie Grant to offer help and the trail leads them into rural territory and finally to Bombay where it becomes all too clear that someone is hell bent on stirring up religious factionalism. But to what ends? The contrast between the bubbling cauldron of poverty and the opulent wealth on display is beautifully explored in the differences between the various areas and peoples they visit. In Bombay, staying at the behest of Annie Grant’s friend, the beautiful and wealthy Parsee Ooravis Colah, they attend the races where they meet the businessman Cyrus Irani, who is not the only one who is not who he appears to be. Abir Mukherjee does a fantastic job of reminding us that India is a country of more than one religion and that there are upper and lower castes and all of this plays into a multi-layered and fascinating plot that is truly both edge- of -the- seat gripping and fantastically brought to life. But the star of this book is Surendranath Banerjee. Not only do you get to hear his perspective directly, you are also treated to his inner monologues and become privy to his thoughts about everything he is facing. Surendranath Banerjee, in the top three in his class, well-educated but always under-estimated has had an affectionate and mutually appreciative relationship with Sam Wyndham. They have become comrades in arms, but the struggles that Surendranath has seen Sam through have given heft to their relationship and perhaps for the first time you see very clearly that Surendranath is the stronger one in this partnership. Verdict: Abir Mukherjee has reached a critical point in India’s history seen through the eyes of this pair and I am on tenterhooks to see where he will take us next. This is top class historical fiction with beautifully detailed oil painting- rich characterisation and atmosphere so thick you could drown in it. I learn a lot from these books too which is a genuine delight for me. Buy it. READ THE SERIES. Highly, highly recommended.

  13. 5 out of 5

    charlotte,

    On my blog. Rep: Indian Bengali mc, Indian side characters Galley provided by publisher It’s almost inexplicable just how much better this series gets with each new installment. This is a series that just goes from strength to strength. The Shadows of Men probably just about falls into a bit more of the thriller category than mystery, in that there’s a little less conventional investigating (which previous books were more focused on), and a little more on-the-run-from-the-police. But it’s a good On my blog. Rep: Indian Bengali mc, Indian side characters Galley provided by publisher It’s almost inexplicable just how much better this series gets with each new installment. This is a series that just goes from strength to strength. The Shadows of Men probably just about falls into a bit more of the thriller category than mystery, in that there’s a little less conventional investigating (which previous books were more focused on), and a little more on-the-run-from-the-police. But it’s a good change, to be honest, especially given the historical context of the stories now. It’s also a book that tears up the status quo established in the previous few books (although, really, each of those managed that a little in their own right). After this book comes to a close, you’re left wondering just how the series can continue as it is. It’s a reckoning of a sort, with both characters reaching their own personal crises (for want of a better word). It’s a things can never be the same again book. Which makes me very interested to see how (if?) the series will continue. When it comes to the plot more specifically, I really liked how it was initially framed in alternating narratives, Suren’s starting a few hours ahead of Sam’s, and them both eventually catching one another up. It kept you in suspense for a longer, on the edge of your seat as you wait to find out just what is going on in all this. That helps to hook you on the plot, really, because it’s quite slowburning at the start. But once Sam and Suren’s storylines come together, then it gets going. Speaking of Sam and Suren, too, I loved where this book took them. Of course, up to now, they have each had their own growing reservations about the roles they’re playing, firstly in India as a whole, but also in upholding British colonialism in India. Those come to a head in this book, especially when they clash with the plot, which is another reason I’m excited for a follow up book. We get to see the start of the ramifications here, but not much further. Overall, then, if you’re looking for a good historical mystery series to get your teeth into, you won’t go wrong by picking this one up.

  14. 5 out of 5

    A Man Called Ove

    I have loved the Wyndham (+ Banerjee) series by Abir Mukherjee. Historical crime fiction is a combination of the best in my 2 fav genres. However this book was the weakest of the author’s 5 and shallow and lazy. There was no mystery to speak of. The gimmick of using 2 first-person narrations didnt work. And maybe because the period 1922-1928 was a dull one in Indian politics, the historical fiction part too was ordinary. This one is avoidable. Lets hope the author is back to his “Smoke and Ashes” I have loved the Wyndham (+ Banerjee) series by Abir Mukherjee. Historical crime fiction is a combination of the best in my 2 fav genres. However this book was the weakest of the author’s 5 and shallow and lazy. There was no mystery to speak of. The gimmick of using 2 first-person narrations didnt work. And maybe because the period 1922-1928 was a dull one in Indian politics, the historical fiction part too was ordinary. This one is avoidable. Lets hope the author is back to his “Smoke and Ashes” best with the next one.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Susan in NC

    Excellent outing in what has become one of my favorite historical mystery series. I wasn’t sure where the author would go after the last powerful book, but he has managed to surpass himself. This book was even more action-packed and exciting, but also thought-provoking; it is written in short, alternating chapters by Sam Wyndham of the Indian Imperial Police, and his sergeant, Seren “Surrender-Not” Banerjee. The action starts in Calcutta 1923, as religious tensions are again flaring up between Hi Excellent outing in what has become one of my favorite historical mystery series. I wasn’t sure where the author would go after the last powerful book, but he has managed to surpass himself. This book was even more action-packed and exciting, but also thought-provoking; it is written in short, alternating chapters by Sam Wyndham of the Indian Imperial Police, and his sergeant, Seren “Surrender-Not” Banerjee. The action starts in Calcutta 1923, as religious tensions are again flaring up between Hindus and Muslims. The British are trying to maintain control, but a Hindu theologian has been murdered, supposedly by Suren. Readers familiar with the series will know he isn’t guilty, so there must be more to the story - and what a story it is! At first I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the alternating chapters, but it really works here, getting into Suren’s head, as well. Mukherjee writes realistically of life in British Raj India, for both British rulers and Indian subjects, but he manages also to keep his pacing up, and the reader on edge, like a modern action film. It’s quite an accomplishment, and very entertaining! I really enjoyed this outing, and will be very curious to see where he takes the series next. The book ends not so much on a cliffhanger, but as a predictable twist. The author is really getting to the heart of the impossible situation any of the British in India with a conscience (like Wyndham), must find themselves in at this point in history. Also, the difficult choices Suren, and other Indians working for the Raj, were facing. Extremely entertaining and interesting, I can’t wait for the next book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Canaves

    This is one of the few series that I wait in anticipation for and read as soon as I can get my hands on the newest release. Even if I was bored with historical mystery (I am not), I would still be reading this series. I think that while many series stick to keeping things familiar–which makes sense from the view of readers wanting to find comfort from what they have returned for–I love that this series has really allowed the characters to grow and evolve. For that reason I do recommend you start This is one of the few series that I wait in anticipation for and read as soon as I can get my hands on the newest release. Even if I was bored with historical mystery (I am not), I would still be reading this series. I think that while many series stick to keeping things familiar–which makes sense from the view of readers wanting to find comfort from what they have returned for–I love that this series has really allowed the characters to grow and evolve. For that reason I do recommend you start at the beginning with A Rising Man, although it isn’t a must in that you won’t be lost in this book since it’s all explained. Set in 1920s Calcutta, during British rule, we get two points of view in alternating chapters. Both are officers with the Imperial Police Force but they are very different: Captain Sam Wyndham is a former Scotland Yard detective and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee is one of the first Indians on the force. The book begins with Banerjee accused of murder. Raising the stakes even higher, he’s accused of the murder of a religious Hindu leader. Not only does he need to prove that he’s innocent to save his own life, but he needs to stop the ethnic violence that will come from a religious leader being murdered. You get a whodunnit murder mystery–if not Banerjee, then who?–but also the contrasting personalities and POVs of Wyndham and Banerjee, along with the race against time based on the political situation and Banerjee being imprisoned for murder that makes this a huge page-turner to get lost in. --from Book Riot's Unusual Suspects newsletter: https://link.bookriot.com/view/56a820...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    I missed reading books 3 and 4 of this series, somehow forgotten after I enjoyed the first two. This is certainly full of intrigue and action and the struggles of the day in India during 1920's. There is a serious threat against Captain Sam Wyndham and many tight spots to escape from with help from his friend Sergeant Banerjee. No spoilers. Library Loan I missed reading books 3 and 4 of this series, somehow forgotten after I enjoyed the first two. This is certainly full of intrigue and action and the struggles of the day in India during 1920's. There is a serious threat against Captain Sam Wyndham and many tight spots to escape from with help from his friend Sergeant Banerjee. No spoilers. Library Loan

  18. 4 out of 5

    Judefire33

    When Abir Mukherjee’s latest book arrived from the Postman, I spent 10 minutes jumping around the lounge in joy! I have been hooked on the wonderful adventures of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surrendranath Banerjee from reading the first book in the series, A Rising Man (see an earlier blog post). We are now in 1923 Calcutta, and times are changing for the British Rulers, there’s an undercurrent of the uprising and amongst this, we find Suren in dire straits! I’m not going to give away the pl When Abir Mukherjee’s latest book arrived from the Postman, I spent 10 minutes jumping around the lounge in joy! I have been hooked on the wonderful adventures of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surrendranath Banerjee from reading the first book in the series, A Rising Man (see an earlier blog post). We are now in 1923 Calcutta, and times are changing for the British Rulers, there’s an undercurrent of the uprising and amongst this, we find Suren in dire straits! I’m not going to give away the plot, but suffice to say that the book revolves around this event and the chaps trying to stop an all-out Religious war! Which affects Suren, Sam and all the usual characters who readers will know, the gorgeous and daring Miss Annie Grant and Lord Taggart among them. I have read a lot of books in my life, but never have I read such a brilliant (that word isn’t really enough for how I feel!) series of books, that have taught me SO much about a historical period, as these books do. In The Shadows Of Men, Abir’s talent at taking the reader right there, right into the time, right into the fray, to feel what it must have been like and almost to experience it, is just frankly amazing and beyond my comprehension of how he can write like HE was there! I have always been fascinated with India, and wish I could have travelled there, the books take you there, you can smell the smells, taste the food, feel the oppressive heat or the steaming rain, Abir’s writing is poetic at times in describing the settings of 1920’s India. And to be able to write, with authority on the different faiths, and their peculiarities with such knowledge makes Abir, a once in lifetime Author, that rare mix of talent of a fantastic storyteller and a knowledgable historian. However it’s not all seriousness, there are laughs, mixed in, Sam’s traditional British black humour to note! And I loved the introduction of another new Character, Miss Ooravis Colah, a fantastic and I’m sure ahead of her time woman. In summing up, I must say that The Shadows Of Men is Abir’s best work so far, and to be fair, that’s high praise as the other 4 books were bloody amazing! As always I love the relationship between Sam and Suren and in this book we see their relationship start to shift, because of events and because of the times, but we are left with a cliffhanger that means that book 6 will undoubtedly move us into a different phase of their lives. I cannot wait… let’s hope Abir is writing away furiously now!! Thank you for your sublime talent Sir!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Over the past twelve months I've begun to read more and more historical fiction, and have especially enjoyed historical crime stories. Whilst I have read the first two of this series, I missed the last two novels, but was determined to catch up and find out just how Sam and Suren have fared over time. Once again, this talented author transports his readers effortlessly back to India of the past. This story is set in 1923, a time of uprising and disruption, the English are still prominent in the Over the past twelve months I've begun to read more and more historical fiction, and have especially enjoyed historical crime stories. Whilst I have read the first two of this series, I missed the last two novels, but was determined to catch up and find out just how Sam and Suren have fared over time. Once again, this talented author transports his readers effortlessly back to India of the past. This story is set in 1923, a time of uprising and disruption, the English are still prominent in the country, but the majority of the disquiet is caused by the rival Hindu and Muslim gangs. The country is teetering on the edge of a religious war. Mukherjee tells this story through Sam's voice, as usual, but this time, the reader also sees things through the eyes of Suren, this adds such depth to the story, as the reader is not led only by the views of our somewhat jaded and often rogue Englishman. Suren's voice is passionate and proud, he's a determined man and justice is his main aim, especially when it's his own justice. Throughout the story, Suren is on the run. Despite the fact that he's a member of the police and has worked alongside Sam and the others for some time, the fact that he's Indian makes him easier to accuse. Especially as he's admitted that he was the person who set fire to a house .... however, he had nothing to do with the murder of the man whose body was found in the house. Suren is sure that he knows what happened, but this is both a religious and a political matter, and it soon becomes clear that there are many people involved here. To pin the murder on Suren would be useful for many. Sam Wyndham has overcome many personal hurdles whilst serving in India, he's hit bottom but he's making his way back up and he knows for sure that Suren didn't kill that man. Can he overcome his reputation, and clear Suren's name? Abir Mukherjee has such a wonderful way with words. There are passages within this story that are just outstanding, and my copy is littered with turned-down corners, marking these out. The voices that he creates for his characters are flawless and I especially loved his paragraph, as told by Suren: "It is, I have learned, easy to misjudge the momentum of things in the dark. The train did not seem to be travelling at any great velocity, but contact with the ground soon disabused me of that particular notion. I landed badly and at great speed, promptly lost my footing and tumbled head first down a gravel bank until a fortuitously placed peepul tree broke my momentum." Whilst The Shadows of Men is undoubtedly a fast-paced and thrilling crime thriller, it is also an evocative and detailed study of the history of India. I learnt so much and spent a long time on Google afterwards, finding out more and seeking out photographs. I love to learn from fiction, and Mukherjee is one of our most entertaining teachers today. Written with wry humour at times, this is engaging and quite exceptional story telling. This reader was certainly left wanting more and I hope that there's another in the series. Highly recommended.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ram Kaushik

    The author gets more assured with every new addition to this series! Sam Wyndham and Suren Banerjee shadow the journey of a fractured India under the British Raj in their own growth as human beings under the grip of colonialism. Mr. Mukherjee captures the ambivalence and complexity of a crumbling British India that is tortured by the injustices of colonialism. Sam Wyndham is falling in love with the craziness of India while slowly becoming sensitive to the cruelty and moral indefensibility of th The author gets more assured with every new addition to this series! Sam Wyndham and Suren Banerjee shadow the journey of a fractured India under the British Raj in their own growth as human beings under the grip of colonialism. Mr. Mukherjee captures the ambivalence and complexity of a crumbling British India that is tortured by the injustices of colonialism. Sam Wyndham is falling in love with the craziness of India while slowly becoming sensitive to the cruelty and moral indefensibility of the British Raj. Fortunately, he has also lost his annoying opium addiction which was becoming a liability and distraction to the series to be honest. Banerjee is unable to reconcile his employment in the colonial administration while struggling to keep Indianness and humanity. The theme of rabble-rousers seeking to foment religious discord has disturbing echoes in headlines from today's Modi-Hindutva India. Mr. Mukherjee must also be commended for his fluid prose in this book. Although the narrative still feels incongruously modern, it certainly is very readable indeed! Many memorable quotes, a few paraphrased below. When an Indian overcharges a Britisher, it is fraud. When a Britisher overcharges an Indian, it is capitalism. Wealth is a great vaccine against many maladies. That’s the thing about religion. You never know how much is divine inspiration, and how much is bureaucratic packaging. Highly recommended, and I look forward to future books in this series!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    Indian society was in an uproar in the 1920s. Seething. Tumultuous. Explosive. All the usual adjectives apply. Relations between those of competing religions were at the breaking point. And they promised to set off an uncontrollable conflagration when, under pressure from Mohandas Gandhi and the Indian National Congress he led, the British called for municipal elections across the land. The slightest provocation could set off waves of murder, rape, and pillage directed from Hindus to Muslims, an Indian society was in an uproar in the 1920s. Seething. Tumultuous. Explosive. All the usual adjectives apply. Relations between those of competing religions were at the breaking point. And they promised to set off an uncontrollable conflagration when, under pressure from Mohandas Gandhi and the Indian National Congress he led, the British called for municipal elections across the land. The slightest provocation could set off waves of murder, rape, and pillage directed from Hindus to Muslims, and Muslims to Hindus. Against the backdrop of this tinderbox, Abir Mukherjee sets the fifth novel in his beautifully researched historical mystery series. One again, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee of the Calcutta constabulary swing into action. Mukherjee conjures up a horrific picture of what happened in Calcutta when a respected Hindu theologian is murdered . . . possibly by a Muslim politician. But that’s not what police constables arriving at the scene think took place. They arrest Suren Banerjee, who is in the process of setting fire to the house where the murder occurred. A FRAUGHT, THREE-WAY RELATIONSHIP INVOLVING BRITISH AND INDIANS The confusing events that transpire in that house in a Muslim slum in Calcutta open a window onto the complex three-way relationship among India’s Hindus and Muslims and the British officials and military officers who command the Raj. With Sam Wyndham’s sergeant and roommate in prison for murder, he sets off on a dangerous course that involves a Calcutta gang leader, the leadership of the Congress Party, a famous Muslim politician, the Commissioner of Police in Calcutta, and the British military intelligence officers who serve as the country’s secret police. And the story carries Sam across the width of India from Calcutta to Bombay while Sam, released from prison through Sam’s influence, becomes a fugitive. EXTRAORDINARY LEAD CHARACTERS Sam Wyndham and Suren Banerjee are both complex, fully realized realized personalities. Sam had left London under a cloud and quickly proceeded to become addicted to opium after arriving in Calcutta. We witnessed his protracted and painful withdrawal from the drug in an earlier entry in the series. Suren is the black sheep in a prominent and wealthy Brahmin family who support the Congress. His father has virtually disowned him, both for taking a job with the police instead of the family business and for helping the hated British. Neither of the two is loved by their colleagues on the force—Sam, because he’s so good at the job that he makes others look bad, and Suren simply because he’s a native. And the relationship between the two, although close, is strained by Suren’s knowledge of Sam’s weakness for opium and Sam’s lack of understanding of what drives Suren. As the sergeant muses, “he is still just an Englishman and could never understand a concept such as izzat, or the shame I have brought down upon my family” by his arrest for murder. OTHER MAJOR CHARACTERS Other major characters are equally interesting. For example, there’s Uddam Singh, Uddam the Lion, “kingpin of an underworld gang that controlled almost half the city’s trade in narcotics, prostitution and a few other illicit activities besides.” We also meet: ** Lord Taggart, Commissioner of Police, a frequent target of assassination attempts ** Farid Gulmohamed, “a Bombay financier and a prominent politician—a leading light in the Union of Islam” ** Colonel Dawson, “spymaster of the army’s intelligence department, Section H” in Calcutta ** Subhash Bose, a real-world leader of the Congress ** and Lady Annie Grant, a wealthy British expat and Sam’s love interest, who is a recurring character in the series. AN OUTSTANDING HISTORICAL MYSTERY SERIES The Shadows of Men is a compelling novel of suspense and a worthy addition to this superb historical mystery series. Both Sam and Suren are intensely aware of the historical reality in which they live. For instance, Sam reflects, “Placing oneself in a position of semi-permanent hypocrisy, that’s what it meant to be an Englishman in India, and I certainly wasn’t the only one who felt that way. God knows there were enough embittered, broken colonial men and women of good conscience, driven to drink and ruin by the irreconcilable absurdity at the heart of it all: the claim that we were here for the betterment of the land, when all the time we merely sucked it dry.” But musings such as this don’t weigh down the story. The dialog is artfully written. For example, in a conversation with Sam, Suren says “I shall never understand the British . . . You wear your ignorance of others almost as a badge of honour.” “Well, it’s important to be good at something,” Sam says. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Abir Mukherjee’s author website notes that he “is the [London] Times bestselling author of the Wyndham & Banerjee series of crime novels set in Raj-era India which have sold over 250,000 copies and been translated into 15 languages. His books have won numerous awards including the CWA Dagger for Best Historical Novel, the Prix du Polar Européen, the Wilbur Smith Award for Adventure Writing and the Amazon Publishing Readers Award for E-book for the Year.” Google Books adds that Mukherjee was born in London in 1974. He 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.” Reading Mukherjee’s work, any fan of historical mystery series will likely hunger for more, as I do.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marcy

    What intrigued me about this book was not the slow burn mystery, but the historical setting and the relationship between the 2 main characters. I was totally immersed in 1923 India and how it’s history and conflicts shaped this story. Also had me guessing until the end.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    My favourite genres are mysteries and historical fiction, so when you combine them and get a great historical mystery - oh happy day! Loved the dual point of view storyline, Suren is really growing into a full partner in this series. And what a fun concept, police on the run!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lesley

    4.25⭐️ Sam Wyndham #5 Having read book #2 and enjoyed the gentle pace and feel of 1920’s India I was looking forward to this book. The book cover is very relevant. This starts as Suren’s story although it’s told from Sam’s and Suren’s POV in alternating chapters. Suren has got himself in a right old pickle and arrested after going on a mission on the orders of Lord Taggart. The situation is serious but the way that they both relate the story parts of it have me chuckling. Their thought processes a 4.25⭐️ Sam Wyndham #5 Having read book #2 and enjoyed the gentle pace and feel of 1920’s India I was looking forward to this book. The book cover is very relevant. This starts as Suren’s story although it’s told from Sam’s and Suren’s POV in alternating chapters. Suren has got himself in a right old pickle and arrested after going on a mission on the orders of Lord Taggart. The situation is serious but the way that they both relate the story parts of it have me chuckling. Their thought processes as much as what they say, it’s a pithy sense of humour. This book is set at a time of heightened political tension and the imminent threat of an all out religious war. It takes the reader from Calcutta to Bombay. The feel is a little grittier as a result. The language and description immediately transports the reader to a bygone era. Historical fiction isn’t my usual go to genre, it took me a little while to settle into the more formal stilted language style, but then I was whisked off with Sam and Suren into an adventure in Colonial India. I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in this world. There was no shortage of tension as Suren managed to bounce from one crisis to another. I really enjoyed the format of alternating chapters giving Suren a bigger role and voice. There were a few times that I felt it drifted off course a little. It added cultural seasoning, but I didn’t feel the the need for. There was a snippet of a political history lesson again too, which I wasn’t so interested in. It’s a gentle easy read on the cosy side of the crime spectrum. I especially enjoyed the humour which I felt was increased from the previous book I read. A favourite quote, ‘the dead were dead and the living had fled’

  25. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    After being slightly disappointed with the previous book in the series, I was delighted to read this eagerly awaited mystery and find that for me it was probably his best yet. The focus for this book is increasing religious tension between Hindus and Muslims in 1920s India (foreshadowing the tragic events of Partition in the 1940s), and the political machinations which feed the flames, and I found this fascinating. The narration in this book alternates between the British detective Sam Wyndham an After being slightly disappointed with the previous book in the series, I was delighted to read this eagerly awaited mystery and find that for me it was probably his best yet. The focus for this book is increasing religious tension between Hindus and Muslims in 1920s India (foreshadowing the tragic events of Partition in the 1940s), and the political machinations which feed the flames, and I found this fascinating. The narration in this book alternates between the British detective Sam Wyndham and his sergeant Surendranath Bannerjee (nicknamed Surrender-Not by his colleagues). Suren is undertaking an undercover mission when things go wrong and he finds himself involved in a murder. Sam starts his own investigation and before long is on a chase that moves from Calcutta to Bombay and back again in a desperate attempt to resolve the matter before serious unrest destabilises the whole country. I loved the way Mukherjee wrote this book - there is a subtlety in his analysis of the political and religious issues of the Raj at this time that makes the reader think at the same time as enjoying a thrilling adventure and an intriguing mystery. The relationship between Sam and Suren is beautifully developed and convincing with the constraints on both sides, and each character also develops in their own understanding and reaction to the system. The thriller elements of the story take hold in the middle part, but the mystery is still present and re emerges with some clever twists. Really engaging story, I thoroughly enjoyed it and really hope we will see more of these unforgettable characters soon.

  26. 5 out of 5

    David C Ward

    This is an OK series set in 1920s India but this one doesn’t measure up because the crime story gets pushed into the background of India’s religious conflicts. Also Surendranath does something unbelievably implausible - and out of character; he’s supposed to be the smart one — when he discovers the murdered body of a Hindu cleric - thereby triggering religious riots and getting himself arrested. The rest is a lot of running around amidst civil unrest, with very little police work. As always, “mi This is an OK series set in 1920s India but this one doesn’t measure up because the crime story gets pushed into the background of India’s religious conflicts. Also Surendranath does something unbelievably implausible - and out of character; he’s supposed to be the smart one — when he discovers the murdered body of a Hindu cleric - thereby triggering religious riots and getting himself arrested. The rest is a lot of running around amidst civil unrest, with very little police work. As always, “military intelligence” is an oxymoron. Also, no policeman would say “he was languishing in a jail cell” when reporting to his fellow officers - why do historical mysteries always contain stilted or arcane phrases?

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lesley

    A bit of a departure for this series (I’ve read and enjoyed all four preceding novels, although I’m not normally big on historical crime fiction). Set in Calcutta in the 1920-30s, the main character has always been Captain Sam Wyndham - cynical, war-scarred, maverick detective reassigned from Scotland Yard - assisted by the diligent but timid young Sergeant Bannerjee of the Indian Police [check]. Their assignments in previous volumes gave plenty of scope for commentary on the Raj, with the infin A bit of a departure for this series (I’ve read and enjoyed all four preceding novels, although I’m not normally big on historical crime fiction). Set in Calcutta in the 1920-30s, the main character has always been Captain Sam Wyndham - cynical, war-scarred, maverick detective reassigned from Scotland Yard - assisted by the diligent but timid young Sergeant Bannerjee of the Indian Police [check]. Their assignments in previous volumes gave plenty of scope for commentary on the Raj, with the infinite complexity of India and injustices of British rule unfolding to Wyndham, with interpretive help from Bannerjee. In this instalment, Bannerjee has his own voice and is a joint protagonist, with each narrating alternating chapters. A Cambridge-educated Brahmin, Bannerjee is consistently demeaned by the British despite his social status, and is increasingly conflicted by his role in a police service in which Indians cannot expect justice. So it was good to have ‘Surrender-not’ being given more agency and character this time. The author has mentioned that having a British and an Indian main character allowed him to explore and articulate more aspects of his British-Indian identity and views on the Raj, more prominent in this volume than any of the foregoing, with Bannerjee front of stage instead of trailing behind Wyndham. The dual narrative works in this regard but makes for a jerky and slightly repetitive narrative, where his previous novels have bowled along at pace. But it was an important change to strengthen the social commentary. The other big difference from the previous volumes is that Wyndham is no longer in thrall to the opium den, although far from being a reformed character, but off O at least. And also no longer obsessing over his dead wife, both of which free up space in the narrative for Bannerjee to develop, which is certainly does. So kudos to the author for letting go of those strands which had gone as far as they could, and for taking the action outside Calcutta. Mukherjee is great on setting and never fails to evoke a vivid sense of place, from the open sewers and rickety shacks of steaming Calcutta to the breeze-kissed manicured lawns of Bombay mansions, dreary police stations and even drearier boarding houses, via teeming streets, gullys and railway stations. He is equally good on characters in all levels of society, from the self-appointed governors of India in the British top-brass and Indian political class, to the servants, prostitutes, taxi-drivers and lowly police staff, and the Anglo-Indians, who belong in neither end of the hierarchy. All of which highlights the inequality and division that the British created and exploited, and indeed the story centres on a plot to set Muslims and Hindus at each others’ throats, with subtle but unmistakable comment thereon. A great fifth instalment in this series, although I’m not sure how it would work as a stand-alone - it will be a richer read from having read the previous novels, which I certainly recommend. ARC courtesy of Netgalley

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    The fifth in the Wyndham and Banerjee detective series by Abir Mukherjee – The Shadows of Men – continues a stunningly engaging and superbly constructed detective tale set in late Raj-Era India. This volume adopts an alternating POV approach as the principal actors, Surendranath Banerjee and Sam Wyndham, each share their perspectives of the events as they happen. This lends a unique new flavour to the series and just builds on what already were riveting reads. We met Sam and Surendranath in A Ris The fifth in the Wyndham and Banerjee detective series by Abir Mukherjee – The Shadows of Men – continues a stunningly engaging and superbly constructed detective tale set in late Raj-Era India. This volume adopts an alternating POV approach as the principal actors, Surendranath Banerjee and Sam Wyndham, each share their perspectives of the events as they happen. This lends a unique new flavour to the series and just builds on what already were riveting reads. We met Sam and Surendranath in A Rising Man, as Wyndham arrives in Calcutta, a troubled detective recruited to join the Imperial Police by a military acquaintance, Lord Taggart, who heads up the local CID. There he meets Banerjee, a native member of the force who is himself increasingly troubled by his participation in the tool of imperial oppression. As the series progresses, the pair find collaborative success and grow in respect for one another. The series is set in post-WW1 India as the stirrings of nationalism become increasingly strident. In addition to compelling suspense writing, the author spins a multi-layered tale of historical socio-economic depth that genuinely sets these novels apart and above. They are gripping, educational, suspenseful, wrapped in naked drama, and pure treat to savour. I jump in to write a quick review of this novel as the particular strength of the series is simply so evident in this chapter. The author pulls another trick and casts a tight, suspenseful story that puts the protagonists directly into the middle of a plot drawing in the extreme nationalist streams of the Hindu and Muslim-dominated groups. Our heroes are on the run this time, with Surendranath accused of murder and caught up in a web of intrigue relying on some old allies and a surprisingly new one. There’s also a lovely new location and characters as our detectives travel to Bombay, and the contrast with Calcutta is explored. Mukerjee’s writing is tight, relentless, and never lets you take a breath. It is skillfully constructed and doesn’t give the game away until the penultimate climax. India is in an atmosphere of tension, of a fuse that has been lit and slowly smouldering towards an explosion. This is so well evocated. You feel for the broken actors – the patina is dirty and authentic, gritty and honest, and draws the reader into a story that craves to be read and savoured. The detective story is embedded in quite direct social commentary that is not restricted to the period in which he writes. These novels are greedily consumed, and then the reader faces the frustrating anticipation of waiting for the next book. It can’t come too soon. Thanks to Mark, my Goodreads buddy, who so presciently suggested that I would like this series. Social reading at work! I also shout out to The RedHotChilliWriters podcast co-hosted by Abir Mukerjee (author of this series) and Vaseem Khan (author of the Baby Ganesh Agency series, which I also am well into and also enjoying). I just discovered this mature podcast that features a great chat between the authors – not sure what voices I would have expected, but it is actually great to now have those connected to their writing. I love Mukerjee’s self-characterisation as a Hindon’t. Interestingly my jump into the series was an interview with Antti Toumainen – another author whose works are amongst my favourites (the dark humour ;-).

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kate: The Quick and the Read

    This was one of my most anticipated novels of 2021 - I have absolutely loved all the mysteries featuring Captain Sam Wyndham and his partner, Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee set in Colonial India during the 1920s. This is the fifth book in the series and is out on 11th November. Mark that date in your diaries because you're going to need a copy of this one! The plot opens explosively - a prominent Hindu theologian is murdered and Sergeant Banerjee arrested for the crime. The killing sparks riots ac This was one of my most anticipated novels of 2021 - I have absolutely loved all the mysteries featuring Captain Sam Wyndham and his partner, Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee set in Colonial India during the 1920s. This is the fifth book in the series and is out on 11th November. Mark that date in your diaries because you're going to need a copy of this one! The plot opens explosively - a prominent Hindu theologian is murdered and Sergeant Banerjee arrested for the crime. The killing sparks riots across Calcutta between Hindus and Muslims and Captain Sam Wyndham is thrown into the case of his life - one that has impossibly high political stakes and determines the fate of his partner. This book had all the things I've come to expect - indeed, all the things that mark it out as top-level historical fiction. The sense of setting in time and place is beautifully done - we move from the slums of Calcutta to bustling Bombay, from posh hotels to seedy opium dens, from police stations to opulent private apartments. All this is done seamlessly with historical and local detail woven into the narrative, I had no real idea about the tensions between Hindus, Muslims and the British in Colonial India - yet I do now, with no sense that I've been fed a dry history lesson. The plotting is also clever. Previous books have focused more on the British Captain Wyndham, but this novel brings Sergeant Banerjee to the fore in alternate chapters to Sam''s narration. It's really fabulous to hear Banerjee's voice so vividly and experience his perspective. Gone is the man referred to by the Anglicised name of Surrender-Not and instead we have Surendranath Banerjee - an Indian man who increasingly struggles with his place in the police force run by the oppressive British in 1920s India, The subtleties of his character are explored beautifully and there is real character progression from previous books. As a British reader, it is horrifically eye-opening to read about the entrenched racism within the period of the Raj. The fact that Sam's life in India is so different to Surendranath's is evident throughout - from the way they are treated, their expectations, the places they can go - and it is shocking. Mukherjee presents all this in a matter-of-fact way that really got under my skin - it's an uncomfortable reading experience at times, exactly as it should be. All this makes the book sound weighty and serious. In some ways it is, but Mukherjee also adds some excellent comic touches that keep the book entertaining and enjoyable. I laughed out loud at Wyndham having to take directions from his hostage and there were lots of bits that were warm and affectionate and humorous, especially in the relationship between Sam and Surendranath. I liked that this book had some interesting female characters too - Colonial India was really all about male power and status, so it was good that two women in particular come to the foreground in the novel. They appear as well-rounded characters too, not just plot devices - so top marks from me on that front! I honestly could write forever about this book - it managed to balance being page-turningly exciting, engaging and humorous, but also deeply thought-provoking. Wyndham, Banerjee and Colonial-era politics now have a permanent position in my brain - and Banerjee in my heart!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Aishi Roy

    I should start with the reason for the deduction of that one-star; I have met Abir Mukherjee's five-star work before, and the pleasure was all mine. It also might have been due to the fact that I have been hooked to the series for the history, and learned to love the thriller bit later, and this time the chase took the steering while history took a nap in the backseat. Some things felt a little astray from the usual experience of being slapped-in-the-face-with-surprising-conclusions, and at time I should start with the reason for the deduction of that one-star; I have met Abir Mukherjee's five-star work before, and the pleasure was all mine. It also might have been due to the fact that I have been hooked to the series for the history, and learned to love the thriller bit later, and this time the chase took the steering while history took a nap in the backseat. Some things felt a little astray from the usual experience of being slapped-in-the-face-with-surprising-conclusions, and at times it also looked like irrelevant points were being pressed. But droning on about these does not do justice to the Wyndham-Banerjee #5 which was highly awaited and fairly loved by me. The author gave us a Suren Banerjee PoV. I might mention it here, that as a reader with almost the same ethnic background, I always read Wyndham's words and marveled at his peculiar way of seeing things, but moved on to the next line only after auto-translating it into Suren's perspective in my brain. It looks like the voice in my head did not go very far away from the author-described one, for which I must thank the author earnestly. Mukherjee stepped out from the crease of fiction and hit the ball out of the park from the history zone a couple of times. The paperweight deserves an honorable mention. With those and the AnandaBazar mentions, I was disappointed to leave Calcutta which was supposed to be a hotbed of anti-British political activities at that point of time, but to be fair, the city was already burning and the smoke and ashes would have obscured the view anyway. Sam Wyndham's narration is only getting sharper each day and Annie Grant is consistently illuminating the story by her gracefully sensible presence. (Doesn't she get tired of being the only one with enough EQ?) The concluding string of thought by Wyndham has increased my admiration for him, and I almost feel bad for the fact that instead of breaking him down to the colonial base of authority, arrogance, and futile ruthlessness, the Calcutta is building him up. Best wishes for Surrender-Not Banerjee- this is the first time in the series I am starting to appreciate that nickname. The last couple of books are ending with anticipation of what comes next for him, which allows me to do all sorts of speculations. It looks like another long wait for #6 has started, and I will have to do with revising the old ones.

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