Monday 8 November 2021

The Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee @radiomukhers @DeadGoodBooks @HarvillSecker #TheShadowsOfMen @vintagebooks @AnnaLRedman #WyndhamBanerjee


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?

The Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee is published on 11 November 2021 by Harvill Secker and is the fifth in the Wyndham and Banarjee series. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

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. 

Abir Mukherjee is the bestselling author of the award-winning Wyndham & Banerjee
series of crime novels set in Raj-era India. 

He is a two-time winner of the CWA Historical Dagger and has won the Wilbur Smith Award for Adventure Writing a well as the Prix Du Polar Européen.

His books have also been shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger and the HWA Gold Crown. 

His novels, A Rising Man and Smoke And Ashes were both selected as Waterstones Thriller of the Month.

Smoke And Ashes was also chosen by The Times as one of the Best Crime and Thriller novels since 1945.

Abir grew up in Scotland and now lives in Surrey with his wife and two sons.

Twitter @radiomukhers

Facebook @authorabir

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