Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee

 
First Line: The birds were killing themselves.
 
1905, London. Young Constable Sam Wyndham is walking his usual East End beat when he's summoned to the scene of a murder. It's Bessie Drummond, an old flame of Wyndham's. She's been found brutally beaten to death in her room with the door locked from the inside. Although Wyndham vows to bring her killer to justice, he's unsuccessful.
 
1922, India. Captain Sam Wyndham is in Assam, at the ashram of a monk who's been successful in curing people with addictions to opium. Wyndham knows he, too, must be successful in beating his addiction because his career is at stake. 

All is going well until Wyndham sees a man from his past in London. A man he believed to be dead. A man he never wanted to see again. And he knows that he's going to need the help of his friend and colleague Sergeant Banerjee because he's convinced this man from his past is out for revenge.

~

Abir Mukherjee's Wyndham & Banerjee historical mystery series has been one that I've greatly enjoyed, but I opened Death in the East with a bit of trepidation. You see, I have few "hot buttons" when it comes to my reading, but I'd rather not spend time with recurring characters who are alcoholics or drug addicts. Sam Wyndham's opium addiction had certainly worn the bloom off the rose of my reading enjoyment, and I was afraid Death in the East was going to be more of the same. 
 
Hallelujah, it wasn't!
 
To be honest, I'm more a fan of Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee than I am of Sam Wyndham. (The lazy Brits call the sergeant "Surrender-Not".) Banerjee doesn't appear until the end of the book, but what an ending he helps bring about!

The chapters occurring in 1905 London put readers in contact with a young, still idealistic Wyndham, one of those annoying men who always gives more credence to attractive women. (Do pretty females lie? Never! How could you think such a thing?) The London sections began to drag a bit, so I was happy when all the necessary backstory was given so the focus could remain in India. 

So far, I've made it sound as though I don't particularly like Sam Wyndham, and that's not true. He has one quote in Death in the East that I love:

I've never understood what drives the powerful to oppress the weak, or what need the many have to harass those different from them. Maybe it was just easier: to blame someone else, someone different, for all the shit that happened to you. Someone who couldn't answer back and point out the obvious: that your troubles were mostly caused by people who looked like you, not people who were different. Maybe that was why I'd always been on the side of the underdog. Some called it contrarian.  I just thought of it as being decent.
 
This is something that I could have said about myself, but what gives this quote even more emphasis is how Surendranath Banerjee turns it on its head at the end of the book. With flashes of humor and a very different perspective, Banerjee arrives to save the day. I love how this young man has grown over the course of this series. Wyndham always used to have the upper hand in their partnership, but Banerjee's confidence and abilities have grown, and he can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with the captain. 

Death in the East is a very satisfying story, from Wyndham's experiences with drug rehabilitation all the way to the conclusion of an event that has bedeviled the captain since 1905. Moreover, I am really looking forward to the next book in this series. I do believe that Surendranath Banerjee has some surprises in store for all of us, and I can't wait to find out what they are.

Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee
ISBN: 9781643134680
Pegasus Books © 2020
Hardcover, 417 pages
 
Historical Mystery, #4 Wyndham & Banerjee mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from The Poisoned Pen.

14 comments:

  1. In general, Cathy, I agree with you about characters who are drug-addicted, alcoholic, etc.. So it's wonderful to know that Sam is getting the help he needs and hopefully moving past the opium; that's one of the things about the series that I wasn't crazy about, to be honest. I do like the series, though - very much - and it's great to hear that this one is a winner. That prologue sounds interesting, too!

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  2. I love that quote and your description of these characters. I definitely would like to read this series.

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    1. I think it's a series that would hold your interest, Dorothy.

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  3. The drug addiction thing in books is never my favorite either. I'm glad it didn't ruin this one. And Banerjee does sound like a great character! :)

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    1. Surendranath is a great character, and as a sign of respect, I'm making it a point to call him by his proper name. :-)

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  4. I'm another with a limited tolerance for ongoing characters with addictions, so I had fallen behind on this series. Now that I know there's progress in sight, I'll get back into it.

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    1. I was extremely happy with the progress made in this book, Kate.

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  5. Well, another good book on your blog. Several A's in a row. And there more excellent reviews to come. Inquiring Minds will (im)patiently wait to find out what the stellar books are. And I have Remarkably Bright Creatures on my library hold, as I, too, am fascinated by octopuses.

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    1. I got Remarkably Bright Creatures after reading a rave review on another blog.

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  6. Well, so many good books have come your way lately, and we readers have increased our lists and library reserves., I wish I could do nothing all summer but read in a/c, with iced tea and various frozen desserts.

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    1. That certainly would be great, wouldn't it?

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    2. Yes. Why do pesky things like commitments and appointments interfere with life?

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