I had seen this book displayed prominently during recent visits to bookshops. The sumptuous cover artwork had provoked me to pull it from the shelves and read the blurb on the back. But that, initially, was as far as I got.
I wasn’t sure that I was quite ready for a tale set in Calcutta during the years immediately following the Great War; I felt it would be a akin to those period dramas on television and, possibly, somewhat of a drag. And, in my defence, the list of titles that I was especially eager to read was getting longer and some of my favourite authors had new books coming out. So, I made the decision to add this to my list but pop it somewhere in the middle, neither a “must read”or a “if there’s nowt else” type of book. How wrong I turned out to be.
Then June came along and a wonderful bit of happenstance occurred. Serendipity, perhaps. (Oh, that’s June the month, not a woman. I do not know any June’s. Not currently, anyway.)
One of the authors who I had put to the top of my list – one of the “gotta read this soon” titles – was scheduled to host an event at Bradford Literary Festival. The event, “The Secrets of Crime Writing”, appealed to me as a frustrated writer and I hoped it would imbue me with the inspiration to finally finish my masterpiece, debut novel. Well, we all can dream, can’t we?
The author in question, A.A. Dhand, is a Bradford lad and his novels (two to date) are set in that fair (ahem!) city. As a keen follower of the football that bears the same name and as my mothers side of the family hail from Bradford, I was keen to read his Dhand’s book. So, the chance to attend his seminar and hear his views on crime writing were a chance not to be missed and I booked my ticket.
Now, I was unaware when I booked that the other panellists were Vaseem Khan, Alex Caan and the hero of this review, Abir Mukherjee. All writers I was aware of but had yet to read and, as a result, the event promised to be great value. And so it proved. Both Khan and Cann, and the host Dhand, filled me with a determination to read their books because of their frankness and enthusiasm for their genre and writing.
However, it was Mr M who made the most impact on me. Possibly it was down to the truly wonderful Glaswegian lilt in his voice or maybe it was his natty attire – light coloured jacket, blue shirt and dark trousers, worn in a casual and stylish manner, if you are asking – that hooked me. In reality, though, it was his wit and charm that sparked my interest in his work. That and his obvious passion and enthusiasm for his chosen subject. Suddenly, I was interested in post WWI India and the adventures of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee of the Calcutta Police Force.
I’m unsure if I left the seminar being any closer to finishing my own debut masterpiece, but I at least left with a determination to delve into Mr M’s debut. Isn’t it terrific when someone has the ability to enthuse you simply with the force of their spoken words? How they can spark your interest by their own passion?
So, I armed my self with a copy of “A Rising Man” and let the adventure roll over me. And what a fabulous “Boy’s Own” yarn it proved to be!
I have zero knowledge of the era or the city in which this tale is set, but Mr M brings the sounds and smells and sights of post war Calcutta rising from the pages to whisk you away to another time and place. Mr M’s writing is rich and evocative and he weaves his plot skilfully and takes you on a marvellous adventure into the politics and divisions of 1919 Calcutta. He creates vivid characters that you feel for and care about. Annie Grant is especially delightful and I look forward to reading more about this beautiful, enigmatic and stunning woman.
Captain Sam Wyndham is a flawed hero, but a hero non the less. He is complex yet simple, a hero we can believe in and root for. A thoroughly decent and a very likeable chap. He is also witty, Mr M seems to have injected his main character with some of his own traits! I like Sam a lot.
I liked this book immensely and tore through it in just a few days; I was happy to dive fast and deep into Wyndham’s world yet I was loathe to complete my journey too fast knowing this would mean the end would come far too soon. And I wanted this to go on. Thankfully, I have book two lined up as my next read and I look forward to spending more time with Sam, Annie and Banerjee soon in “A Necessary Evil”.
Abir Mukherjee is “A Rising Man” and this novel is a seriously enjoyable read, an absolute delight. Go buy yourself a copy today.