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A Necessary Evil

by Abir Mukherjee

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Wyndham and Banerjee (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
21316100,122 (3.97)25
India, 1920. The fabulously wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore is home to tigers, elephants, diamond mines, and the beautiful Palace of the Sun. But when the heir to the throne is assassinated in the presence of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant 'Surrender-Not' Banerjee, they discover a kingdom riven with suppressed conflict. Prince Adhir was a modernizer whose attitudes--and romantic relationships--may have upset the more religious elements of his country, while his brother--now in line to the throne--appears to be a feckless playboy. As Wyndham and Banerjee desperately try to unravel the mystery behind the assassination, they become entangled in a dangerous world where those in power live by their own rules--and those who cross their paths pay with their lives. They must find a murderer, before the murderer finds them . . .… (more)
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» See also 25 mentions

English (15)  French (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Thanks to my librarian friend who pointed me towards this series, beginning with A Rising Man. Mukherjee, whose family hails from Kolkata, grew up in Scotland and lives in London, so he has the cred to write about both Brits and Indians, and gives us a trenchant, wry view of both sides of the cultural divide in 1920 British-ruled India. By profession an accountant, he also has the business savvy to use corporate and international affairs to drive his plots, and a terrific grasp of historical detail. All of which set up some atmospheric, brooding, politically and socially charged intrigue, colorfully described... which mostly make up for a rather dour, morose main character with an opium habit, pretty much like most other "noir" detectives.

This one is possibly not as good as Rising Man, though. Pacing can be slow, with too much attention paid to people's clothes, opulent (he likes that word) furniture, enormous amounts of alcohol, and a lot of "I'll meet you later, there's something I need to do / somewhere I need to go / someone I need to see first" exit lines. A tortuous plot, a tiger hunt (kinda wish he'd spared us that), elephant executioners, red herrings, monsoons, dramatic religious festivals, and a soap opera's worth of erratic royals all make it an entertaining read, with a delightfully satisfactory surprise ending. I feel like I might actually want to read some of the historical sources he references in the acknowledgements, as he does bring to life a tumultuous and complex period of history. I might also recommend that Sam Wyndham seek a consult with a gastroenterologist, as he seems prone to many spasms, twists, flips, punches, twinges, etc. in his stomach and/or gut. And please, let's see the last of Annie Grant, beautiful (of course...), cryptic, smug, coy, and *very* annoying.

Overall, an enjoyable couple of evening's reading, and I will definitely be checking out the third one. Mukherjee has a knack for this and may well get better as he goes and masters this craft. ( )
  JulieStielstra | May 17, 2021 |
Well, I'm pretty addicted to these now. Tightly plotted in a well-realized setting, with enjoyable characters (though I am pretty sick of Sam constantly moping over Anna). ( )
  bishnu83 | Apr 6, 2021 |
Fantastic! I loved the play with words and the similes. It's a great read. ( )
  jeanbmac | Jul 28, 2020 |
Calcutta, 1920.India is going trough an agitated period.The Congress Party is having more and more supporters and even non-followers believe that the British Rule is past its use by date. In these confusing times Prince Adhir,crown Prince of Sambalpore is murdered after an official ceremony with the Viceroy. Soon after this,the killer takes his own life. Captain Wyndham and his Indian sergeant Surendranath(a Harrow and Cambridge man no less and a friend of the murdered prince )find that all tracks lead to Sambalpore, a small kingdom with the added benefit of fabulous diamond mines. There is definitely no lack of suspects,reasons or intrigues and the investigation is not as obvious as expected. The outcome is surprising and interesting. But what makes this an absolute wonderful book is the atmosphere. The colonial house of the British Resident, of course the palace of the Maharaja, the temples,the religious festivals,the lifestyle of this royal family, eunuchs and the zenana,the monsoon period,a golden locomotive loaded with bottles of champagne that runs the length of the dinner table,the gossip and the decline of both the British Raj and these small kingdoms.
A wonderful Indian mystery story !
www.booksdogsandcats.wordpress.com ( )
  Obi2015 | Jul 19, 2020 |
Solid Followup to "A Rising Man"
Review of the Random House Audiobook edition (2017) simulaneously released with the hardcover

This is the continuing adventures of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant "Surrender Not" Banerjee in 1920's British Raj India. This 2nd case takes the pair to the kingdom of Sambalpore where they seek to uncover the background to an assassination conspiracy. The historical aspects of this felt completely authentic and Wyndham and Banerjee make a great team. Author Mukherjee explains in an Afternote the actual historical basis of some of the plot elements.

The previously unpublished Mukherjee won the Telegraph Harvill Sacker Crime Writing Competition for "A Rising Man" (2017) and has now gone on to write 4 books in the series. ( )
  alanteder | Feb 11, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mukherjee, Abirprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Plassmann, JensTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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It's not often you see a man with a diamond in his beard.
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India, 1920. The fabulously wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore is home to tigers, elephants, diamond mines, and the beautiful Palace of the Sun. But when the heir to the throne is assassinated in the presence of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant 'Surrender-Not' Banerjee, they discover a kingdom riven with suppressed conflict. Prince Adhir was a modernizer whose attitudes--and romantic relationships--may have upset the more religious elements of his country, while his brother--now in line to the throne--appears to be a feckless playboy. As Wyndham and Banerjee desperately try to unravel the mystery behind the assassination, they become entangled in a dangerous world where those in power live by their own rules--and those who cross their paths pay with their lives. They must find a murderer, before the murderer finds them . . .

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Haiku summary
Un tigre, des diamants
Plusieurs princes assassinés
Sous les yeux des prêtres
(Tiercelin)

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