Book Review: Death in the East

Abir Mukherjee

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

published: 14th November 2019
spoilers? nope


Calcutta police detective Captain Sam Wyndham and his quick-witted Indian Sergeant, Surrender-not Banerjee, are back for another rip-roaring adventure set in 1920s India.

1905, London. As a young constable, Sam Wyndham is on his usual East London beat when he comes across an old flame, Bessie Drummond, attacked in the streets. The next day, when Bessie is found brutally beaten in her own room, locked from the inside, Wyndham promises to get to the bottom of her murder. But the case will cost the young constable more than he ever imagined.

1922, India. Leaving Calcutta, Captain Sam Wyndham heads for the hills of Assam, to the ashram of a sainted monk where he hopes to conquer his opium addiction. But when he arrives, he sees a ghost from his life in London – a man thought to be long dead, a man Wyndham hoped he would never see again.

Wyndham knows he must call his friend and colleague Sergeant Banerjee for help. He is certain this figure from his past isn’t here by coincidence. He is here for revenge…

Galley provided by publisher

CWs: period typical racism and antisemitism

I love mysteries, and I especially love historical mysteries, so that, combined with my love of this series up until now, meant that I was always expecting to enjoy this book. Which I did! A whole lot.

In Death in the East, we get to see more of Sam Wyndham’s backstory, through the first case he ever worked on as a constable. That storyline is interspersed by the present day, with Sam’s efforts to get clean from opium. As such, there’s not really a present day mystery for a good chunk of the book. But that’s okay, because it’s so well done, the switching between his first mystery and his current developing one.

As with the previous three books, the writing and the characters are amazing. The writing draws you in, builds the tension, and the characters keep you going because you want to find out more and more. Especially near the end when we see the way Banerjee and Wyndham’s relationship has changed (and what Suren asks at the end! We’re in for it now!). Because unlike the rest of the books, where the mystery in part drives the story, this one is almost fully driven by the characters (at least until the last quarter or so where the present day mystery starts to unfold). And, actually, I think it works really well here. You know the characters well enough to (hopefully) be invested in them by now so it doesn’t drag like it might if you didn’t. (If any of that makes sense because I’m definitely rambling with very little point right now.)

In fact, I don’t think there was anything I actively disliked about this book (besides maybe Wyndham’s complete uselessness around beautiful women which, firstly is a whole mood, but secondly, Jesus Sam can you do your job already?). This series is one I will devour every book of, and Abir Mukherjee is fast becoming one of my favourite mystery writers (if not already there).

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