Saturday, 12 July 2014

Review: The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter


Book: The Strangler Vine

Author: M. J. Carter

Pages: 352

I Read: The paperback edition pictured above

I Read It In: 12 hours (across a couple of days)

Plot Summary: Calcutta 1837. The East India Company rules India - or most of it; and its most notorious and celebrated son, Xavier Mountstuart, has gone missing.

William Avery, a down-at-heel junior officer in the Company's army, is sent to find him, in the unlikely company of the enigmatic and uncouth Jeremiah Blake. A more mismatched duo couldn't be imagined, but they must bury their differences as they are caught up in a search that turns up too many unanswered questions and seems bound to end in failure.

What was it that so captivated Mountstuart about the Thugs, the murderous sect of Kali-worshippers who strangle innocent travellers by the roadside? Who is Jeremiah Blake and can he be trusted? And why is the whole enterprise shrouded in such secrecy?

In the dark heart of Company India, Avery will have to fight for his very life, and in defence of a truth he will wish he had never learned.


What I Liked: First of all, the premise and the setting. I love books set in the pre-1857 part of the Raj in India. It is an interesting perspective on how things were and how India was not even 'India' (the nation as we know it now) then. Also, the life and experiences of the early Brits in India makes for an interesting reading, especially, given how stark and different this part of the world is from theirs. 

I also like the two core protagonists of this book- Jeremiah Blake and William Avery. They were contrasts in the sense that Jeremiah had immersed himself in the languages, culture and the way of life in India, whereas Avery (in accordance to what the East India Company dictated) kept a safe distance from anything Indian- people, way of life, culture etc. The two of them clashed at multiple levels and their journey across rural India in search of Xavier Mountstuart. 

The various people they meet on their journey and their varied experiences as they leave the urban areas behind them also make for a thrilling read. Of course, the mystery at the center of all this- the Thuggies- a sect of violent thieves- are also very fascinating! 

The pace of the book is crisp and there is no unnecessary meandering or focusing on characters and narratives that are not core to the story. You are never bored! 

What I Didn't Like: Not much, really. I wish, however, that there was a bit more focus on the actual investigation that Jeremiah conducted. Much as I liked Avery, I was more interested in following Jeremiah around- he was much more interesting. 

Would You Like It: If you enjoy historical fiction and a mix of history and crime, then this is a good book to pick up! 

Rating: 4/5 


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