Set in the untamed wilds of nineteenth-century colonial India, this dazzling historical thriller introduces Blake and Avery—an unforgettable investigative pair.
India, 1837: William Avery is a young soldier with few prospects except rotting away in campaigns in India; Jeremiah Blake is a secret political agent gone native, a genius at languages and disguises, disenchanted with the whole ethos of British rule, but who cannot resist the challenge of an unresolved mystery. What starts as a wild goose chase for this unlikely pair—trying to track down a missing writer who lifts the lid on Calcutta society—becomes very much more sinister as Blake and Avery get sucked into the mysterious Thuggee cult and its even more ominous suppression.
There are shades of Heart of Darkness, sly references to Conan Doyle, that bring brilliantly to life the India of the 1830s with its urban squalor, glamorous princely courts and bazaars, and the ambiguous presence of the British overlords—the officers of the East India Company—who have their own predatory ambitions beyond London's oversight.
A FINALIST FOR THE EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL
A WASHINGTON POST NOTABLE BOOK
LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION
Colonial India in 1837 comes alive in Carter's superior fiction debut. Col. Patrick Buchanan, the chief military secretary of the Honorable East India Company in Calcutta, directs a former company officer, the Sherlock Holmes like Jeremiah Blake, to search for Xavier Mountstuart, the author of popular romance fiction rumored to be based on fact, who disappeared after visiting the headquarters of the company's thuggee department. The officer who runs this department is determined to rid the country of the threat from the murderous thuggee gangs. William Avery, a callow young company officer, is to accompany Blake. Buchanan warns Avery that while success will gain him whatever posting he desires, failure will doom him to end his days in the "most remote malarial hole in Bengal." The quest takes some surprising turns, and Carter (Anthony Blunt: His Lives) is masterly at keeping the reader guessing what's really going on. The final revelation is both jaw-dropping and plausible.