The adventures of Sam Wyndham and Surrender-Not continue in this third installment of the series by Abir Mukherjee. I haven’t read the other two but I had no trouble jumping right into the adventure in 1920s Calcutta.

Set in the uneasy era between Queen Victoria’s stabling reign and the uprising of anti-colonial leaders, Sam Wyndham has the unenviable job of keeping the peace among rising tensions. His partner, Surrender-Not Banerjee is a native and must walk the thin line of being an Indian and working for the colonizers.

Wyndham finds a dead body on the roof of an opium den but cannot admit that he was there (he narrowly avoided the raid and it would never do for a British police officer to have such a habit). Matters become even more complicated when the body disappears.

We walked out of the slum and back towards the thana, the sweet tobacco smoke helping to mask both the stench of the place and also my fraying nerves. It wasn’t just the usual cravings that were beginning to bite, it was also the feeling that someone was toying with me: the first raid in months on an opium den occurs just when I happen to be there; a murder which one reports and where the body disappears; and now this poor woman turns up dead bearing the same wounds as the dead Chinaman. And out of all the detectives in Lal Bazar, the case just happens to fall to me. I had trouble accepting the notion that I’d simply become embroiled in a series of random events — wrong time, wrong place. ~ Pg. 98

Wyndham’s hard-boiled tone wanes as the novel goes on, however. As the narrator toward the end, he sounds more like an older man reliving a war story than a wizened copper. But the action picks up significantly in the last third and the reader is more concerned with following the pair across town, trying to prevent an attempt on the Prince of Wales’ life.

Mukherjee finds a way to telling a ripping tale while giving a sketch of a unique time.

My thanks to Pegasus Books for the review copy.

My rating:

Series: Wyndham & Banerjee Series (Book 3)
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Pegasus Books; 1 edition (March 5, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1643130145
ISBN-13: 978-1643130149

2 thoughts on “SMOKE AND ASHES by Abir Mukherjee”

  1. I accidentally read this one without having read anything else in the series! It was a fun read, although I maybe would have loved it better if it had been from Surrender-Not’s point of view. I was so curious about what he thought of everything that was happening!

    1. Me too! And I would have liked to know more about Surrender-Not’s thoughts (maybe alternating narratives), although maybe we learn more about him in earlier books — which I’m now definitely going to read.

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