Death In The East by Abir Mukherjee – Blog Tour – Extract.

About The Book

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 . . .

Extract

Mainly with the women patients, naturally, but also in the kitchens at times. She’s a real interest in things: from the running of the ashram to the preparation of the herbal cures.’

‘Careful,’ I said. ‘Next thing you know you’ll have her converting to Hinduism and I’m not sure her husband would approve.’

Shankar’s expression darkened. ‘No fear. She’s shown no interest in that.’

Through the window behind him, I saw Emily Carter cross the courtyard to where a large black car stood waiting. At her approach, a chauffeur exited the car with alacrity and quickly opened the rear door. She graced him with a smile then she lowered her head and disappeared inside. The driver closed the door behind her, and made his way to his own seat. The engine growled to life and within seconds the car was heading for the ashram gates, throwing a halo of dust skywards in its wake.

With the memory of Mrs Carter lingering pleasantly in my head, and with time to spare before lunch, I left Brother Shankar and went off in search of the ashram library. The room was larger than I’d expected, though what expectations I should have of an ashram library are still unclear to me. Three walls were lined from floor to ceiling with shelves of religious texts. There was something for everyone, assuming you liked your literature with a theological bent, from thick, hide-bound, hand-printed tomes with covers decorated with fine filigree detailing, to the flimsy, mass-produced, badly bound paperbacks that every book-wallah in Calcutta’s College Street sold by the barrowload for a few annas each.

I wondered why Adler had suggested I come here. It was obvious I was no scholar of Sanskrit, and even if I had been interested in learning the Hindu holy texts, today was hardly the most auspicious occasion on which to start. Then I noticed that a few dusty shelves near the bottom of one wall contained a number of books in English, and to my joy, these weren’t even religious tomes.

I knelt down, scanned them quickly and smiled. Towards the end of one row was a title I recognised. I wiped the dust from the spine. The Four Just Men. It was a detective novel published back in 1905. I knew, because I’d bought it the week it had come out. It had been a bestseller, not because it was any good, but because the author, Edgar Wallace, had left out the last chapter. Instead he’d advertised in the Daily Mail, offering £250 for the correct solution to the crime. Of course Wallace, like most writers, overestimated his own intelligence. For a start, the solution wasn’t that hard to figure out – as a young beat copper in the East End of London at the time, I’d managed it and duly wrote in to the Mail. More importantly, Wallace forgot to state there would be only one winner, so anyone who wrote in with the right answer was entitled to the money. The upshot was that Wallace went bankrupt, and seventeen years on, I was still waiting for my £250.

I picked up the book and walked back to the dormitory, lay on my bunk, and to the hum of prayers and the twitter of birds, I opened the book. ‘If you leave the Plaza del Mina, go down the narrow street, where, from ten till four, the big flag of the United States Consulate hangs lazily . . .’

I closed the book and placed it on my chest. It was strange how 1905 kept cropping up. Since arriving in Assam, it seemed as though an unseen presence was directing my thoughts back to that year: the figure at Lumding station; the memories of Bessie Drummond; the compassion shown by the Jew, Adler; and now this book.

1905. The year I hadn’t been strong enough. I felt I was reading entrails, portents of something ominous. A religious man might have seen in them the hand of God or gods, and after all, here I was in an ashram dedicated to Kali the Destroyer. Was this all part of some supernatural reckoning? The past, they say, catches up with us all. Maybe it had finally caught up with me.

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