Cover Image: The Waiter

The Waiter

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Member Reviews

For me this book was an OK read. Translation was needed for some words in this book and it would have been good if it was provided. There are a few holes in the plot.
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All Kamil Rahman wanted to be was a detective like his father, honest and serving the law.  He seemed to have it all, promotion, a beautiful fiancee and the opportunity to investigate a high profile murder in Kolkata.  Then it all crashed down around him, he lost his job, his reputation and the woman he loved and now he is working illegally as a waiter in the London restaurant owned by family friends.  However when a billionaire is murdered at a party Kamil is working at his worlds collide and instinct takes over.
I didn't expect this book to be as good as it turned out to be after reading the first third or so.  The pace is quite slow and there is a lot of language which can be difficult for someone who doesn't understand Hindi.  However this adds to the authenticity and the plot seems very far-fetched suddenly takes an unexpected and quite mundane turn which actually makes it more enjoyable.  The culture-clash aspects are handled really well, particularly the sexual exploitation of both sexes in a #metoo reference and the 'western' behaviour - I loved the bit where Rahman shaved off his moustache!  Hopefully there will be more
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This I enjoyed - a totally original entry into the genre of thriller writing. I loved the juxtaposition of England and London in terms of people, place and culture as Kamil Rahman working now as a waiter in Brick Lane after falling from grace uses his experience as a detective in India to solve a murder.

The writing is lucid and the plot compelling. This was a real discovery and hopefully the first in a series.
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All I can say is, what a debut The Waiter is! I genuinely loved this book from start to finish, from the introduction of a stand out character in Kamil Rahman. and the way that the story explores the weighty themes of family loyalty, jealousy and betrayal, as well as being an intriguing and different murder mystery. Rahman undergoes somewhat of a sea change by relocating to the UK after his previous career as a detective in Kolkata, and what Rahman captures so wonderfully well is not only this exceptional change in his personal circumstances, but how it now shapes him as a man reliant on the kindness of the others, a kindness that he is more than happy to repay by investigating the murder of someone in their circle. To all intents and purposes, Rahman is a man driven by his own sense of morality, and I particularly enjoyed the way that this morality got a little more fluid as the plot progressed. Egged on by his vivacious sidekick, Anjoli, who is a total force of nature, Rahman starts to play a little bit dirty to flush out a killer, and things get very interesting, very quickly.

I really liked the way that Chowdhury so beautifully captures the buzz and hum of the  Brick Lane area, and its colourful history, but also the energy and vivacity of Kolkata, a society of defined by its extremes in wealth and opportunity, as Rahman finds himself returning home and revisiting past events. An incredibly solid debut, which bodes well as a start of a series I hope, and perfect for fans of  the equally brilliant A. A. Dhand and Khurrum Rahman. Recommended.
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Really enjoyable debut focused on a former Kolkata detective now working as a waiter in a Brick Lane curry house following an initially undisclosed investigation  that lost him his job and his safety at home. Embroiled in a murder investigation in London, the two timelines unspool in parallel. No one will be surprised that there’s a connection, the fun is in seeing how it plays out.

Rahman is a great central character - principled, naive and with great skills - it was inevitable he’d come undone. The two settings are well drawn with a distinct atmosphere and sense of place in each. Highly recommended
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Kamil is a frustrated detective who works in his uncle's restaurant on London's Brick Lane as a waiter following an investigation into the murder of a famous celebrity in Kolkata that didn't work out as well as he had hoped. Now he has been asked to work at the 60th birthday party of a wealthy friend of his uncle. Events take an unexpected turn and Kamil is called upon to use his detective skills again. 

This is a pact, exciting whodunnit story, told using two timelines and follows two investigations - one current and one in the past. Kamil is faced with yet another difficult challenge but discovers more about judgement than he ever thought he would. Great plot, skillful writing with an original and unlikely twist!
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The Waiter is a stunning debut. It's got an original plot that keeps you guessing and a back story that;s expertly weaved to add so much depth. It's one you will not want to put down until you've reached the final page,
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It’s a deftly crafted novel that can balance great characters (especially for their first outing) and an incredible plot. The Waiter is that book. In a crowded crime fiction market, this is a real stand out. 

Kamil is a former Sub-Inspector of the Kolkata Police. Son of a high ranking officer, we join him after he has relocated to London to wait tables in the restaurant of family friends. Told over 2 timelines, the Kolkata case that brought Kamil to London; and a murder that he becomes embroiled in in London, both weave together with great skill and tension. The main characters are a joy. The wider ensemble bring a huge amount of colour. And it also sparkles with humour throughout. 

A highly recommended 4.5* and deserved winner at Bloody Scotland. 

Thanks to Harvill Secker and Netgalley for the ARC.
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The Waiter is the first instalment in a brand new crime fiction series featuring larger than life, tenacious protagonist and former detective Kamil Rahman. Son of the retired Kolkata Police Commissioner, Ex-Sub Inspector Kamil Rahman was forced to leave his native India under a dark cloud after disgracing himself during a case. When Bollywood star Asif Khan was brutally murdered and Kamil’s superiors pull him from the ranks to lead the investigation he runs with it - seeing it as his opportunity to not only make his father proud but live up to the Rahman name, too. However, his investigation went south and he was swiftly fired which is how he ended up working illegally as the eponymous waiter at the Tandoori Knights restaurant in London's Brick Lane owned by his father's friend Saibal Chatterjee; he now lives with him and his wife, Maya, and daughter, Anjoli. There's no denying that they have really stepped up to help Kamil in his time of need but he still feels completely lost, as though he's taken a wrong turn in life and cannot reverse. He misses his profession and wonders to himself if there'll ever be an opportunity to show his worth as a detective again. Then rather serendipitously a murder occurs; Kamil attends wealthy businessman Rakesh Sharma's 60th birthday celebration at his swanky north London mansion as one of the waiters for the indulgent party but the host has now been discovered dead beside the swimming pool with his head caved in, seemingly by a whisky bottle. Rakesh had recently divorced his wife, Pinky, and married the 28-year-old, Neha, who happened to be good friends with Anjoli. So when the newly-widowed Neha becomes the prime suspect, she is arrested for her husband's murder. 

DI Campbell is in charge of the investigation, but Kamil and the irrepressible Anjoli realise they must conduct their own probe into the case if they have any hope of clearing Neha’s name and identifying the genuine perpetrator. It soon comes to Kamil’s attention that there is a connection between what happened on the Khan case back in Kolkata the previous summer and Rakesh’s murder half a world away. But Kamil knows better than anyone the way the justice system ”works” in India. Can Kamil and Anjoli find out the truth and get to the bottom of the case without putting themselves squarely in the line of fire? This is a scintillating and enthralling debut thriller but not only that, it is rich in Indian culture, food and atmosphere. But while there are many positive aspects of Kolkata depicted throughout, Chowdhury also explores the rampant corruption within India’s police ranks with many known to take bribes. Kamil Rahman is revealed as a likeable man – and morally sound detective – only he got his career start in a country riddled with a police force and judicial system that doesn't often take kindly to those who are honest hard workers looking to deliver real justice. I found this to be fantastic crime fiction with a refreshingly original setting in vibrant, vivid and bustling Kolkata with the whole narrative being linked to the country. Its complex dual plotline is exhilarating, intelligent and had a whole lot of substance to it compared to other thrillers. On a deeper level, The Waiter is a study of the two sides of corruption. One side is kindly, concerned with the protection and promotion of intimates (e.g. nepotism); the other is cruel and greedy, involved in the destruction of the innocent, the ruination of the powerless and the overriding of every honest impulse. Highly recommended.
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WOW, just WOW. One of the best debut I read in some times, an enthralling and gripping story featuring a great characters.
A mix of cultures and languages, tightly knitted and fast pace plot, great characters.
Can't wait to read another book by this author.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Meticulously Drawn....
A disgraced detective, a tumultuous past and crimes new and old combine in this outstanding debut novel and the first of a new series. With a meticulously well drawn cast of characters, a refreshing protagonist, perfectly placed atmospherics and an utterly compelling storyline, deftly managed, this is a page turner from the first to last page. Superb.
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In 2019, Ajay Chowdhury won the inaugural Harvill Secker/Bloody Scotland award aimed at discovering new crime writers from underrepresented communities. The Waiter, which appears at first to be two crime novels for the price of one, is Chowdhury’s debut crime novel (he had previously published a children’s book. And along the way it tips its hat to the crime greats and what appears to be Chowdhury’s inspirations for his plot and characters.
The book opens with a frenetic and confusing cold open in which a number of characters are hurriedly introduced and the body of Rakesh Sharma is found by his swimming pool. The narrator of this scene, and of the book itself, is the waiter Kamil Sharma who turns out to be a detective from Kolkata cooling his heels in London after some sort of disgrace in his home town. The narrative will catch up to that opening scene – setting out how Kamil works in the Restaurant of old family friends Saibal and Maya but also the first steps in the disastrous investigation in Kolkata. In this way Chowdhury provides two investigations for the price of one – Kamil as the amateur sleuth trying to clear the name of Rakesh’s wife, accused of the murder, and Kamil as a sub-Inspector with a father famous in the police service, charged with investigating the death of a Bollywood star and learning the depths of Indian corruption the hard way.
The Waiter builds solidly on the tropes of all of the predecessors. While claiming that life is not like an Agatha Christie novel, the murder of Rakesh is a pure Agatha Christie set up – a party full of possible suspects at the house prior to the murder, family tensions including a trophy wife and a Cinderella-style clue grasped in the hand of the dead man – and its ultimate solution is pure crime novel (and not worth thinking about for too long). The Kolkata investigation is a little more hard boiled procedural but it is hard to believe that Kamil was so naïve as to think that there would not be political interference. The connections between the two strands are hinted at through the text.
The Waiter is an enjoyable crime debut that brings a distinct voice to some well worn crime fiction alleyways. Chowdhury captures both London and Kolkata, and the very distinct differences between them, well, and the food smells almost burst from the page. Kamil is supported by an interesting range of side characters including his “offsider” Anjoli, some Bollywood stars and Rakesh’s ex wife Pinky. And while his future seems to be in the restaurant business it would not be surprising if Kamil were to be back sleuthing at some point in the future.
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His former life a total mess, detective Kamil Rahman quite unexpectedly finds himself waiting tables at an Indian restaurant in London. Her literally had to flee from Kolkata since he totally messed up a high profile case. Now, an old friend of his father’s boards and employs him. When they cater a party at the multi-millionaire Rakesh, Kamil senses a lot of hatred coming from that man towards him even though he has never met him before. A couple of hours later, Rakesh is found dead in his mansion’s swimming-pool and his current wife Neha, three decades his junior and close friend of Kamil’s hosts’ daughter Anjoli, is accused of murder. Immediately, Kamil’s instincts jump in and he tries to figure out what has happened. But with the start of his investigation, also the memories of what drove him from his home town comes back.

Ajay Chowdhury’s novel is a very cleverly constructed mystery which links two seemingly unconnected crimes and events on two continents in a skilful way. By telling bits of both stories alternatingly, you advance and yet, for quite a long time, do not really get the whole picture which keeps suspense high at all times. At the same time, the story lives on the characters and their live between two cultures which are not always easy to bring together.

Without any doubt, the protagonist and his conviction of law and order and fighting for the right is the most striking feature of the novel. Seeing how his world view, which was more or less just black and white, slowly becomes blurred and he starts to question all he has ever believed in, is a great character development, especially for a mystery novel. 

Both murder cases are highly complex and can only be sorted out by a very sharp mind – yet, knowing the truth does not mean that it will also win ultimately. A lesson which Kamil learns the hard way. 

An intriguing read that I thoroughly enjoyed.
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Kamil Rahman was an up and coming detective in his native Kolkata when there was an incident. And that's all I'm saying about that... Suffice to say, this incident, forced him to flee his home and run to England where, when we first meet up with him, he is working - illegally - as a waiter for a family friend who owns a restaurant. Things are mostly ticking along for him, well as much as his fall from grace allows, until that is he helps cater a party for a rich and powerful man. A man who is later that evening, after a shock announcement, found dead. The fingers of suspicion start to point in various directions, settling finally on the dead man's young wife, Neha. And it is at this point that Kamil's training really kicks up a notch as he is asked by his host family to investigate as they know Neha must be innocent. But as Kamil starts his task it soon appears that there is so much more to what happened than on face value and that his past is swiftly becoming his present once again...
This book was a bit of a slow burn for me. It did take me a while to get into the author's writing style. Not only that but the prose is peppered with colloquial terms, some of which are explained, others easily guessed, but I did find that initially a bit jarring and it took me a little out of the story. That said, it did settle down as I got used to it so I would definitely say it's worth persevering with.
Told in two timelines with Kamil's past shenanigans adding colour, clarity and background to what is happening in the present in just the right times and amounts to well complement what is happening in the now. We follow him as he teams up with the daughter of the family he is staying with, Anjoli, who is a brilliantly crafted and very quirky character. This also means that we get two for the price of one mystery-wise as both timelines could actually be main plots in themselves but are afforded equal billing here and, as they are well managed and balanced, neither threatens to overrun the other.
As I was reaching the end of the book, as the two threads stopped meandering around each other as they started to merge and resolve, I started thinking about the two main characters and thinking that I really hope we haven't seen the last of them, that this is a series opener. Boy I hope so as I really enjoyed this book (once I got myself sorted with the style) and fingers crossed I might be right. Would be great if true. My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
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A very good debut with the two centres of London and Kolkata making for an interesting narrative and comparison of policing. I found the dialogue a bit stilted at times, but overall a page turner, and it will be interesting to see if Kamil returns in a further book
Thank you to netgalley and random house for an advance copy of this book.
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The classic detective trope is given a new makeover in this refreshing debut crime novel by Ajay Chowdhury. 

A restaurant waiter working illegally in London takes charge in leading a murder investigation of a multi-millionaire found dead in his own home. An unusual role for Kamil Rahman to take on but his interest in solving crimes isn’t a mere pastime. It’s a passion that remains in him as he was a trueblood detective back in Kolkata, his home city. His move to London wasn’t a choice but out of necessity and the story behind it takes up almost half the novel.

In The Waiter, Kamil hit the ground running after a desperate cry for help from Neha, glamorous new wife of Rakesh, the deceased multi-millionaire. His death looked like an accident at first but further police probing pointed the finger at Neha. Kamil was waitering at a dinner in the home when this incident happened. When he heard the news his investigative instincts quickly kicked in and got to work despite being told to stay off the case by the police. Kamil soon found that this wasn’t a simple murder case. He had to delve deeper into Rakesh’s business enterprises and practices because he had doubts about how Rakesh made his money. Kamil’s probe revealed shocking relationships between Rakesh and his father, his boss and the police authorities back in Kolkata. And it soon became clear why he was unceremoniously sacked from his job in Kolkata.

Chowdhury did a remarkable job as a first-time author with The Waiter. There’s plenty of intrigue, suspense, seemingly good characters, and bad characters, of course. The story held my attention from start to the startling finale. The heady mix of Indian and English cultures and crime in a cosmopolitan city gives the story setting a unique flavour. Even as a crime is being solved the reader gets a taste of Bengali cuisine and conversations. However, some of these conversations are left untranslated. This omission has left me quite frustrated not knowing what was being said. A trifling complaint perhaps, but it needs to be noted.

A note of thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC. I'm leaving this review voluntarily.
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I am not normally a reader of police / crime thrillers, but, was intrigued by the difference of this premise.
Kamil Rahman is having a difficult time. He was a really good detective in his hometown of Kolkata but had to leave in suspicious circumstances; which are revealed as the book progresses. 
He finds himself living with a family and working as an illegal waiter; then he becomes embroiled in a murder.

It's really well written and the characters are vivid and interesting, as is the description of London's Brick Lane through the eyes of an immigrant.

The story flows really well with chapters describing the history of the lead character in Kolkata alongside his current experiences and it's rich with Indian references; cultural and gastronomic and it's mouthwateringly good! Congratulations to the author and I look forward to reading more about this interesting character.

Thanks to Random House UK, Vintage via NetGalley for the opportunity to preview.
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You’re going to want to read this book.
If you pick it up in the morning, clear out your schedule for the rest of the day. 
If you book it up at night, say goodbye to your sleep. 
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
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Having been to Kolkata I was disappointed with the lack of sense of place in this book.  The story is written in two interwoven threads, in London and a few months earlier in Kolkata.  It is mainly dialogue and the lack of descriptions frustrated me after a while.
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It’s always fun when a novel features places you know well, and I was familiar with many of the London locations in this mystery – from Brick Lane to Bishops Avenue.   Kamil Rahman is a detective, who, due to a case in Kolkata, has found himself disgraced, ousted, and working illegally as a waiter for Tandoori Knights – ‘Keep Calm and Curry On….’

Kamil’s father is the retired Commission of Police in Kolkata, so, despite wanting to work his way up from traffic duty to homicide squad, finding himself with his career in freefall, has been something of a shock.  The owner of the restaurant is Saibal Chatterjee, his father’s friend, who has taken him in to live with his wife, Maya, and daughter Anjoli.  Kamil likes to keep himself busy to avoid thinking of the sudden, disastrous turn his life has taken, and happily agrees to help at a party for a friend of Saibal, the wealthy Rakesh, who has left previous wife, Pinky, for the much younger Neha - Anjoli’s friend, and purchased a new mansion with dubious decorating taste on Bishops Avenue.

When Rakesh is found dead shortly after the party, Neha is the obvious suspect and Kamil is asked to investigate and clear her name.  He joins up with the irrepressible Anjoli and, despite events, is obviously excited at the chance to do something more exciting than wait tables.   As the story unfolds, we read of what happened the previous summer in Kolkata, leading to Kamil finding himself working illegally in an Indian restaurant and whether there could be links between what happened there and London.   Overall, a really interesting start to what could become a series, with an excellent lead character and setting.   I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
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