Cover Image: The Shadows of Men

The Shadows of Men

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In these troubled times, reading is the ultimate balm to soothe the soul, and allows your mind to be transported to other countries, other lives and different worlds. This series by Abir Mukherjee is a constant delight, and one of the few where I genuinely wait in anticipation for the next instalment. Set in 1920s India before the end of British empirical rule, and featuring Captain Sam Wyndham and his trusty Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee, Mukherjee once again immerses us in a vivid and captivating tale of murder, social unrest and derring-do, and this one has more than a few additional surprises in store…

It is so intrinsically important when reading historical books, whatever genre they are based in, to truly transport the reader to the time, setting and atmosphere of the particular period and location of the book. Mukherjee consistently achieves this with his portrayal of Calcutta, and later in the book Bombay, in a time of racial tension, religious conflict, and the unbridgeable gap between the richest and poorest in society. These societies are literally powder kegs of tension and frustration, as the conflict between Hindu and Muslim intensifies, compounded by the underlying resentment and exploitation of British rule. Rioting, violence and protest erupts, the city burns and the casualties are many, with the British having little clue how to control this situation, and meeting violence with violence.

“Then came the religious riots, in towns and cities up and down the country. We, for our part, gave it a name: communalism, which was a nice, polite term for the indiscriminate butchery of people who happened to worship a different god.” 

Against this backdrop, Wyndham and Banerjee become immersed in a murderous conspiracy that can only lead to an even more severe escalation of tension, and an investigation that will have dangerous ramifications for them both.

I really enjoyed the way that Mukherjee put more of the spotlight on Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee in this book, and although we are aware of his more intuitive and compassionate characteristics from previous instalments, this book really allows him to demonstrate not only the more gullible side of his character but also his fortitude and ingenuity in extracting himself from some incredibly tricky predicaments. As a consequence of this Wyndham assumes more of the role of bagman, continuing at times to be “an irritating arse” as one character comments, and it was good to see the shift in influence as the book progresses, as each then have to form a united front again to avert the dangerous consequences of the investigation they are immersed in. It should be noted though that in times of extreme peril for them both, a couple of steadfast and resilient female characters help ease the path of their investigation- art mirroring life once again, and adding another frisson to the unfolding story. I have a huge affection for Wyndham and Banerjee, with the complexities of their professional and personal relationship, and the honesty and gentle joshing that exists between them, which cements their unquestioning loyalty and trust in each other. Bear this in mind as the closing chapters hit home…

For anyone who has tuned into Abir Mukherjee/Vaseem Khan’s podcast-The Red Hot Chilli Writers– you will no doubt be aware that Mukherjee is a wee bit of a comedian, and once again there are some wonderful little moments of self-deprecating humour within the book. The casual observance that any social event will attract writers, especially thriller writers, if there is free drink involved, and the sheer tedium experienced by women who chose to marry accountants- “well, who doesn’t marry an accountant and end up regretting it?” Wyndham’s laconic wit is once again in evidence throughout this one, and the spiky humorous retorts of Banerjee are always a pleasure with their perfect comic timing.

The Shadows Of Men may have been a long time coming with a publication delay, but so worth waiting a couple of years for. Vivid, atmospheric, packed with historical detail and bolstered further by superb characterisation and sharp injections of wit, this really was a perfect read. As ever highly recommended, and desperate to know what will happen next in this consistently excellent series.
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Time is running out for Surendranath, being on the wrong side of an investigation is an unusual experience and one that will have major repercussions for not only his friendship with Sam but his highly politically charged community. 
Changing the perspectives throughout the story gave more depth to the trials faced by our intrepid heroes and gave the reader a bigger connection to a character that deserves more time on the page.  To me, Surendranath is a much more captivating personality than Sam so it was fantastic that he got a chance to be more in the spotlight.  The tension of the battle within himself and the various players in the twisty investigation was highly addictive.  
That surprising ending left me bereft and wondering where Mukherjee will take us and the people of Calcutta next.  He has set the bar pretty high with the quality of this story and I can’t wait to see what delights will be lurking within the pages of his next novel.
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My first Abir Mukherjee and I loved it. Although this is part of a series it can very much stand one it’s own. Can’t praise it enough and it’s made me want to read the entire series which I plan to do as soon as possible.
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A slow start to this book, I felt, particularly compared with others in the series. That said, it picked up pace and had the solid characterisation and finely nuanced depiction of life in India by the final two thirds. Thoughtful but not my favourite, nor the best, of the series.
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Imperial Force police officers Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee must track down the suspects who are are accused of committing a bloodbath. Set in Calcutta in 1923 this is not only a crime story but one set against a time of heightened political tension .

In short I loved this book; I am partial to crime stories but with this story set in India in 1923 the political elements of the time added to my interest in the book;  a very engaging and interesting read.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review
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Set in Calcutta in 1923 The Shadows of Men is one of a series featuring Captain Sam Wyndham and Sgt. Suren Banerjee.  A religious leader is murdered and Suren, who had been investigating what a visiting politician was up to is arrested and charged with the murder. This seems like the end of the road for our duo but is just the start of a roller coaster ride to Bombay and back.  Its hugely entertaining and captures the light hearted feel of the Twenties.  It also allows for some reflection on the ethics of colonialism and religious difference, without being irritatingly preachy.
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This is my first encounter with Mukherjee’s series of novels set in Colonial-era India and it certainly fulfils its promise of capturing the sights and sounds of a Calcutta (to use its then Colonial-era name) from the early years of the twentieth century. Other reviewers have commented on the fast pace of the narrative and this was again demonstrated from the earliest pages. For this reader, however, the device of using two narrators was somewhat clumsy and the writing felt rather staccato and lacking fluency. The plot was reasonably complex and wove together the tragedy of the religious schism within Indian society, which was to reach a high water in all its hideousness in the aftermath of partition. However, it did feel rather strained to this reader.
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Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to read all of the books in this series, I have only read the first, but this book was easily read as a standalone novel, and made me more determined to read the books that I haven’t had the time to read.

The novel is dual narrative with both Sam and Suren revealing the predicament they face. It is evident immediately to the reader the danger that Suren faces,in many ways before he does. His accusers are British, he is Indian and despite him being a police officer he is in danger of going to the gallows. Regardless of the fact that he is innocent. The more you read Suren’s account, you see how betrayed he feels by the system and by his colleagues who just assume he is guilty because of his religion.

With Sam, you see the determination to prove that Suren is innocent, the frustration at some of the decisions made and his increasing reliance on some brilliant female characters. 

Because I haven’t read all of this series it was a joy to see Sam without his opium addiction. I could see him as an officer who was coping without the need for the drug and the guilt at needing it. Part of his story is upsetting, his memories of his war experience, but I also got a lot of enjoyment out of his cynicism and frustration when things didn’t entirely go got plan. 

This novel shows how powerful a tool manipulation is. And how even though it takes place a 100 years ago it could just as easily happen today. There were times I felt chilled at the danger innocent people faced for being duped by those who had power and the means. 

But it also showed a fascinating country with some wonderful characters. There were so many who made an impression on me, many of whom were probably invisible to the ones who had authority or a better life.
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Really enjoyed my first venture into Abir Mykherjee's books! Great plot set in atmospheric Calcutta and other Indian locations...thrilling plot and razor sharp prose! Many thanks to, author and publisher for the chance to read and review this excellent ARC!
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When a prominent Hindu cleric is found dead the prime suspect is Suren Banerjee.  He claims to have been sent to the house by a senior officer, assaulted and then finding the man dead tried to cover it up.  All of Bombay is aflame with religious riots.  The prime suspect is a Muslim leader who has escaped to Calcutta so Sam and a fugitive Suren follow him, working undercover.  The truth is far more complex and the colonial Raj rulers are not far from the centre.
I have read a couple of previous instalments in the series and found them more gripping than this.  the premise is great, a secret plot to destabilise India along religious grounds and allow the Raj to cement themselves as the law but it never really seems to fly.
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The Shadows of Men

In 1920’s colonial India a Hindu theologian is found murdered and India’s deepening religious divide is stretched ever further. To make matters worse, his body is discovered by Sergeant Surendranath or Suren for short Banerjee who immediately becomes the chief suspect. He goes on the run which makes him look even more suspicious and begs for help from his partner, Captain Sam Wyndham. Already riots are breaking out in Calcutta between Hindus and Moslems and Wyndham begins to suspect that they and the killing are connected. Who stands to gain from this? Wyndham helps Suren to get away and to hide while being aware that other forces are at work and that perhaps British intelligence is involved behind the scenes….. 
This is a book told from two viewpoints’ Sam’s and Suren’s. Sam, world weary, tired of India and its seething tensions and with opium addiction in his past and Suren, aware of India’s caste systems while also being part of British society albeit on its fringes. I sensed the very different ways in which they experience India and how they are part of it. The action moves from Calcutta to Bombay and from the houses of the elite to the teeming slums. It’s the days of the Raj and it was refreshing to see life there through two pairs of eyes. Sam has a dry wit and a ready packet of Capstans to hand. But independence is going to come and the British want to stop it and exploit the simmering tensions. The Raj’s days are beginning to be numbered. If Suren didn’t kill the theologian, then who did?
The author does a terrific job in creating a convincing portrait of a society on the cusp of change and all its ramifications without giving the reader a history lesson. The contrast between Sam and Suren’s world is vividly portrayed. I was unaware of the racial tension is India at the time and this book really demonstrated how much of powder keg it was. 
But it wasn’t really for me. Although there was plenty of action; murder, leaping off trains, running from villains and double dealing, it felt a little slow to me and I like my action to be a little more fast paced.  
My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC.
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Divide and Conquer

A Hindu scholar murdered; a Moslem politician seen in the neighbourhood; riots, killings, sectarian division. And what about Suren Banerjee, under arrest for murder and arson! One might, if one were cynical, suspect dirty tricks from those nasty imperialist British. Thank goodness for the occasional honourable Englishman, for example Sam Wyndham, who learned in the last volume how to overcome his prejudices, and who now will do whatever is necessary to discover the truth and vindicate his chum.

While the plot is a bit iffy, even predictable, in these post-imperial times, the breathless narrative does carry the reader along. There is even the hint of future (cross-cultural) romance for Suren and perhaps a revival of (cross-cultural) romance for Sam. Annie Grant shines as ever. What more could a reader desire?
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From GoodReads:

This did not disappoint.

In this mystery we see far more from Suren's perspective which gives more heart and depth to the series.

We still have a fast paced, heat soaked adventure to get lost in  - can't wait to see where we go next
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I discovered this series last year and fell in love with it as it's brilliant, a crash course what was India in the 20s, how people lived, and the political tension of that age.
The mix of historical facts and characters with the fictional parts always works creating one of the best historical mystery series.
Sam and Suren are two great characters, I like how they interact, how Sam came to accept Suren as a peer and how Suren grew as a character.
The mystery is complex, there's plenty of twists and we visit different places and type of people. The solution surprised me and I found it satisfying.
The author is a talented storyteller and this gripping and riveting book kept me on the edge till the end.
Even if it can be read as a standalone it's better to read the rest of the series to better understand the character's evolution.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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The Shadows of Men is book number 5 in the consistently excellent Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee series from Abir Mukherjee and this latest novel does not fall short of the very high standards seen to date.

The writing is once again superb and the author cleverly tells the story from Wyndham and Banerjee’s points of view using alternate chapters which works due to the characters being easily identifiable and well sketched out.

In this story the death of a high profile Hindu puts the city on a knife edge and leaves Wyndham and Banerjee facing danger with no real friends or colleagues.

The book moves along at a pace until the final conclusion which will hopefully not be the final conclusion. 

One not to miss
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An eventful story of the closing end of the Raj rule in India as the different racial entities struggle for dominance. Sam’s Sergeant is sent on an undercover mission to tail a prominent muslin politician and is attacked left unconscious and wakes to find himself at a murder scene and gets arrested as the perpetrator. He  goes on the run to find who did it aided and betted by Sam. There follows a tale of political plots and counter plots racial riots and dubious manipulations by other vested interests to disrupt the independent movement and the result of the coming elections. Quite an interesting exposition on the relationship between the Hindus and Muslins who live together as neighbours with a latent enmity that is ready to spark into a riot at a moment’s notice. The Raj also clings to power by exploiting the situation. The pair win through. leaving the partnership shattered with Sener disillusioned in his loyalty to government service feeling betrayed as an Indian. However, there was already signs that the common people were being betrayed by all sides with the opposing politicians thirst for power that would lead to partition and its bloody consequences.
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Tensions are at fever pitch in 1923 Calcutta.  Can Sergeant Banerjee and his English officer Captain Wyndham discover what's going on before religious riots break out in the city?

The Shadows of Men was an exciting and engaging thriller set in the dying days of the British Empire.  There's lots of dashing about and intrigue which I enjoyed.  I haven't read the previous books in the series but I've bought them now and intend to start from the beginning!

Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for honest feedback.
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I have loved each and every one of the Wyndham/Banerjee books, and The Shadows of Men is no exception to that. What I especially love about them is that they are both illuminating and entertaining. Abir Mukherjee writes well; his books have an excellent flow with tension, drama and atmosphere, but most of all shine with such vivid characterisation.

But..let’s come back to the atmosphere for a second. Mukherjee draws you in to this India. A place of strife, conflict and so many contradictions.  A place where 5,00O rupees is not enough but 5 rupees is too many. A place where the British domination of the Raj is a colonial disgrace, robbing the country of its riches all the while claiming to be the bringers of ‘civilisation’ all while their knowledge of Indian culture – such as that typified by the Bengali poet and philosopher Tagore – the first non-European winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 – was non-existent.

The Shadows of Men is set in 1923 and the edges of colonial rule are crumbling. Ghandi is in prison. Protest is growing, insurrection is fermenting and the streets are alive with protest. It is for the Imperial Police Force to try and keep order, even as the streets erupt in a fury of dissent and riots are never far away. In Mukherjee’s Calcutta, you can feel the tension rising and you know that the position of Sam Wyndham’s colleague and right hand man, Surendranath Banerjee is going to be tested more than ever before.

One of the delights of this series is that you can see Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee growing in confidence, alongside the growing confidence of Mukherjee’s writing which is now very skilled indeed. Embedded in his fascinating storytelling, his pitch perfect descriptions of the times and various factions in Indian politics, there is also a delightful, wicked humour.

In a departure from previous books, The Shadows of Men is told from the perspectives of both Wyndham and Banerjee and what a fascinating insight that delivers! Sam has come to appreciate and trust Surendranath like a brother, but it has been a slow won progress and the rest of the British have no more time for Surendranath and his Indian colleagues than to use them for their own ends.

So when Surendranath is given a secret commission to follow Gulmohamed by Lord Charles Taggart, Police Commissioner – a commission that is both dangerous and ignores the difficulties Banerjee must face in carrying out this task – it’s not surprising that it does not end well.

Banerjee is arrested for murder and arson and knowing that his days are numbered unless he can clear his name, he absconds and reaches out to Sam for help.

Together Surendranath and Sam set out to discover who is behind the murder of a Hindu theologian and religious leader, Prashant Mukherjee and what has become of the man Surendranath Banerjee was tasked with following.

Sam relies on his good friend Annie Grant to offer help and the trail leads them into rural territory and finally to Bombay where it becomes all too clear that someone is hell bent on stirring up religious factionalism. But to what ends?

The contrast between the bubbling cauldron of poverty and the opulent wealth on display is beautifully explored in the differences between the various areas and peoples they visit. In Bombay, staying at the behest of Annie Grant’s friend, the beautiful and wealthy Parsee Ooravis Colah, they attend the races where they meet the businessman Cyrus Irani, who is not the only one who is not who he appears to be. Abir Mukherjee does a fantastic job of reminding us that India is a country of more than one religion and that there are upper and lower castes and all of this plays into a multi-layered and fascinating plot that is truly both edge- of -the- seat gripping and fantastically brought to life.

But the star of this book is Surendranath Banerjee. Not only do you get to hear his perspective directly, you are also treated to his inner monologues and become privy to his thoughts about everything he is facing. Surendranath Banerjee, in the top three in his class, well-educated but always under-estimated has had an affectionate and mutually appreciative relationship with Sam Wyndham. They have become comrades in arms, but the struggles that Surendranath has seen Sam through have given heft to their relationship and perhaps for the first time you see very clearly that Surendranath is the stronger one in this partnership.

Verdict: Abir Mukherjee has reached a critical point in India’s history seen through the eyes of this pair and I am on tenterhooks to see where he will take us next. This is top class historical fiction with beautifully detailed oil painting- rich characterisation and atmosphere so thick you could drown in it. I learn a lot from these books too which is a genuine delight for me.  Buy it. READ THE SERIES. Highly, highly recommended.
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The Shadows of Men is the 5th book in Abir Mukherjee's massively popular Wyndham and Banerjee series  about the misadventures of a pair of Colonial policeman in 1920's India.
The book begins with riots breaking out all over Calcutta after a prominent Hindu theologian is murdered with Wyndham more than a bit bemused to find that the apparent culprit ,arrested at the scene, is none other than Banerjee. With religious factions fighting in the streets the race is on to clear Banerjee ,who for someone claiming to be innocent behaves in a very odd manner and ,if he is indeed innocent, find the real culprit . The price of failure will be a death sentence for Wyndham's side-kick.

This is a fantastic read with the duo mixing with all classes of Raj society,from the ,mostly British, rich and powerful to those scraping a living , Mukherjee shows the reality of the Raj for most Indians without turning it into a polemic and his descriptions are all the more powerful for that.
This book has everything,it's a crime thriller, an insight into the political,social  and religious differences of 1920's India and there's even a touch of cloak and dagger with murky forces operating in the background.
Highly recommended.
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This book is the latest in the series but would also work as a stand alone novel.  More serious in overall tone than the previous volumes, it tells the tale of a country divided by religion and politics while struggling for independence from the British.  An Indian policeman finds himself accused of murder and has an uphill battle to clear his name and find the perpetrator.  Wyndham’s humour shines through as a breath of fresh air in this quite dark story.  It is an excellent read, with a good pace, many twists and glimpses of the glamour of the Empire.  I’m already looking forward to the next in the series.
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