Sunday, 24 June 2018

A Necessary Evil - Abir Mukherjee

A well plotted story about Maharajas and their lives.

If the first book is a daring debut, Mukherjee ups the game with yet another classy plot and narrative. This time he decides to leave the dusty lanes of Calcutta and takes the action to the exotic and mysterious princely Kingdom of Sambalpore in Orissa.


Mukherjee and Sergeant "Surrender not" are summoned by a prince - the Sergent's Harrow classmate - who seeks their help about some threats to his life. Not long after, they find themselves witnessing his assassination landing them right in the middle of a diplomatic muddle. Mukherjee gets to accompany the body to the princely state, in non-official capacity and he uses this chance to find the mastermind behind it. What he sees is the stark reality behind the the brocades and the traditional splendour that marks a prince's life.

What works:
  • The grandeur of the royal palace, their lifestyle and traditions is well captured.
  • Also Mukherjee's description of the use of opium is very detailed. I could easily imagine. Couldn't help wondering how much practical research would have gone into it!
  • The story is well paced, the narrative is fluid and the suspense is maintained throughout. I had a tough time figuring out who the culprit was. The story feels complete as the characters are all well etched and move the story forward.
  • Mukherjee's strong point is research. He depicts bygone era where rules and regulations were paramount. As a reader, I could feel the rustle of the curtains of the zenana and the lavish lifestyle of the princes. He really brings them to live, creating a superb atmosphere.
  • The camaderie between the protagnists, the way the subordinate explains the Hindu customs to the Englishman is very endearing at times enlightening.
  • The writing is very smooth, effortless and setting very authentic.

Overall a fabulous read. One of my top reads of the year, easily.

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