Author(s): M. J. Carter
Calcutta, 1837. Young Ensign William Avery is tasked by his employers - the East India Company - to track down disgraced agent Xavier Mountstuart, lost to the jungle. Forced to take with him dissolute, disillusioned, errant genius ex-officer Jeremiah Blake, Avery is sure their mission is doomed. When their search leads them into Kali-worshipping, Thugee territory, survival depends upon trust. Fighting for their lives, the pair close in to their elusive quarry only to discover the horrifying truth behind their mission. With death and danger on all sides, is it too late to save themselves?
I've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately, so it was a real treat to get a reading copy of this exceptionally well-told historical novel. It is Carter's first novel, of a subject which she obviously knows well, the India of 1837. William Avery, a junior officer in the East India Company's army, is sent to find a missing man, in the company of the uncouth Jeremiah Blake. The relationship between these two interesting characters drives the story along, and I was pleased to find that the book is the first of a trilogy, the next two books also featuring them. The blurb tells me that each of the novels will take a moment in history and slyly deconstruct it while entertaining the reader with fast moving suspense. The background to this book is the East India Company's use of the Thugs, who strangled travellers by the roadside. The best novel I have read this year, certainly the best adventurous historical novel for some time - I burned the midnight oil with it, and hope she hurries up with the next ones! - Jan
The author is a historian and this is her first foray into fiction. This novel is the first of a trilogy involving the same two protagonists, William Avery, a young down-at-heel junior officer in the East India Company, and the enigmatic Jeremiah Blake. They are put together by an East India Company official in 1838 Calcutta to search for and find popular author and poet Xavier Mountstuart, who has gone missing in the area around Japalboor. Their adventures are exciting, and the author gives you a great history lesson on the East India Company's policies and ruling of India. Another great read. When the Penguin representative visited us on Thursday I was delighted to see that the second book was being sold in for publication in July. I am eagerly awaiting it. - Peter
This book has been reviewed previously in What We Are Reading, and after reading these and many other glowing reviews, I was delighted to finally get the opportunity to read it. I loved the superbly depicted historical setting of 1837 India, under the rule of the East India Company. It's obvious this author knows her subject well and has crafted it around two unlikely protagonists into a gripping suspense novel. I can't wait to begin the next book in this trilogy (The Infidel Stain), which is on the shelves now. - Lynn
Shortlisted for CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger 2014.
M. J. Carter is a former journalist and the author of two acclaimed works of non-fiction: Anthony Blunt: His Lives and The Three Emperors: Three Cousins, Three Empires and the Road to World War One. M. J. Carter is married with two sons and lives in London.