Happy Monday! To make sure we kick off the week in the best possible way, here’s a bookish post! I am delighted to share an excerpt of Death In The East by Abir Mukherjee!
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.
When Bessie Drummond, an old flame of Sam Wyndham’s, is attacked in the street, he is determined to get to the bottom of it. But the next day, Bessie is found dead in her room and Wyndham soon finds himself caught up in her murder investigation. The case will cost the young constable more than he ever imagined.
Leaving Calcutta, Wyndham heads for the hills of Assam, ready to put his opium addiction behind him. 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 that this figure from his past can only be after one thing: revenge…
The sound of the drums died.
In the periphery of my vision, I saw people begin to disperse. Slowly, and like a newborn foal, I got to my feet. Brother Shankar offered me a steadying hand but I declined, and trembling, with my mouth bone-dry and my throat aflame, made my way back to the dormitory.
I entered to words of congratulation, acknowledging them with barely a nod. Then, exhausted, I fell onto my cot and pulled the blankets close. I shut my eyes and prayed for sleep, but none came. Instead I lay there in the limbo of delirium, in pain and too weak to move.
The hours passed. The gong for dinner sounded. My dorm-mates departed for the mess hall, and I lay where I was. If I’d been able to think, I might have realised that there was something new about my pain; something different from the usual symptoms of with-drawal. I might have taken it as a sign that things were changing, maybe even improving. But lying there, having undergone my first treatment, all that was beyond me, and eventually, I passed out.
I awoke to darkness and in the full grip of a fever, my body drenched in sweat. Trembling, I wrenched myself up, and as I started to shiver, realised I was still without my shirt. I fumbled, looking for it, then gave up and staggered out of the hut, making for the mess hall and the cauldron of herbal tea. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught something, a shadow watching me across the courtyard. I turned, but the figure dissolved into the blackness and for a moment I thought I heard padded footsteps receding into the night. I tried to pull myself together. My body felt hollow, and as I filled a cup and drank it down, it seemed as though the tea was simply soaking through my desiccated shell, straight into my cells.
Two more cupfuls and I headed back to the dorm. Once more, sleep eluded me. My muscles began to cramp. In an effort to quell the pain, I found myself standing, then walking, pacing to and fro, up and down the length of the hut. I must have kept that up for hours, just walking back and forth and muttering all sorts of non-sense to myself, until finally, overcome once more with exhaustion, I fell onto my bed and suddenly I was back in 1905, running through the rain, with Bessie Drummond’s voice echoing in my ears, chasing after a man who’d jumped onto the tracks at Shoreditch.
It was Adler who woke me. A gentle shake of my shoulder.
‘You survived again, my friend. How do you feel?’
‘What time is it?’
‘Half past seven. You missed roll call and prayers but I thought it best to wake you for breakfast. You need to keep your strength up.’
‘Thank you,’ I said, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
‘Besides, we’ve had other things to deal with.’
‘Don’t tell me we’ve run out of herbal tea,’ I said, then caught the look on his face.
‘The boy, Philippe Le Corbeau. He’s disappeared.’
I looked over at the Belgian’s bunk which lay empty, save for dishevelled sheets half spilled onto the floor.
‘Some men have trouble overcoming their addictions,’ said Adler. ‘The pain gets too much for them. They try to run, to escape to the nearest town or a village where they might find a dose of heroin or opium or even just a drink.’
‘He just walked out?’
‘There are no locks on the doors. The monks keep an eye out, but if a man’s truly desperate, he’ll find a way. Now and again, someone gets out, but there’s nowhere to go except Jatinga village, and Le Corbeau’s hardly going to get what he wants from the white residents. As for the natives, they know better than to take in a fugitive from the monastery.’
A strange expression, like the first tendrils of winter, descended over his crumpled face.
‘What is it?’ I asked.
‘It’s just that we generally find them by first light. They either make their way back or are handed in by the locals.’
‘It’s still early,’ I said. ‘Maybe he’ll show up.’
‘Maybe,’ said the Jew.
I found my shirt on the floor beside the bed, put it on and headed for the latrines. When I returned, Adler was waiting. He stowed his mosquito net into his cabinet and walked over.
‘One question, Mr Wyndham,’ he said. ‘Last night, when you were walking all the way to Jerusalem, you called out some names. One, I think, was Jewish. A man called Vogel. He is a friend of yours?’
I stared up at him. Vogel – in my mind it was a name inextricably linked with that of Bessie and the man I’d thought I’d seen at Lumding station.
Suddenly, more images of the night flitted across my mind. I remembered Adler once more at my side, trying to feed me herbal tea as I ranted.
‘He was just someone I once met in London, a long time ago.’ ‘Jewish?’
Adler considered this for a moment, then moved on.
‘Well . . . are you ready for breakfast?’
He turned towards the door, but I stopped him with a hand. ‘I wanted to say, thank you.’
He looked at me curiously.
‘For . . .’ It was difficult for me to say the words. ‘For helping me get through the night.’
He smiled. ‘You would have done the same for me.’
I nodded. But if history was anything to go by, that was a lie. And I wondered what he’d say if he knew the truth.
Abir Mukherjee is the bestselling author of the Wyndham & Banerjee series of crime novels set in Raj-era India. His debut, A Rising Man, won the C WA Endeavour Dagger for best historical crime novel of 2017, was shortlisted for the MWA Edgar for best novel, was a
Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month, and Waterstones Thriller ofthe Month. His second novel, A Necessary Evil, won the Wilbur Smith Award for Adventure Writing, was shortlisted for the C WA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of 2018, and was featured on ITV as a Zoe Ball Book Club pick. His third novel, Smoke and Ashes, is shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. Abir grew up in Scotland and lives in London with his wife and two sons.
Thank you to the publisher for inviting me to be part of this blog tour!