Saturday, 18th November 2017
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A Necessary Evil

Author abir mukhergee : Published by harvil secker : Price e16.40 by Marco Vichi Translated by Stephen Sartarelli Published by Hodder & Stoughton Price €25

At a meeting of Maharajais a Prince from the State of Sambalpore comes up to Captain Sam Wyndham and his assistant and asks for their help.

He has recently gotten two messages saying that his life is in danger and he would like the two of them to look into it for him.

Of course when a Prince of a hugely wealthy state comes calling about his own personal safety there is only one thing that they can do. There is also the added factor that the Prince knows Sam's assistant from their days as schoolboys at Harrow in England. It is a strange factor that given the class structure of the day in India that an extremely wealthy and connected person such as his assistant is lower down the ranks solely due to the fact that he is Indian and for no other reason.

The three men decide to drive to the Prince's hotel to view the notes and try and figure out what is going on but on the way the car is attacked and the Prince is killed. Sam chases the killer and finally tracks him down only for the man to kill himself before he can be apprehended and questioned.

It looks like the case is over but Sam can't help but wonder whether the real answers to what happened lie in Sambalpore where the notes originated.

He and his assistant manage to wangle a trip to the state with the coffin and as soon as they get there, due to Sam's colour and the fact that he once workedat Scotland Yard he is allowed a certain leeway to ask questions of the royal household. The more he looks into the whole thing the more the believes that the reason for the murder had to do with the sale of the royal diamond mines to an English concern but for some reason the man who compiled the report and the report itself have gone missing.

The more that he and his assistant search the more questions that they find themselves left with. On top of that Sam has other things to contend with, one of them being his opium addiction as well as a romance he has with an Anglo-Indian woman called Annie Wall who has just turned up at court and is being courted by the next in line to the throne of Sambalpore. Bit by bit however they do begin to unravel the complicated relationships of the court to find out what exactly happened to the Prince until the next in line gets killed as well.

Now the heir to the throne is a 7 year old boy and it takes some time for Sam to figure out that it is this particular machination that is at the heart of the murders.

And in particular who is to be the regent for the boy. This is a fast moving, highly entertaining piece of fiction where the writer is always one step ahead.

A great piece of writing.

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