Fiction stranglers vine

Published on February 7th, 2014


The Strangler Vine by M J Carter

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Blurb: Calcutta 1837. The East India Company rules India – or most of it; and its most notorious and celebrated son, Xavier Mountstuart, has gone missing. William Avery, a down-at-heel junior officer in the Company’s army, is sent to find him, in the unlikely company of the enigmatic and uncouth Jeremiah Blake. A more mismatched duo couldn’t be imagined, but they must bury their differences as they are caught up in a search that turns up too many unanswered questions and seems bound to end in failure. What was it that so captivated Mountstuart about the Thugs, the murderous sect of Kali-worshippers who strangle innocent travellers by the roadside? Who is Jeremiah Blake and can he be trusted? And why is the whole enterprise shrouded in such secrecy? (Fig Tree, January 2014)

A.N. Wilson, The Financial Times

“As well as being a rattling good yarn in the traditions of GA Henty or Rudyard Kipling, this is also a well-informed and enlightened modern book that has a properly sceptical view of imperialist propaganda. I do not remember when I enjoyed a novel more than this. Finishing it would have been unbearable had it not been for the reassuring promise at the end that Blake and Avery will return for more adventures.”

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Jane Jakeman, The Independent

Carter gives us delicious descriptions of the wonderful court of a Rao, or Rajah: the hunting cheetahs, elephants wound about with golden chains. There are horrors too: the famine surrounding this dazzling wealth, the criminals executed by elephant-trampling. But ever onwards through the jungle presses the gallant young Avery, encountering treachery and violence, finally triumphing after many perils as a hero should. It’s a great read, white tigers and all.

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Antonia Senior, The Times

This is a book steeped in mystery and atmosphere. The narrator, Avery, is always convincing, and sympathetic even when he is behaving like a blinkered little Englander. Blake is utterly beguiling, slipping into the bazaars and insulting as many Company officials as he can find. Calcutta’s stultifying atmosphere is convincing, and Carter resists the easy temptation to romanticise the wider countryside.

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John O’Connell, The Guardian

“It blends John Masters, William Boyd, Wilkie Collins and the Conan Doyle of Brigadier Gerard and the more orientalist Holmes stories to create a witty and entrancing historical thriller set in 1830s Calcutta.”

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Nick Rennison, The Sunday Times

“Carter’s twisting, devious narrative is enhanced by her vigorous prose and her convincing delineation of her chief characters, whose further adventures, already announced, can be keenly anticipated.”

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