on 18 June 2001
A difficult book to review in many ways. Taylor's text purports to be a fairly direct account of the confessions of a high-ranking and successful practitioner of thuggee in the early nineteenth century, finally brought to justice by the colonial regime of which Taylor was a part. As such, it stands somewhere in between the categories of literature and history, and there are many academic debates as to the precise nature of the space it occupies, and its historical and cultural significance. Patrick Brantlinger's introductory essay to this volume lays out some of these issues for the reader in a sober manner, and effectively flags up its status as the forerunner of 'true crime' narratives such as Capote's 'In Cold Blood'.
Read as a novel, 'Confessions' is an at times exciting story, but becomes rather repetetive, owing to the highly successful nature of the (anti)hero's practice. One successful deployment of the murderous roomal becomes much like any other at times! However, there are enough twists and turns right up to the last page to maintain a reader's interest, whilst the social, cultural and political details that can be gleaned from the account of early colonial India are a wonderful bonus for anyone interested in the history of the region/period.