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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a tour de force
This is a great read which presents an authentic portrait of my country. As someone who speaks 'hindoostanee' almost as well as Jeremiah Blake, I admired the accuracy of every detail in the book. It is a nuanced picture of India which underpins a great yarn told with skill and flair. A tour de force or as, Blake might have said, yeh kitab ek toofan hai.
Published 9 months ago by V. K. Borooah

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A pacey adventure of derring-do but it limps home
1837: The East India Company is a vast trading operation that uses its powers as a quasi-military force to keep the vast indigenous population under its many-tentacled control. Avery is a young officer with a strong moral compass and he is a keen observer; his lowly position in 'the Company' allows him to be the detached onlooker and, as such, he is an engaging...
Published 8 months ago by Sue Kichenside


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a tour de force, 5 Mar 2014
By 
V. K. Borooah (Belfast, Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Strangler Vine (Blake & Avery Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
This is a great read which presents an authentic portrait of my country. As someone who speaks 'hindoostanee' almost as well as Jeremiah Blake, I admired the accuracy of every detail in the book. It is a nuanced picture of India which underpins a great yarn told with skill and flair. A tour de force or as, Blake might have said, yeh kitab ek toofan hai.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the biggest surprises this year, 7 Oct 2014
Those who know me or are following my reviews will be probably very surprised to see I read/reviewed this book. Despite reading the odd mystery now and then, ‘The Strangler Vine’ seemed like something I would never read. However, don’t you just love it when life and book surprise you? Oh, how I love those surprises! ‘The Strangler Vine’ has to be one of the best researched and most gripping reads I’ve had the chance to check this year.

I’m not an expert on Indian history, however this book made me go back in 19th century, digging as much possibly on the time when a land as grand and exotic as India was ruled by the East India Company. Xavier Mounstuart, a famous author, goes missing and William Avery and Jeremiah Blake are given the task to find him. While being one of the most talented authors, Mountstuart seems also to be a bit of threat to the Company. The two men who are sent to find him, are so different as characters, and I truly found fascinating the way the author portrayed them, emphasizing their differences. These very differences made the book more interesting and their journey very exciting.

Are they going to find the famous writer or is he murdered by the Thugs, the murderous sect of Kali-worshipers?

I will admit, the beginning of the book felt a bit slow (thus the 8/10 rating), but please, don’t be discouraged by this from reading further. The book gets more and more interesting, revealing many facts about the Indian culture and tradition, something I found really fascinating.

I heard there’s a sequel coming up in 2015 and I’m more than excited to read it. This book was indeed one of the best surprises this year.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A pacey adventure of derring-do but it limps home, 27 April 2014
By 
Sue Kichenside - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Strangler Vine (Hardcover)
1837: The East India Company is a vast trading operation that uses its powers as a quasi-military force to keep the vast indigenous population under its many-tentacled control. Avery is a young officer with a strong moral compass and he is a keen observer; his lowly position in 'the Company' allows him to be the detached onlooker and, as such, he is an engaging narrator.

The Company teams Avery up with undercover agent Blake, an older man whose best days, it would seem, are behind him. They are dispatched to find revered poet, Xavier Mountstuart, who has mysteriously disappeared in remote territory. Could Mountstuart have been kidnapped or even killed by a murderous bandit gang known as 'Thuggee'?

At first, The Strangler Vine is an entertaining well-paced read, fascinating in its description of the Indian hierarchy, imperial power politics and the sometimes beautiful, sometimes brutal landscape. However, as an ever-increasing number of duplicitous characters, murderous Thugs and blatant metaphors creep out of the 'jangal' undergrowth, the whole thing descends into pantomime heroics and villainy. The last third of the book is such implausible nonsense that I'm afraid I lost patience with it. Having said that, the first chapter of the next Avery adventure (to be found at the end of the book) does sound remarkably intriguing....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it!, 22 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Strangler Vine (Blake & Avery Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I absolutely loved this book and await The Infidel Stain with eager anticipation. I'm very grateful to my Pilates teacher, whom I share with the author, for her recommendation otherwise I may never have known about The Strangler Vine which would have been my loss.
The writing is beautiful, the tale enthralling and the details so exacting that I then bought Fanny Parkes' book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Strangler Vine, 8 Sep 2014
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: The Strangler Vine (Blake & Avery Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
This atmospheric and evocative mystery is set in the early days of the Raj. It is 1837 and William Avery is a young Ensign in the East India Company, kicking his heels in Calcutta with a mounting sense of frustration at not being summoned to his cavalry regiment in north Bengal, while he gets overlooked and in more and more debt. One day he is asked to deliver a letter to Jeremiah Blake, who has ‘gone native’ and is surly and surprisingly unimpressed by the summons by the Company which Avery is so loyal to.

Although dispirited by his circumstances and disappointed by India, Avery was half enticed there by the romantic writings of Xavier Mountstuart; author of books such as “The Lion of the Punjab,” and “Foothills of Nepal.” He still has an enduring love and respect for the author and poet, who has not only written a novel which is currently scandalising Calcutta society, but has since gone missing after apparently going to investigate a sect of murderers and worshippers of Kali, called the Thuggee. Unknown to Avery, Jeremiah Blake is being sent to search for the missing writer and Avery has been chosen to unwillingly accompany him. Partly promoted and partly threatened, Avery is the uncomfortable Englishman abroad. While Blake ignores him, the intelligent and kindly Mir Aziz attempts to help him and the native helpers, Nungoo and Sameer, sneer at him, Avery clings to his uniform and the values of the Company he represents.

We follow Black and Avery through a country of Maharajah’s, assassination attempts, dangerous jungles, Indian discontent about British rule, the fear of the Thugee brigands, and, of course, the English – sometimes despotic, like the isolated Major Sleeman, or fascinated with all things Indian, as with Mrs Parkes. This is India in a very interesting period; spanning the time between the rule of the East India Company and the beginning of the Raj proper. A time when men like Blake – happy to make India their home and intermarry were frowned upon - and the ‘fishing fleet’ began to appear; young, unmarried English girls sent to India to make a suitable marriage. Blake has lost his respect for the Company and Avery is going to have his illusions shattered before their adventures are done.

Although this is, in essence, a good old fashioned mystery, it is beautifully written. I was thrilled to discover that there will be another novel featuring Blake and Avery and look forward to reading more of their adventures. If you enjoy historical mysteries with a great plot, an interesting setting and excellent characters, you will enjoy this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A splendid debut, 4 April 2014
By 
Pamela Thomas (Wiltshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Strangler Vine (Hardcover)
I devoured this in a couple of days, and found it very hard to put down. An exciting story, gorgeous descriptions of India in all its colour, heat, splendour and squalor, and interesting characters made for a very good book. I've never been to India (though I've read several books set there, notably those of MM Kaye and John Masters), so I'm not entirely sure how accurate it was, but the portrayal was certainly very convincing. Glad to see there's a sequel in the pipeline, I'm looking forward to more of Blake and Avery.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 27 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Strangler Vine (Blake & Avery Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Very different from my normal reading, hugely entertaining and very informative about an age gone by left me wanting more.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable historical tale, 30 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Strangler Vine (Blake & Avery Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
This was a very enjoyable tale of the pairing of an older experienced soldier and a younger man, new to India, and their mission together, hunting for Thuggees, taking part in tiger hunts, visiting Maharajas, forts and palaces. Vividly descriptive, extremely well written (sadly not all that common nowadays), and most notably I liked the use of accurate terms and phraseology of the time.

I will certainly look forward to reading more from this author.

Reviewed in exchange for a preview Kindle copy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Strangler Vine, 9 Jun 2014
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Strangler Vine (Hardcover)
This is not at all the type of novel I would normally be drawn to, but the storyline sounded highly intriguing, and I'm thoroughly glad I did read it, because I thought it was brilliant.

In Calcutta, September 1873 young William Avery, an Ensign in the army of the East India Company is sent to deliver a letter from the Company to Jeremiah Blake, an ex-Company man whose `native ways' have left him in some disfavour among many of the Company. Blake is an enigmatic and difficult man and Avery dislikes him on first meeting. But within a very short time Avery and Blake are thrown together by the Company, sending them out together to find Xavier Mountstuart, who has apparently gone into the "jangal" researching his next writing work, a poem about Thuggee.

The narration in this book is by Avery, a rather naïve young man who finds himself on a journey he never contemplated taking with a man he cannot bring himself to like, and three natives - travelling hard and fast from Calcutta to Jubbulpore, their journey then veers off to Doora, under the rule of the Rao who the Company are keeping a close eye on, all the while still trying to find Mountstuart but being drawn into the politics and cultural unrest of nineteenth century India, struggling under famine and Company rule.

This is a great book; the narrative of Avery brings the uncertainty of his journey and his frame of mind to the fore, and this book turns from what could be a simple journey to find Mountstuart into a story where nobody quite knows who can be trusted, or what might happen next. The exotic surroundings and unfamiliar culture in which Avery finds himself are also exotic and unfamiliar to the reader (well, certainly to me) and this heightens the interest and excitement of the narrative as it races along to a well-formed and very satisfying conclusion. I am delighted that there is to be a sequel, The Infidel Stain, which I look forward to reading immensely. Great stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A strangely familiar journey to 19th century India, 23 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Strangler Vine (Hardcover)
This is not a bad book at all and worth a read - although I would get it on kindle or paperback. I love India and its fiction, but no point pretending, this book feels very heavily influenced by John Masters "The Deceivers" (which is outstanding), to the point where I felt frustrated with it. The book feels part action thriller, part historical memoir and part social commentary - and falls between all three, although there are some nice sequences where the tension gets ratcheted up and the humid oppressive decay of Calcutta is well presented at the beginning. If you haven't read a book on 19th century India, buy Masters instead. If you have then you will enjoy The Strangler Vine, but probably not been blown away by it.
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