- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Fig Tree (30 Jan. 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0241146224
- ISBN-13: 978-0241146224
- Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.2 x 24 cm
- Average Customer Review: 111 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 456,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Strangler Vine: The Blake and Avery Mystery Series (Book 1) Hardcover – 30 Jan 2014
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The Strangler Vine is a splendid novel with an enthralling story, a wonderfully drawn atmosphere, and an exotic mystery that captivated me (Bernard Cornwell)
The Strangler Vine is fresh and original with many surprises in store . . . Avery is the guileless Watson of the partnership, and Blake the opaque Sherlock . . . it is a relief to know that the two will be reunited in a sequel (Frances Wilson Evening Standard)
A rattling good yarn . . . 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. (A. N. Wilson Financial Times)
The Strangler Vine is a considerable achievement, which left me waiting impatiently for a promised sequel (The Times)
Intelligent, extensively researched and packed with period detail, The Strangler Vine evokes both the attitudes of the British colonials and the India of the period . . . with its ingredients including murder, gambling, opium wars and crime, it's an imaginative read (Metro)
M.J. Carter has cooked up a spicy dish: a pinch of Moonstone, a dash of Sherlock and a soupçon of Fu Manchu added to a rich stew of John Masters. A splendid romp and just the job for a cold winter's evening in front of a blazing fire (William Dalrymple)
This is a gripping story of conspiracy and betrayal set in an early Victorian India that is rendered with complete conviction. And as a historian, the author offers a thought-provoking re-interpretation of the Thuggee story (Charles Palliser)
A great read, white tigers and all (Independent)
Tigers, a murderous sect and all manner of deadly double-dealing . . . compelling (Daily Mail)
A great new double act for a super new series of adventures (Sunday Sport)
About the Author
M. J. Carter is a former journalist and the author of the Blake and Avery series: The Strangler Vine, The Printer's Coffin (formerly published as The Infidel Stain) and The Devil's Feast, and two acclaimed works of non-fiction: Anthony Blunt: His Lives and The Three Emperors: Three Cousins, Three Empires and the Road to World War One. M. J. Carter is married with two sons and lives in London.
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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.
William Avery is a naive lieutenant sent out of Calcutta by the Company to find Xavier Mountstuart, India expert and novelist, who has disappeared into the depths of the jungle. In this environment grow the 'strangler vines', creepers which choke the trees until killer and victim are so entangled they seem to become one.
Jeremiah Blake, a Special Inquiry Agent, sort of undercover, goes with Avery. With two Indian aides, they set out from Calcutta to Dura. On the way they meet a British hero, Major Sleeman, famous as the suppressor of Thuggism. Thuggism is mysterious, is Thuggism a religious cult or was it invented by the British as a murderous force. This certainly opens the eyes of the naive Avery. He will never be the same, but he will mature.
The author provides descriptions of the court of Rao, or Rajah. There were hunting cheetahs, and elephants with golden chains. There was also famine surrounding this dazzling wealth, the criminals executed by elephant-trampling. And, through this Avery learns and moves on to find Mountstuart. Avery and Blake become fond of each other and merge as friends, but will they succeed in their trek?
The writing is absolutely brilliant. This is not my usual genre, but I enjoyed this novel. Another book is right around the corner.
Recommended. prisrob 04-24-16
An sort of mix of Sherlock Holmes and Heart of Darkness with a touch of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Kipling thrown in, it's certainly an intriguing cocktail.
The main issue I had was with the pacing of the book, it begins well and the pages turned quickly and regularly until about a third of the way through when it didn't just slow down. It almost stopped completely. I has thoughts of giving up on it but out of the blue it burst into life again and I was rewarded with a exciting and satisfying end.
The cover describes the book as 'rip roaring', a description that made me reach for the dictionary and look up the definition. Having done so I can't say I agree.
It's a good read and its very well written but, depending on your point of view, some parts may come across as either a) atmospheric and tense or b) dull, stilted and boring.
I'll read the next one and decide whether this series is a keeper after that.
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