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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 August 2016
William Avery, a young subaltern in India, is sent on a mission with the enigmatic Jeremiah Blake to find Xavier Mountstuart, poet and renegade, who has gone missing in the wilds of India. Avery is chosen not for any particular skill but because he's the only man available, Blake is chosen because his skill set, logical thinking, a devious nature and a command of several languages, make him the only man capable of finding Mountstuart. As it is an undercover operation they travel light with only three servants and a minimum of equipment. They meet bandits, treachery and danger along the way and eventually, from the inauspicious start of mutual dislike and distrust, form a close bond.

I was drawn to The Strangler Vine by the location and the era which I know nothing about and I do like to broaden my horizons. I can confirm that it is very educational on the situation in India in the 1830s as well as being a Boys Own tale of derring do.

Avery is a young man recently arrived in India to work for The Company as a soldier. Naive and gullible, he believes the spin The Company puts on its activities. Blake, on the other hand, is a radical who believes in native rights and distrusts The Company. There are plenty of lively, enlightening debates and some dark discoveries on British policy in India. There is also a wonderful description of the pomp and ceremony of a maharajah's court.

The plot is very fitting to the period with plenty of action and double crosses. It peters out a bit at the end and seems slightly inconclusive but it held my attention throughout with Ms Carter ratcheting up the tension as she draws you in to rooting for her characters.

The Strangler Vine is a good start to the series and I have no hesitation in recommending it as a good read.
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on 10 June 2016
An excellent book, set in India in the early days of the Raj. The two main characters, Avery, the clueless young soldier, who has to learn fast and painfully, and Blake, who knows too much already set out on a difficult journey across India, which leads as much to self-discovery as to their quarry, the Byronic poet and novelist, Mountstewart. By the end Avery knows much more than he ever wanted to both about the government and the company he serves and everyone has lost something - including, for one character, everything including life itself. I thoroughly recommend this, and I am looking forward to reading the sequel.
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on 17 April 2018
Has a good sense of period, and contains some strong well-written scenes, especially the tiger hunt. The Modesty-Blaise/OK-Corral shoot out towards the end (spoiler alert) did not quite persuade me that three exhausted and wounded men could overcome eight armed assailants, but they had to for the sake of the series, didn't they!
The real-life Fanny Parkes is introduced as a character, and the book has led me to re-read her journals, much recommended. The book has also driven me to look out other relevant titles, John Masters's The Deceivers and the first of the Flashman books.
Minor niggle: there is some inconsistency in spelling: Thugee or Thuggee?
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on 12 January 2016
I'm always wary of a new author but there was no need with this one, from the first page it was like putting on a comfortable glove. The writing is effortless and that makes the reading effortless as well. I should add here that the period 'Victorian' and the setting 'Indian Raj' are both ones that I love so I realise this may not be to everybody's taste. The narrator William Avery is likeable but has his faults making him more real but the hanger on which the story rests is the enigmatic Jeremiah Blake who isn't likeable and doesn't want to be liked. These pair are easily compared to Holmes and Watson and stand the comparison well, the novel is also Flashmanlike not so much in content but that it intertwines fiction with fact and is populated with real characters as well as fictional ones. This novel entertained me but it also educated me and most important of all it poked my curiosity to want to know more. What more could a reader ask. Well done MJ Carter.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 8 September 2014
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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on 23 March 2016
Lapped this one up and am looking forward to further adventures. I think the word "adventure" is key and if you do not like a bit of derring-do, then this is not for you. One reviewer thought there was too much period detail, and I would have liked even more! So you can please some of the people etc etc. I think this is a fascinating period and time. It is not a history book and cannot be judged as such but it is interesting to speculate how different relations between India and Britain might have been if the initial interest and respect for Indian culture had continued. It is alluded to here and Avery is one of the new breed of Company men who look down on the Indians without even having learned anything about the country, the language and the people. The next book is set in London so I will be sorry to leave India but look forward to meeting up with the two characters to see how they develop.
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on 3 February 2015
The Strangler Vine was a bit of an adventure all round. Not only for Blake and Avery, our two main characters, but for me too, as I am usually a "present day" type of reader and usually turn away from anything set in the past. I am sooooooo glad I took the risk. I absolutely adored this book from start to finish. There was so much to enjoy - I loved Blake from his first appearance in the book, although it took the uptight Avery a little longer to swing from dislike to hero worship. And what didn't our two heroes come across on their journey through India to find the missing author Xavier Mountstuart, corruption, muggings, kidnap, disguises, tigers, opium .....it was a combination of adventure and the best history lesson ever.....Thank you Miranda Carter - I can't wait for the next one.
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on 1 December 2015
Nicely written and well researched, without being too academic. A cracking adventure story with some neat characterisation - and proper descriptive writing, rather than jumping for the next plot point without filling in the detail. Downloaded this for the Kindle but given that I will re-read it I'm now wishing I'd bought the physical book.

Loved it - and The Infidel Stain - and am now disappointed that there isn't another Blake and Avery ready right now!
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on 24 June 2015
The opening chapters were slow and a little repetitive in the descriptive content of the location. However, as the chapters progressed one was drawn in to the intrigue and mystery of the tale. The threads were comfortably complicated which kept one keen to read on. In the end this was a very good narrative and the inherent facts were a disturbing reflection of all involved and the era in which it was written.
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on 17 October 2016
I loved this book. Picked on the off chance and was well rewarded. Loved the character of Blake and his ways, and of Avery although many times I wanted to slap him for his naivety and lack of understanding. I thought it was a very well paced book. Will certainly be reading next book. Than my you Mr Carter.
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