Monday, June 15, 2015

The Strangler Vine, by M.J. Carter


The year is 1837. Ensign William Avery has decided it was a mistake to have joined the East India Company. Rotting away in Calcutta, socially unconnected, heavily in debt and with little chance of advancement, he dreams of returning home to England.

A sudden and unexpected promotion to lieutenant and an assignment to rescue, or is it capture, an influential but troublesome English writer “gone native,” pushes the gullible young Avery into a trek through darkest India. Leading the expedition is Jeremiah Blake, a hired “fixer” for the East India Company. Though fluent in native culture and languages, Blake is mysteriously antagonistic to the expedition, leaving Avery to doubt the whole shebang.

Set in the early days of the Raj, M.J. Carter’s “The Strangler Vine” is a sort-of “Heart of Darkness” Lite. With every step deeper into the jungle, Blake and Avery stumble upon more questions than answers in search of Xavier Mountstuart. Why is this poet so important to the Company? And what is his relationship to Thugee, the brutal cult of banditry and ritual assassination?

Without quite the same menace of Conrad’s classic novel, "The Strangler Vine" does convey a lush world of tropical intrigue, rapacious colonial bureaucracy, and simple, timeless greed. Things are never what they seem and more danger lurks behind the desks of The East India Company than down any jungle path.

If you enjoy historical fiction and adventure, you might find "The Strangler Vine" a ripping yarn. M.J. Carter is also the author of "George, Nicholas, And Wilhelm: Three Cousins And The Road To World War I", a book that I reviewed here.

You can reserve M.J. Carter’s "The Strangler Vine" here.

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