cover image Smoke and Ashes

Smoke and Ashes

Abir Mukherjee. Pegasus Crime, $25.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64313-014-9

Mukherjee makes the most of his setting, 1921 Calcutta, in his superior third mystery featuring the all-too-human Capt. Sam Wyndham, of the British Imperial Police, and his Indian assistant, Sgt. “Surrender-Not” Banerjee (after 2018’s A Necessary Evil). Wyndham’s drug addiction puts him in a tight spot when the opium den he’s visiting is raided by his colleagues. In the course of escaping, he comes upon a dying Chinese man, whose eyes have been gouged out and who has been stabbed in the chest. Wyndham doesn’t report the encounter in order to keep his substance abuse a secret from his superiors, but that choice becomes problematic when another person is murdered in the same way. His efforts to catch the killer, which aren’t welcomed by the military for some reason, are complicated by the threat of mass peaceful demonstrations, timed to coincide with a visit to the city by the Prince of Wales, which would embarrass the British Crown. Mukherjee, who only gets better and better with each book, has established himself as a leading historical mystery writer. Agent: Sam Copeland, Rogers, Coleridge & White (U.K.). (Mar.)