Colonial crime and corruption

29 06 2019

A Madras Miasma by Brian Stoddart

 

 

Madras in the 1920s. The British are slowly losing the grip on the subcontinent. The end of the colonial enterprise is in sight and the city on India’s east coast is teeming with intrigue. A grisly murder takes place against the backdrop of political tension and Superintendent Le Fanu, a man of impeccable investigative methods, is called in to find out who killed a respectable young British girl and dumped her in a canal, her veins clogged with morphine. As Le Fanu, a man forced to keep his own personal relationship a secret for fear of scandal in the face British moral standards, begins to investigate, he quickly slips into a quagmire of Raj politics, rebellion and nefarious criminal activities that threaten not just to bury his case but the fearless detective himself. The first Detective Le Fanu Adventure, A Madras Miasma, tells a classic tale of murder, corruption and intrigue with a sharp eye on British colonial politics and race relations. It is a story that, like its main protagonist, has its heart firmly in the right place.

A rare thing this, an erudite crime thriller written by a former Vice-Chancellor. Stoddart, whose research covers India and South Asia, wears his learning lightly but nevertheless portrays the decline of British colonial rule in a quite convincing way. It’s also a really great yarn and Detective Le Fanu is a compelling central figure. Intriguing, pacy and intelligent it is well worth reading and I’m looking forward to the next ones in the series.

four stars

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