M. J. Carter is a former journalist and the author of two acclaimed works of nonfiction, Anthony Blunt: His Lives and George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I. She is married with two sons and lives in London.
Set in the untamed wilds of nineteenth-century colonial India, a dazzling historical thriller introducing an unforgettable investigative pair.
India, 1937: William Avery is a young soldier with few prospects except rotting away in campaigns in India; Jeremiah Blake is a secret political agent gone native, a genius at languages and disguises, disenchanted with the whole ethos of British rule, but who cannot resist the challenge of an unresolved mystery. What starts as a wild goose chase for this unlikely pairtrying to track down a missing writer who lifts the lid on Calcutta societybecomes very much more sinister as Blake and Avery get sucked into the mysterious Thuggee cult and its even more ominous suppression.
There are shades of Heart of Darkness, sly references to Conan Doyle, that bring brilliantly to life the India of the 1830s with its urban squalor, glamorous princely courts and bazaars, and the ambiguous presence of the British overlordsthe officers of the East India Companywho have their own predatory ambitions beyond London's oversight.
Praise for THE STRANGLER VINE
“The Strangler Vine is a splendid novel with an enthralling story, a wonderfully drawn atmosphere, and an exotic mystery that captivated me.”—Bernard Cornwell
“In the great detective novel tradition of The Moonstone and the Sherlock Holmes series, by way of The Glass Books trilogy, Carter’s debut is a thriller set in 1837 India. Two mismatched men from the East India Company, William Avery and Jeremiah Blake, are sent off to rescue Byronic poet-adventurer Xavier Mountstuart from a murderous sect of Kali worshippers. With gorgeous historical detail and deft characterization, Carter creates a rip-roaring detective romp — while also casting a gimlet eye on the effects of British imperialism and colonization of India."—Susan Elia MacNeal, New York Times-bestselling author of the Maggie Hope series
“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, international bestselling author of The Quincunx
“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, author of White Mugals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India
“An exciting fictional debut . . . The Strangler Vine represents what must be a lifetime spent reading and soaking up Indian history and geography: you feel yourself to be in India -- in its grand palaces and its bazaars; in its colonial offices and in its jungles. Clothes, food, languages, and the physical appearance of all the characters, Indian and European, are evoked with Tolstoyan freshness . . . As well as being a rattling good yarn in the traditions of GA Henty or Rudyard Kipling, this is also a well-informed and enlightened modern book that has a properly skeptical view of imperialist propaganda. I do not remember when I enjoyed a novel more than this.”—AN Wilson, the Financial Times
“A strangler vine is a plant that chokes the life out of its host tree. In this erudite thriller, MJ Carter uses the image to describe the relationship between the East India Company and the colonized country being suffocated in its grip . . . fresh and original with many surprises in store . . . history subtly and intelligently entwines itself around a cracking good plot.”—London Evening Standard
“Lots of fast-moving drama, but [also] a carefully researched setting in early Victorian India . . . Carter gives us delicious descriptions of the wonderful court of a Rao, or Rajah: the hunting cheetahs, elephants wound about with golden chains. There are horrors too: the famine surrounding this dazzling wealth, the criminals executed by elephant-trampling. But ever onwards through the jungle presses the gallant young Avery, encountering treachery and violence, finally triumphing after many perils as a hero should. It’s a great read, white tigers and all.”—The Independent
“[An] excellent first novel . . . It blends John Masters, William Boyd, Wilkie Collins, and the Conan Doyle of Brigadier Gerard and the more orientalist Holmes stories to create a witty and entrancing historical thriller. . . . An inspired mix of sensation novel and odd-couple road novel, The Strangler Vine has a smirking sense of the absurdity of the whole colonial project.”—The Guardian
“The best elements of an old-fashioned ripping yarn unite with a plot that makes clever use of recent historical ideas about the British in India in MJ Carter’s The Strangler Vine . . . Carter’s twisting, devious narrative is enhanced by her vigorous prose and her convincing delineation of her chief characters, whose further adventures, already announced, can be keenly anticipated.”—Sunday Times
“The story is exciting, the mystery real and its setting vividly evoked…I am already looking forward to the next one.”—The Literary Review
“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.”—Metro
“A meticulously researched historical novel with a subversive and startling sting in its tail.”—The Spectator