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 pair - trying to track down a missing writer who lifts the lid on Calcutta society - becomes very much more sinister as Blake and Avery get sucked into the mysterious Thugee 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 overlords - the officers of the East India Company - who have their own predatory ambitions beyond London's oversight.
©2015 Recorded by arrangement with G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company (P)2015 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
"The Strangler Vine is a splendid novel with an enthralling story, a wonderfully drawn atmosphere, and an exotic mystery that captivated me." (Bernard Cornwell)
This beautifully narrated, well written story of India in thrall to the East India Company before the British government took the country over explains a little known bit of history which I had heard before but had not retained. I will never forget it now – the invention of the cult of thugee, the worship of the Indian goddess Kali, in order to support the idea that India desperately needed the firm and civilizing hand of the British.
This is an exciting and fascinating story of the British East India Company in India. It never loses its fast pace and there are surprising plot twists. The reader is so good, including his use of different voices and accents for the different characters, that I think I would have enjoyed it less had I read it in a print version.
I heartily recommend this great adventure story.
Say something about yourself!
I just finished listening to Strangler Vine and have enjoyed every minute. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a series. Alex Wyndham does an amazing job with the story and the accents, making each character come alive. I'm hoping that Avery ends up back in England and continues to bring us adventures for many books to come.
This book is engaging from the start. I was not very familiar with the policies and practices of the East India Company (I knew of its existence but not the extent of its power) and I found the historical information in this book incredibly interesting. Add to that a plot and characters that are intriguing and you have an entertaining and educational read. It's action packed and I thought the pacing was perfect.
I did not care for the end. I'm not the type that needs s happy ending, but I felt a bit short changed by the ending. I was hoping for more.
The narration is excellent.
Great story with rich detail and fine adventure.
Mr. Blake the anti-hero was compelling in his awareness of the problems with the superior British attitude and his appreciation of native culture.
Many to choose from. The Rajah and his court were richly woven tapestries to excite the mind. The British matron who befriends the heroes there was great.
Just a lot of fun. Definitely a good summer read.
A well told story with exciting episodes. Impeccably read by the narrator, Alex Wyndham. This was the first performance of his I have listened to but I will look for others.
I think this book would appeal to fans of BBC India dramas as well as anyone who likes a good mystery/adventure. Some violence but not more than I could handle and I'm pretty delicate in that way. I highly recommend this selection!
I liked the historical background, and the setting in colonial India. The (2) main characters, William Avery and Jeremiah Blake, are also interesting. But the actual plot was too convoluted, and I'd classify this as more of an adventure than a mystery. I liked it enough to listen to the next book in the series. Excellent narrator !
As for the narration of Strangler Vine, Alex Wyndham is superb! I wish he would narrate more audio books.
The story itself is enthralling and educational. Although fictitious, it is based on research and written histories from the time of The East India Company and Britain's attempts to rule India in the early to mid 1800's. I had feared the story might be a bit tedious, however it turned out I was compelled from beginning to end.
I was captivated by the main characters in this historical novel from the very beginning and felt I knew them from the inside out, feeling their frustrations, their desires and their pain. I witnessed the growth in character and sensed the anguish, especially of William Avery as he slowly reached a greater understanding of the implications of occupying another's country. There was manipulation going on behind the scenes on the part of the British military in order to maintain power. The Machiavellian techniques used during that period of history are so similar to those used in our own times as resource wars continue, that it was uncanny. Jeremiah Blake was a fascinating character, both seasoned and wise.
But it was also the people of India who added a sense of depth as they struggled, each in his or her own way, to survive under foreign rule. There was honor and dignity in the face of ruthlessness and men who would not compromise their own ideals.
The historical setting is the British East India company controlled India of the early 19th century, which for me is both a little exotic and a little unique. While it wasn't officially a colony of Britain at the time, the East India Company had a charter from the government and so both politically and economically controlled growing amounts of India. In specific, this book surrounds the mysterious and contentious existence and strength of Thugs - thought to be a culture of traveling thieves and killers who work by ingratiating themselves into the company of other travelers, then strangling them as a sacrifice to the Hindu god Kali.
The actual mystery is more of an adventure, and really takes second place to the characters and the environment. A naive ensign is paired with a seasoned hand who's "gone native" to set out in search of a famous British poet who was, they were told, in search of the last remaining group of Thugs (Thugees). Our two heros (Avery and Blake) set of on a months-long trip of several hundred miles through the Indian forest, meeting villagers, merchants, thieves, local princes, and Company men along the way. They travel by horse and donkey, kill a tiger, escape from captivity, and discover the truth as well as the poet by the end.
As for the Strangler Vine of the title? It's a species of tropical strangler fig - it begins living in peace on the bark of a tree, but in time the descending roots grow and spread, stealing nutrients away from the original tree and, as well, often growing so big and strong that strangles the host tree to death. Sounds like an excellent metaphor for many colonial powers.
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