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Publisher's Summary

Longlisted – Baileys Women’s Prize 2014

Penguin presents the unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of M. J. Carter's The Strangler Vine, read by the actor Sam Dastor.

India, 1837: William Avery, a fresh young officer in the East India Company, arrives in Calcutta expecting to be seduced by its ancient traditions. Nine months later he hasn't learnt a word of Hindoostani, is in terrible debt, and longs to return home before the cholera epidemic finishes him off.

A few months earlier, so rumour has it, the infamous and disgraced poet Xavier Mountstuart leaves Calcutta in order to track down the last of the remaining Thugs, a sinister secret fraternity notorious for strangling thousands of travellers. But after reaching the kingdom of Jubbulpore, Mountstuart mysteriously disappears.Then the Company leads Avery to Jeremiah Blake, an unruly ex-Captain who has embraced native life. Their mission? To cover 700 miles of treacherous road in three weeks and find Mountstuart. A more unlikely duo couldn't be imagined, but they must bury their differences if they wish to succeed - for all is not as it seems, and at the rotten heart of everything lies the secret of the macabre Thugs....

©2014 M. J. Carter (P)2014 Penguin Books Limited

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Average Customer Ratings

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A real cracking story

The storyline keep you hooked from the start, and only get's better and real intense on the way.

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  • T
  • 05-15-15

"Ripping Yarn" revises our view of Brits in India

The Strangler Vine covers a serious subject, disguised in a rollicking good yarn about the days leading up to the British Raj. Taken simply as a story, it’s thoroughly enjoyable. I liked Sam Dastor's narration, which seemed vocally accurate and conjured the feel of the period and place well.

This fictional account intrigued me such that I did further reading about the history of the period. Since India's Independence, their historians have rightly taken a fresh look at the British versions of the history of the East India Company and the British Raj. It is not a surprise that they find that the British were somtimes cynical and ruthless in achieving their Colonial ambitions. I have no idea whether the 21st century appraisal of the days of the Thuggee threat are any more accurate than that in British histories, but it seems entirely plausible. Until I read this book, I didn’t even know there was a controversy, so I guess it has achieved its job of bringing the subject to a wider audience. But it’s as a good story that most will enjoy it and I can recommend as such.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Two Tone
  • 03-18-16

One of my most favourite audio books - loved it!

What did you like most about The Strangler Vine?

There's nothing to dislike: there is history, adventure, travel, strong characters, murder and mystery. All set in Victoria's Indian Empire with jewels and opium and dust. Most of all it is about the building of an unlikely friendship between the two main characters.

What about Sam Dastor’s performance did you like?

I loved his accent and narration. It seems perfect for the place and time in India.

Any additional comments?

Still waiting for M J Carter's sequel to be turned into an audio book and read by Sam Dastor. Why is it taking so long?!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Simply Red
  • 02-19-14

Good story

Any additional comments?

I agree with much of what the previous reviewer said. I came across the book by chance. It was a really good story - although every time the word 'Thugs' was mentioned I could not get our modern day equivalents out of my mind. I got a real sense of time and place through the descriptive passages. The narration (for me) was only marred with the accent adoped for the character of Avery. To my mind it wasn't authentic and sounded comical at times, I did get used to it but it took a while. By contrast the accent adopted for Mountstuart was excellent - conjuring up a very clear picture. A good 'page turner'.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • CharmayneFB
  • 06-09-17

Quite simply the best book I've listened to this year

Historically informative and accurate, packed full of detail as well as brilliant characters, both real and fictional. Gripping storyline throughout from the tiniest scenes to the biggest dramas.

The narrator is amazing too. Absolutely perfect for this book.

I'll definitely find time to listen to it again, even though I know the plot twists.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jackie
  • 03-22-17

Distracted by accent

Good yarn but I found the narrator's rendition of a Devon accent grated as it didn't seem appropriate for the character of Avery. It sounded much older than the character to my ear.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Debbie Rowe
  • 05-25-17

Close your eyes & you're in 1830's India.

Would you consider the audio edition of The Strangler Vine to be better than the print version?

The narrator is very good, although some of his accents are a bit wonky. I would still definitely prefer to listen to this book over reading it, just for convenience.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I can't choose between Blake & Avery. I believe the characters are written this way, purposely not favouring either.

Which character – as performed by Sam Dastor – was your favourite?

The few India characters in the book. The narrator seemed to me to have a decent grasp of the accent and manner of speaking.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It is a book for the senses. I've never been to India but I could visualise it perfectly in this book. The author does not labour over descriptions but manages to capture the atmosphere is a spine tingly way.

Any additional comments?

The master and student formula is not new but the main characters are very interesting and likeable.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • K
  • 03-24-17

Grand Old Tale

This is a detective story of the old school but none the worst for it and a little window into the days prior to the Raj. Two comfortable but well conceived detective stereotypes together with a plausible criminal intrigue make this a very interesting listen. I liked the juxtaposition of the naivety and fallibility of Avery with the experienced practicality of principled Blake. The intracacies of the plot were involving without being confusing. I was only disappointed by the romantic bit; it was almost like ticking a box and had no positive addition, in my eyes, to the plot or characterisation. Despite this, a thoroughly satisfying job.

The reader does an excellent turn too. To my, admittedly, untrained ear he seems to be very familiar with Indian pronunciation and makes the range of characters distinguishable and sustains them effortlessly.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • D HOLMAN
  • 12-02-15

Excellent Historical Fiction Listen

Would you consider the audio edition of The Strangler Vine to be better than the print version?

I would prefer the audio edition. Sam Dastor painted a far richer canvas with his voices than I would have been able to in my head. There is an exciting plot which gives opportunity to portray the rich landscape and times of the East India Company.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I liked Avery, like me he is naive about the mysterious Indian sub-continent and it felt as if we were exploring it together.

Have you listened to any of Sam Dastor’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No, but I wouldn't hesitate to listen to him again. His voices and accents were excellent

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • ProfJ
  • 08-19-15

Captivating read

Would you listen to The Strangler Vine again? Why?

No, but only because I almost never re-read novels. I would love to listen to the sequel if/when it becomes available as an audiobook.

What about Sam Dastor’s performance did you like?

I enjoyed his Indian accents in the Vish Puri books but here the British/Scottish accents sometimes didn't work. Nonetheless, a very good narration.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No, it just kept me totally engaged. I had recently travelled to many of the areas described in the book, which added to the sense of place. I found the historical perspective fascinating and really enjoyed the short explanation of historical context at the end.

Any additional comments?

I love the mix of true historical perspective and exciting fictional story telling.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Vanessa Barrett
  • 06-07-14

The East India Company's later machinations

Would you consider the audio edition of The Strangler Vine to be better than the print version?

Don't know

Who was your favorite character and why?

Don't consider books in this way. I'm more interested in the way the story unfolds different characters and how their personalities influence what happens

Which character – as performed by Sam Dastor – was your favourite?

As above

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

No

Any additional comments?

This format for reviews is really unhelpful.

I thoroughly enjoyed Dan Snow's recent TV series the 'Birth of Empire' about the East India Company and decided to read this novel to complement it. Although a novel, several historical characters are included and I found the story both believable and fascinating. Sam Dastor brought characters to life with consistent accents and a lively rendition. If like me you have an interest in understanding how history influences what happens today, this is an intriguing glimpse into the 'foreign', in every sense, world of late 1830s India.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • @GlobalCrimeFict
  • 07-11-16

Fabulous adventure, narrated by a master

Loved this rollicking yarn set in the India of East India Company. Sam Dastor is wonderful - I select books just for his reading.