Mukherjee wins Telegraph Harvill Secker crime prize

Mukherjee wins Telegraph Harvill Secker crime prize

A book set during the British Raj has been named the winner of the Telegraph Harvill Secker Crime Writing Prize.

Abir Mukherjee’s A Rising Man will be published by Harvill Secker, with the author getting a £5,000 advance.

The prize was launched last July with the aim of finding an unpublished crime writer. Entrants were asked to submit the first 5,000 words of their book, as well as a complete plot synopsis.

A Rising Man is set in India in 1919, and opens with the brutal murder of a British burra sahib in the backstreets of Calcutt. Captain Sam Wyndham of the Imperial Police Force, a former Scotland Yard detective and a man scarred by the Great War, is asked to investigate the killing, and whether it was politically motivated.

Described as “a good man upholding a corrupt system”, Wyndham is assisted by the equally conflicted Sergeant Bannerjee, who is torn between his belief in British justice and the Empire’s repression of his own people.

Alison Hennessey, senior crime editor at Harvill Secker and the founder of the prize, said A Rising Man “a very worthy winner”, with the opening chapters of the book “beautifully written, atmospheric and intelligent, with a great setting and a wonderfully wry sense of humour throughout”.

She continued. “In Captain Wyndham, we have a main character who promises to be someone with whom readers will love to spend time and who will sit happily on the Harvill Secker bookshelves alongside our home-grown and international detectives. I can’t wait to read the whole book, and I’m delighted to be publishing it.”

An extract of A Rising Man can be read on The Telegraph website.

Mukherjee said: “I've always wanted to write a novel but this is the first time I've ever shown any of my writing to anyone other than family and friends. I find the British Raj a fascinating time in history, a period which has shaped both modern day Britain and India. To have Harvill Secker publish my novel is fantastic, as I'm a big fan of Jo Nesbo and Henning Mankell.”

The entries were judged by Hennessey; Bethan Jones, publicity director at Harvill Secker; Sam Copeland, literary agent at RCW; Richard Reynolds, crime buyer at Heffers; and Jon Stock of the Telegraph books desk and author of the Daniel Marchant spy thriller trilogy.

A highly-commended runner-up was Susanna Drury for Trust and there were four shortlisted entries: Guy Bolton for The Pictures, Josephine Jarman for Patience, Janet Olearski for Foreigner and Elle Wild for Strange Things Done.

Image by Hilary Stock