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....
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What makes the audio book distinctly better than the printed version is the narrator's well enunciated British English. I can no longer bear most of Audible's AE speakers mumbling or slanging themselves through their texts as though they're announcing the NBA's latest scores.
The Strangler Vine combines the long-windedness and fairly shallow suspense curve of the classic adventure story with the ubiquitous political correctness of today. Almost every single European character is portrayed as prejudiced, jaded, hypocritical, corrupt and /or cowardly – even more so than the historical evidence requires. I felt considerably more lectured than entertained.
- Kaleb McCormack