A debut novel with a good plot, that’s written with a light touch and is fun to read.

Ajay Chowdhury’s debut novel, The Waiter, was published in May and has already won the Harvill Secker Bloody Scotland award for new crime writers and been chosen as the Sunday Times Crime Fiction ‘Book of the Month’.

In our book group we rarely reach a unanimous verdict about a novel we’ve all read, and this was no exception. One of our number said it was “Bollywood in a book” and we later found similar descriptions in other reviews. Neither were we surprised to discover that the BBC has taken an option on the story and plans to make it into a TV series. But none of this should detract from the fact that most of us really enjoyed this story and would recommend it.

The plot
So what’s it about? Well, Kamil Rahman is a former detective who has left his home and job in Kolkata in disgrace; and ended up in London working illegally as a waiter in the restaurant of some family friends. Asked to work a shift at a private party being thrown by a rich businessman, Kamil finds himself involved in a murder investigation when the host is found dead in his swimming pool at the end of the evening. The family ask him to look into the death unofficially, alongside the formal police investigation, and he’s assisted by his boss’ daughter, Anjoli. There are two storylines – the London murder investigation and the Kolkata case that ended in Kamil’s disgrace. Neither is straightforward, yet the novel skilfully moves you backwards and forwards between England and India as Kamil’s past threatens to catch up with him.

Our verdict
A few of us found the book a little difficult to get into. The dialogue is written in a sing-song style and it takes a while to tune in to the speech rhythms; and to work out the connections between the characters. But once you’ve ‘found your place’ things pick up speed and your interest is caught. We enjoyed both mysteries and found Kamil a likeable character who is believable and real.

Chowdhury writes with a light touch and lots of humour, from the slogans on Anjoli’s T-shirts to Kamil’s silent musings and asides about song lyrics and his colleagues. There are also some nicely described, corrupt villains who bring additional colour to the story and Chowdhury’s descriptions of locations and scenery are terrific (especially those of Kolkata). All this lifts what is otherwise a fairly simple plot and makes it fun to read.

The Waiter might not be one of our top five best debut novels but it’s somewhere close to them. And because all of us felt the storytelling improved as the novel progressed, we’re sure the series will get better and better. We’re looking forward to the next instalment. With a TV series in the pipeline, Kamil Rahman is sure to be on your crime radar before long.
Review by: Oundle Crime

P.S. Oundle Crime is meeting again! Our book group isn’t a closed shop, so if you’d like to join us to chat about the books and authors you enjoy send an email to join@friendsofoundlelibrary.org.uk and we’ll send you the date and time of our next meeting.