Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Deceivers (4/81)

One night, Captain William Savage of the East India Company witnesses a murder. In seeking out the murderers, he finds his efforts frsutrated, and soon comes to realize that a criminal conspiracy has been operating right under his nose. To stop the killings, he will have to infiltrate the group that goes by The Deceivers.

That story is loosely based on the Thuggee (meaning deceivers) of India, who strangled and robbed travellers on the roads. Savage is something of an unlikely hero. He doesn't figure himself particularly brave or commanding, but when he discovers the crimes, he sees no choice but to make himself pass as an Indian and join a Thuggee band.

The Deceivers is a fairly straightforward suspense/adventure tale, where our heroic protagonist finds the hero inside as he faces a terrible evil. The setting is well realized, and the foe portrayed in an interesting manner.

I must admit I didn't find Capt. Savage entirely compelling as a hero, in part because the threat wasn't always well defined. The physical threat, yes, but Deceivers puts equal weight on the spiritual/psychological threat Savage is under while pretending to be a Thug, without really making it plausible that he would have any reason for becoming a Thug. Instead it opts for some weak supernaturalism, and a somewhat vague struggle between Eastern and Western gods.

(One might also accuse Masters of some colonial revisionism, but I'd just urge any reader not to treat the novel as a serious portrayal of 19th Century India.)

Overall, with its interesting locale and heroic protagonist, The Deceivers makes for a pretty entertaining adventure story.

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