Blood Moon over Bengal
I always welcome the chance to read a good, meaty historical – complex characters, intricate plotting, and lots of historical detail all have their appeal – but, unfortunately, there seem to be all too few of these on the shelves. Blood Moon Over Bengal certainly holds the promise to be a good and interesting historical, but it is a tad rough in execution.
British Calcutta is in the grip of a serial killer. Though the initial killings among the Indian population went largely unnoticed by the British government, when a British woman is violently killed, all that changes. Anglo-Indian officer Nigel Covington-Singh is put in charge of the investigation and ordered to find the killer at once.
Elizabeth Mainwarring, daughter of Nigel’s commanding officer, quite literally drops into this turmoil when the plane she’s flying crash lands on a parade field. Though initially put off by Nigel’s overbearing manner, Elizabeth finds herself becoming quite drawn to him, a development that upsets her as she starts to confront the British prejudice against Indians and Anglo-Indians.
As the romance between Elizabeth and Nigel develops, the murders continue to terrorize the British. The forbidden nature of their relationship paired with the danger from the killer provide a lot of the book’s tension and this darkly fascinating story often drew me in. The mystery plot was suspenseful, and, for the most part, the romance was also a compelling one.
This is Pippin’s debut novel and, unfortunately, it shows in the details. Though there is a great deal of historical background in this novel, it is not worked carefully into the story. Instead, the author has fallen into the trap of creating characters who sound like walking history books, leading to some rather stilted scenes that really jerk one out of the narrative flow. While these are concentrated in the first third of the book, the tendency is still noticeable throughout.
Pippin does a good job of creating a vivid setting, though, evoking the climate and terrain of India very well. The people surrounding Nigel and Elizabeth were also interesting. I do not know enough about British India to speculate on the accuracy of this portrayal of society, but I did find it very interesting.
Nigel is a rather admirable hero. His thoughtfulness and strength were probably what I noticed first about him. Though he is Anglo-Indian, he has managed through hard work to command a certain amount of respect for himself in a society biased against him. In addition, he actually thinks through situations before acting, something that is apparent in his relationship with Elizabeth, as well as in other areas of his life. Elizabeth, however, isn’t as well drawn. At first, she seemed like a standard-issue “spunky” historical heroine with her trusty female sidekick in tow. However, as I got into the story, Elizabeth showed more dimensions of her character. She still has moments where she behaves like the blonde bimbo in a horror flick, but she is also an interesting mix of historical and modern – just as her time period was.
Blood Moon Over Bengal has many good moments to it. The setting is fascinating, and the character and story development show a lot of promise, particularly after the first 50 pages or so. However, the rough integration of historical detail, combined with some rather simplistic resolutions to various conflicts, made this one just a touch too average to garner a real recommendation. This author does show promise, however, and I will be curious to see how her writing develops in the future.