The Madras Presidency, 1911. It is 10:35 a.m., the appointed hour. A boy barely into manhood, a British officer for the Crown, and a loaded pistol will create a moment in history, the echoes of which are still faintly heard today.
Vanchinathan, a young boy from a poor Tamil family living in Shenkottai, at the foothills of the western ghats, defies his family and goes far away to attend college. Carried away in the rising tide of anger against colonial rule, he finds himself drawn to one of the militant traditionalist groups opposed to the British Raj. He is recruited, trained to be an assassin and tasked with a secret mission: he must kill Robert Ashe, a British officer who has earned the ire of Vanchi’s mentors by suppressing a riot and jailing its leader. Buffeted by self-doubt and ideological misgivings, Vanchi finds himself on a knife-edge. As Ashe’s luxury train waits at an isolated station, will Vanchi raise his gun and shoot?
Drawing upon a true story, Stuart Blackburn weaves together history, legend and narratives from South India’s colonial past to deliver a gripping yet nuanced novel.