Ajay Chowdhury

The Waiter

Winner Harvill Secker – Bloody Scotland crime writing award
Optioned for television

Sunday Times Best Crime Books of 2021

The Waiter

Someone’s hungry for revenge…

Disgraced detective Kamil Rahman moves from Kolkata to London to start afresh as a waiter in an Indian restaurant. But the peace of his new life is soon shattered. The day Kamil caters an extravagant party, the powerful host, Rakesh, is found dead in his swimming pool.

Suspicion falls on Rakesh’s young and glamorous new wife, and Kamil is called to investigate for the family. Kamil and Anjoli, his boss’s daughter, prove a winning team – yet as the case progresses, and their relationship grows, the events of Kamil’s past threaten to catch up with him . . .


‘A hugely entertaining first novel for lovers of traditional crime fiction, taking us from Kolkata to Brick Lane’ Ann Cleeves

Chowdhury paces the novel like an old hand, juxtaposing chapters set in the East End with Flashbacks to Calcutta. A nice line in self-deprecating humour rounds out Rahman’s character in this outstanding debut.’ Sunday Times

From the mean streets of Kolkata to the kitchens of Brick Lane and the mansions of Bishops Avenue, this is a rip-roaring mystery that’s engrossing from start to finish. In Kamil Rahman, he’s created a quixotic and all too human protagonist who is a refreshing and welcome addition to the world of detective fiction. One of my favourite reads of the year.’ Abir Mukherjee

This detective waiter has all the ingredients for a great crime series’ Sun

[Kamil is a] likeable inspector . . . We shall hear much more of him’ Daily Mail

‘An elegantly constructed thriller’ The Times

‘Alternating between past events in Kolkata and the present, Kamil makes an appealing narrator, haunted but gently humorous and always humane as he negotiates a minefield of conflicting loyalties, warnings from the Met and UK immigration, and attempts on his life.’ The Guardian

‘The Waiter is a cracking debut and I can’t wait to find out where Chowdhury takes his characters next.’ Crime Fiction Lover

‘The Waiter is an enjoyable crime debut that brings a distinct voice to some well worn crime fiction alleyways. Chowdhury captures both London and Kolkata, and the very distinct differences between them, well, and the food smells almost burst from the page.’ The Blurb

‘Tense, gritty and fresh! What a fantastic read. The Waiter is a highly enjoyable, deftly crafted thriller with compelling characters and plot which kept me guessing right till the end.’ Waterstones

‘Le serveur de Brick Lane comporte tous les ingrédients d’un bon policier ; un fil conducteur, des flash-back (le roman est rythmé par des va-et-vient entre l’instant et trois mois auparavant à Calcutta), du suspens, des révélations, des dénouements souvent inattendus. C’est un très bon premier polar, certes il n’ai pas aussi prenant que ceux d’Abir Mukherjee, mais il se lit bien. A découvrir.’ Inde en Livres

‘Ce livre, on l’a dit est une brillante et savoureuse variation sur les standards de l’énigme, mais pas seulement. L’auteur a le regard piquant, sur ses personnages, mais aussi sur les deux sociétés qu’il met en scène. Et le propos se fait discrètement politique quand il évoque la violence des interrogatoires dans les commissariats de Calcutta ou la corruption qui règne dans les forces de police. Kamil, le jeune inspecteur, va perdre ses illusions. La fin est joyeusement immorale. Le roman est ainsi très contemporain, même s’il joue sur de vieux refrains. Après tout, comme dit un des personnages, c’est dans les vieilles marmites qu’on fait les meilleurs currys.’ Radio France

‘A l’autre bout du monde, dans le quartier londonien et hipster de Brick Lane, un autre écrivain d’origine indienne, Ajay Chowdhury, vient de se lancer dans une série qui se déroule de nos jours. Il met en scène un ex-policier qui vient de fuir Calcutta : Kamil s’est réfugié au Tandoori Knights, un restaurant ou il sert du curry et des beignets parfumes. Ajay Chowdhury est un ami d’Abir Mukherjee. Il a décidé de suivre ses traces en envisageant, lui aussi, des polars qui, d’une manière différente, scrutent les communautés indienne et pakistanaise dans la capitale anglaise. Derrière la gourmandise et l’humour qu’il distille brillamment, Ajay Chowdhury n’est pas tendre avec une société qui pressure les petites mains de la restauration. Il glisse aussi des informations politiques sur la corruption a Calcutta et la violence policière du pays. Comme son ami Abir Mukherjee, Ajay Chowdhury manie l’humour aussi bien que la gastronomie, et il sait en outre concocter des intrigues bien dosées, en référence a Conan Doyle et Agatha Christie, avec un zeste de Bollywood. Avec eux deux, le roman policier démontre une fois encore sa capacité a parler de la société, sans jamais négliger la fiction. Entre Calcutta et Londres, avec ou sans fantômes du passe.’ Télérama

The waiter

Sunday Times Best Crime Books of 2021




Sleuth turned Waiter turned Sleuth: crimes to solve.

Kamil Rahman is down on his luck. He’s lost his job, smashed his dreams and fled Kolkata for London. In this dazzling debut novel Ajay Chowdhury weaves together a story that moves backwards and forwards between the fallen detective’s last case in India and his struggle to defend the innocent in England. Chowdhury deftly spins a tale of two murders, two countries, two times and binds them together into a single web of intrigue, money, corruption and death. He paints a bleak picture but brings it to life with a keen eye for texture, detail and an enticing love of music and good food. No book as ever made me as hungry as this enjoyable, fast-paced thriller. Chowdhury has a wry sense of humour (and a love, it seems, of T-shirt slogans) which lightens the gloom from this murky story.

The only question I was left with was what will Rahman do next? It is going to be fun following Kamil get to grips with more unsolved cases and tasty meals in what will surely be a series.

Daphne Sharp


Mouth watering action!

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 March 2022

A very accomplished debut novel, that really drew me in to a complex web of deceit and mystery, with some very tempting cookery skills on the side! Brilliant characters, very likeable, fast paced and full of action and conviction, yes, I like this story very much!
Kamel, the waiter, was once in the Kolkata Police force, now disgraced and dismissed over corruption charges in a high profile case, he now works in a restaurant in Brick Lane.
However, Good police officers never retire, they are always curious, and cannot resist tinkering around with fact and fiction to get at the truth.
( Well, my husband does, it drives me crazy!)
When an Indian billionaire is murdered at a party where Kamil is working as a waiter, and he finds out that the victim and his father were university friends, he feels compelled to take an interest in the case, in part to make amends for the failings of his high profile case in Kolkata. At first, there are many characters to be introduced to, family relationships to understand, and a culture of food and slang terms, that I am not intimately familiar with.
As the book progressed, it became easier, Kamil is a lovely character, so true to his values, such a gentleman! The story is interesting and intense, the descriptions are vivid and colourful, almost playful in some instances!
This story made me very happy. I have already started the second , The Cook, and have high hopes that the intrigues will continue! What I really want is a good cookbook based upon the mouthwatering recipes that were so lovingly described , and secondly, wouldn’t this make a great TV series?!!

M Lewis


Super detective series, wonderful characters. Want a TV series!

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 March 2022

Kamil Rahman, ex-Kolkata police detective is now working now for his father’s friend’s restaurant near Brick Lane, UK. Just 3 months earlier he was eagerly building his career in Kolkata when everything went pear-shaped. He feels this steep downward trajectory sorely; and mourns the loss of his career, fiancee and everything he knew. Now he tries to recover from his ‘disgrace’, and is trying to adapt to life in England.

3 months later, the rich, powerful Rakesh Sharma is having a huge party to celebrate his 60th birthday and Kamil is hired as a waiter to serve there. But this party become the scene of a murder and Kamil feels drawn to ‘solving ‘ the mystery himself, wanting to redeem himself after his mystery disgrace in India.

The two cases are revealed alternately and we get to know more and more of Kamil’s story, past and present.
I thoroughly enjoyed this – the characters were great, authentic, (and you just want Anjoli as a mate!) Themes of corruption, bribes, visas, permits, politics, dodgy police and familial disillusionment along with self forgiveness, understanding, empathy, ethics and friendship – plus 2 damned good mysteries dwell within these pages.

Absolutely loved it – and I want a TV exec to pick up this series as I’m on on the second one and can’t get enough – would translate SO WELL to TV. Come on Channel 4!!



Verve, wry humour, colourful characters and unexpected plot twists

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 10 August 2021

If you’ve got a taste for mystery and murder Ajay Chowdhury’s lively, spice infused, debut crime novel “The Waiter” is a delightful read. The waiter is Kamil Rahman, disillusioned Kolkata cop, unsuspecting pawn in a “dog – eats- dog world”, caught between conscience and career, who flees to London and restarts his life as a waiter in a Bangladeshi restaurant on Brick Lane.

The plot of “The Waiter” cleverly weaves a first person narrative extending back and forth in time across two countries, two murders, two identities of the protagonist. We alternate between Kamil’s past in Kolkata where he’s possibly the oldest rookie, thirty-something sub-inspector, given charge of a hi-pro case – the gruesome, lurid murder of Bollywood star Asif Khan, and London where Kamil, fortunes reversed, now an undocumented, invisible, under the radar waiter at the bottom of the food chain, finds himself irresistibly drawn into the murder investigation of rich UK businessman, Rakesh Sharma.

The downbeat but never beaten Kamil inspired by his feisty, funny, avidly curious, detective sidekick Anjoli, recovers his investigative mojo, and discovers that the clues to the present crime he is investigating connect mysteriously back to his past. Chowdhury gives his sub-inspector -waiter -detective a fair second chance and this time around Kamil is right on the mark. With diligent detection he skillfully connects the dots and reclaims his honor- but does he redeem himself by bringing justice for Rakesh?Chowdhury leaves that up to his readers to decide. “The Waiter” is a fast paced story that not only entertains but nudges us to reflect on the price we inevitably pay for our ideals, our personal relationships and our social transgressions.

2018 Winner of the prestigious Harvill Secker – Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Award Chowdhury’s novel about the murder of Bollywood star Asif Khan felt eerily prescient, anticipating the apparent suicide of Bollywood star Sushant Singh Rajput that dominated news cycles in India for much of 2020. Compared to the conspiracy theories around Sushant’s death which “exposed” a bizarre nexus of money, politics, drugs, and corruption in Bollywood, Ajay Chowdhury’s “The Waiter” as an instance of fiction foreshadowing life, written with verve, wry humour, colourful characters and unexpected plot twists delivers us a far more riveting mystery!


The Guardian Top Crime Books of the Year 2022 

Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month April 2023

Published April 2024

Coming Soon