Winner Harvill Secker – Bloody Scotland crime writing award
Optioned for television
‘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’ 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
‘Characterisation and plotting are Chowdhury’s strengths. All the characters, even the ones who are given bit parts, live and breathe on the page. The pace rarely flags. It is always full throttle. Chowdhury grabs the reader by the scruff of the neck on the opening page. He floors the accelerator, and never lets his foot off the pedal, right until the very end. The suspense is expertly built. Chowdhury is capable of ratcheting it up at will. As soon as you think that one situation has been resolved, one more danger has been averted, a new one is thrown at you. Twist follows twist, turn follows turn, till the reader is left breathless.’ The Asian Age
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!