Anand...provides a revealing look at the brutality and oppression of British rule, and how it seeded the desire for retribution in the hearts of so many Indians ... Anand does a stellar job of sketching Singh’s trajectory from orphanage to hangman’s noose, and from obscurity into the pantheon of Indian heroes. But the lack of available details about his activities, including the precise nature of his relationship with the Ghadars, forces her to tell the story at a remove that at times feels unsatisfying. In contrast, the book offers a crisp portrait of O’Dwyer, providing a clear sense of the attitudes he shared with his fellow administrators in the Raj...Singh’s character and motivations, on the other hand, are rendered in such broad and sometimes speculative brush strokes that readers are likely to be left wondering what really drove him. Yet the book more than makes up for this shortcoming by reconstructing its key events in compelling, vivid prose.
...[a] remarkable and brilliantly researched non-fiction thriller ... well-written, [contains] new research and [breaks] much fresh ground ... Through some remarkable research in archives around the world, Anand has reconstructed much of [Singh's] life ... Books such as...The Patient Assassin are now more important than ever because they help us to understand why Indians — like so many other peoples around the globe — often have such bitter memories of British rule.
Singh’s is a great and riveting story, but Anand hasn’t necessarily delivered it expertly. In her hands, the narrative feels much too often like a rambling yarn, and she has a fondness for the soap operatic in her storytelling. The first third of the book, in which she frames the tale and introduces us to the characters, is sudsy and overwritten. In places Anand is guilty of hyperbole ... And yet, so compelling is the actual story of Singh, so full of remarkable twists and mysteries, that I never felt I should stop reading. I was glad I persevered; once Anand emerges from her descriptions of people and times for which she has to use her imagination to fill the gaps and begins those parts of her narrative for which archival information exists, her book becomes an altogether better one. Windy imaginings are replaced by hard fact and detail, with judicious excerpts from diaries, memoirs, prison records and imperial papers ... There is, at times, too much detail, but I suspect that surfeit is better than the alternative.
...sheds critical light on one of history’s coldest dishes of revenge ... The Patient Assassin is not a whodunit. We know who the killer is before we finish reading the preface. Nonetheless, it’s a suspenseful work of historical detection. Like a le Carré novel, it has a complex, weblike structure that creates a nuanced and compelling account of the massacre and its fallout. As a result, Anand rescues Singh from his pigeonhole, revealing a flawed man driven by anger, guilt and grief.
Ms. Anand’s narrative is vividly realized in the face of her subject’s hazy, underground existence ... mixes Tom Ripley’s con-man-for-all-seasons versatility with Edmond Dantès’s persistence. Singh’s mysterious, fascinating career raises various questions, not least: When it comes to serving up revenge, how cold is too cold?
In Anand’s narrative, the courses of two lives separated by a gulf in race, class and geography narrow slowly until they meet each other, momentarily and theatrically, on stage in front of a London audience. Hitchcock might have made the film ... Perhaps Anand intends only to show how popular Indian history would like to see Singh, or how Singh would have liked to see himself. Certainly the earlier that Singh’s resolve can be shown to take hold, the more the book’s title can be justified, though given the shortage of information about his intentions for most of the period 1919 to 1940, a more accurate title might have been 'The Wandering Assassin.' What Anand provides about his state of mind is reasonable biographical speculation ... Her book isn’t perfect. There are some jarring Americanisms...and in terms of technique an inclination to go beyond the cautiously speculative...into the assertively fictional ... But all the same it is an involving account of a strange and obsessive life.
... fascinating ... [Anand's] perspective is very much an Indian one—that doesn’t make it wrong, just incomplete. The British perspective is not entirely missing from her book, but it is given relatively short shrift ... It is not the facts that divide Anand’s and some British viewpoints; it is their differing perspectives.
This is both a crime thriller and a historical study of what proved a crucial turning point in the British rule of India ... On the day of the massacre Anita Anand’s grandfather could have been at Jallianwala Bagh but for being on errand. She combines interesting details with forensic research and an eye for colour making this little told story into a page turner.
...as the journalist Anita Anand shows in her colourful, detailed and meticulously researched account, the story of Singh and O’Dwyer is more ambiguous than it might seem ... What Anand’s account brings home is how closely Singh resembled other well-known political murderers of the 20th century, such as Gavrilo Princip, Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray. Although the anniversary of his execution is now a public holiday in Punjab, he was far from a heroic figure ... To put it bluntly, he was a loser, and although Anand tries to give his story a thrillingly mysterious air, there is something irredeemably depressing about it ... Where the book really shines, though, is in evoking the fevered atmosphere of India in the late 1910s and early 1920s.
... completely engrossing ... This biographical approach requires an extra measure of patience on the part of Anand’s readers, but as with her winning 2015 book Sofia, that patience is amply rewarded; the pairing of Dyer’s life and Udham Singh’s serves to create a more personal and immediate portrait of an India boiling with tension and delusion. As with Sofia, so too here: the drama of a nation is skillfully refracted in the details of individual lives.
...a gripping, multifaceted tale ... Anand diligently follows the circuitous trail of Singh’s life, piecing together his various aliases, addresses, jobs, and international travels, and exploring his work distributing literature, recruiting, and gun-running for the Ghadars, an Indian revolutionary organization. This vivid and meticulously researched account will have readers riveted.
A carefully reconstructed story of political murder ... Anand painstakingly follows Singh’s long path from the killing fields of India to the Houses of Parliament and that climactic moment, which might have resulted in the deaths of many other officials had he used the right caliber for the bullets he fired ... A footnote to Anglo-Indian history, to be sure, but a telling one, and very well done.