The true story of a celebrated young survivor of a 1919 British massacre in India and his ferocious 20-year campaign of revenge that made him a hero to hundreds of millions, and spawned a classic legend.
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.