The “compelling [and] vivid” (The New York Times Book Review) true story of a man who claimed to be a survivor of a 1919 British massacre in India, his elaborate twenty-year plan for revenge, and the mix of truth and legend that made him a hero to hundreds of millions.
When Sir Michael O’Dwyer, the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, ordered Brigadier General Reginald Dyer to Amritsar, he wanted Dyer to bring the troublesome city to heel. Sir Michael had become increasingly alarmed at the effect Gandhi was having on his province, as well as recent demonstrations, strikes, and shows of Hindu-Muslim unity. All these things, to Sir Michael, were a precursor to a second Indian revolt. What happened next shocked the world. An unauthorized gathering in the Jallianwallah Bagh in Amritsar in April 1919 became the focal point for Sir Michael’s law enforcers. Dyer marched his soldiers into the walled public park, blocking the only exit. Then, without issuing any order to disperse, he instructed his men to open fire, turning their guns on the crowd, which numbered in the thousands and included women and children. The soldiers continued firing for ten minutes, stopping only when they ran out of ammunition.
According to legend, nineteen-year-old Sikh orphan Udham Singh was injured in the attack, and remained surrounded by the dead and dying until he was able to move the next morning. Then, he supposedly picked up a handful of blood-soaked earth, smeared it across his forehead, and vowed to kill the men responsible.
The truth, as the author has discovered, is more complex—but no less dramatic. Award-winning journalist Anita Anand traced Singh’s journey through Africa, the United States, and across Europe until, in March 1940, the young man finally arrived in front of O’Dwyer himself in a London hall ready to shoot him down. The Patient Assassin “mixes Tom Ripley’s con-man-for-all-seasons versatility with Edmond Dantès’s persistence” (The Wall Street Journal) and reveals the incredible but true story behind a legend that still endures today.
About the Author
Anita Anand is an award-winning broadcast journalist and currently hosts BBC Radio 4’s Any Answers? Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, India Today, and The Asian Age. In addition to The Patient Assassin, she is the author of Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary and coauthor of Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond.
New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Winner of the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize
“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. . . . Compelling, vivid prose.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Ms. Anand’s narrative is vividly realized in the face of her subject’s hazy, underground existence… [Her] ‘Patient Assassin’ mixes Tom Ripley’s con-man-for-all-seasons versatility with Edmond Dantès’s persistence…Engaging reading.”
—Wall Street Journal
“A gripping, multifaceted tale of India in the twilight years of the British Empire, about Udham Singh, who bided his time for twenty years until he could exact revenge for the 1919 British massacre of Indians in a public garden…Anand diligently follows the circuitous trail of Singh’s life, piecing together his various aliases, addresses, jobs, and international travels…This vivid and meticulously researched account will have readers riveted.”
“A carefully reconstructed story of political murder that began to unfold a century ago… Anand painstakingly follows [Udham] Singh's long path from the killing fields of India to the Houses of Parliament and that climactic moment… telling, and very well done.”
“Reads like something from a thriller…colourful, detailed and meticulously researched...the book really shines in evoking the fevered atmosphere of India in the late 1910s and early 1920s.'”
—Sunday Times (UK)
“A great and riveting story… full of remarkable twists and mysteries.”
—The Times (UK)
“Brilliantly researched…Anand focuses on one extraordinary story that had never been properly told before.”
—William Dalrymple, The Spectator
“Briskly plotted, scrupulously even-handed and altogether riveting.”
—John Preston Daily Mail
“A dramatic, fast-paced narrative…Anand produces an engaging account of the times and of this unlikely hero. And though gripped by her subject, she does not shirk away from his human failings.”
—Manu Pillai, New Statesman
“A jaw-dropping true story….Like a real-life Tom Ripley, [the assassin of this tale] assumed multiple identities and bided his time….Rough justice; brutally poetic.”
—Richard Madeley, The Spectator
“Gripping from start to finish. Anita Anand is a brilliant guide who brings a series of extraordinary—and important—stories to life in this remarkable history.”
—Peter Frankopan, author of the international bestseller The Silk Roads: A New History of the World