THE TIGER AND THE RUBY: A Journey to the Other Side of British India by Kief Hillsbery

  • Written by  Mick Herron
  • Published in Books
THE TIGER AND THE RUBY: A Journey to the Other Side of British India by Kief Hillsbery
07 Aug
Twenty-year-old Nigel Halleck – Kief Hillsbery’s many-times removed uncle – arrived in India in 1842 as an agent of the East India Company, and that was the last England saw of him. He died in Nepal in 1878, the whereabouts of his grave a mystery that Hillsbery is determined to solve

His researches reveal the practices of the East India Company itself, whose Hertfordshire training college was ‘notorious throughout England as a den of iniquity’, and whose ‘griffins’ – greenhorns – were dispatched to India with little idea of what to expect, and few abilities beyond ‘throwing half-eaten chickens across the table’ at dinner parties. Nigel, Hillsbery decides, was a cut above such talentless wasters, and sought ‘the real India’, whose essentials he quickly came to learn: ‘Life was hard, and many starved.’

This isn’t a history book – Hillsbery fictionalises his ancestor, providing imagined glimpses into his thoughts and feelings – but there’s much history unearthed all the same: ‘India is full of surprises,’ he notes, many of which involve mysterious deaths and hidden beauties; beheadings, blindings and servant girls made queens. Some of Nigel’s contemporaries are afforded brief biographies, which add up to a picture of a continent preparing to shrug off colonial rule, and Hillsbery’s own Asian travels are chronicled too, which, in the end, is what allows for a resolution of sorts to be reached. Because behind the rumours of jewel-smuggling, and secret moves in the everlasting Great Game, this is a love story at heart: if Nigel Halleck never returned, it was because he had found his home elsewhere. A moving and enjoyable read.

Click here to purchase The Tiger and the Ruby: A Journey to the Other Side of British India by Kief Hillsbery

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today


Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester




Travel the Unknown


Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...


NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...


Twenty one years, sixteen countries, seven continents... RGS-IBG director, Rita…


An emotional and divisive documentary that explores the trophy hunting…


by Paul Murton • Birlinn • £14.99 (softback)


by Harry Hook • HIP Editions • £54 (hardback)


by James Suzman • Bloomsbury • £18.99 (hardback)


by Thorkild Hansen • New York Review Books • £11.99…


by David Bellamy • Search Press • £25 (hardback)


by Michael Bristow • Sandstone Press • £8.99 (paperback)


Oslo makes complex geopolitics a living, breathing spectacle


New blockbuster takes climate chaos to the extreme, where what…


Prestigious Natural History Museum photography competition recognises Brent Stirton's capturing…


An inveterate armchair traveller ever since my Soviet childhood, I…


Bonnett’s previous book, Off the Map, was a thoroughly readable…


When Wilkinson set off to become the Telegraph’s Islamabad correspondent…


Dartmoor National Park might appear wild, but it’s the lines…


Barry Smith is a self-confessed islomaniac and a fixation with…


Neoliberalism. The word seems to have lost all meaning. According…


Combining a treasure trove of unseen footage set to music…


The dreadful pandemic of 1918, writes Laura Spinney, ‘engulfed the…