Jaquiery, Anna - 'Death in the Rainy Season'
This extremely gripping second crime novel by this new author is very well plotted and very atmospheric. It is set in Cambodia with the main protagonist being Commandant Serge Morel a Paris-based detective.
Commandant Serge Morel is on vacation visiting the country of his birth in September 2011. His father was French and mother Cambodian. Morel was mainly brought up in France but he had promised his dying mother that he would try to repair the estranged relationship that she had with her brother. Morel has returned to his mother's home village with that view in mind and was generally enjoying the rest he was getting from his demanding career in Paris when he was asked to telephone Paris. He spoke to his chief, Superintendent Olivier Perrin. Perrin had also sent a fax to Morel's hotel. The fax gave details of the death of a French citizen, who was murdered in Phnom Penh. Morel queried the significance of this and was told that the deceased was the nephew of the French Interior Minister (or Home Secretary) who was the political boss of the Police. Morel was told to fly to Phnom Penh immediately and take charge of the investigation.
When he reached Phnom Penh, a very short flight away, Morel was met at the airport by a Police attaché from the French Embassy, who, on the drive to his hotel, explained the circumstances of the death. Hugo Quercy, the nephew of the Interior Minister checked into a hotel under a false name 'Jean Dupont'. The hotel was not far from his home and it was assumed he was there to conduct an illicit affair. He was killed by multiple blows to the head but there was no sign of forced entry to the room so it was assumed he knew his assailant. Quercy's body has been identified and sent to the police morgue. There are no facilities to do an autopsy or post mortem and the body will eventually be cremated. A doctor will give his opinion of the cause of death in the absence of a forensic pathologist.
As soon as the corpse had been identified, news of his death was telephoned through to the French Interior Minister in France and he had advised the deceased's sister and was applying pressure to have the crime solved as quickly as possible. As there was very little crime of this kind in Cambodia, particularly of foreign nationals and as Morel was of mixed blood and was more familiar with the Cambodia way of doing things it was thought he would be able to investigate the crime more quickly and get a satisfactory conclusion much quicker than the locals.
So Morel has to talk to all the relations of the deceased and examine all the clues he believes appropriate. He is accompanied by Chey Sarit who is in charge of the investigation into the death of Hugo Quercy. Conditions and customs in this country are very different to what Morel is used to in France as far as when a murder occurs and he has to employ much more rigorous methods of verbal questioning as he cannot rely on computer searches of records etc. The story moves swiftly on until the surprising but satisfactory conclusion.
Anna Jaquiery is of French-Malaysian descent and grew up in Europe and Asia. She has worked as a journalist in several countries, starting as a freelance reporter in Russia. She is currently based in Melbourne with her husband and two sons. THE LYING-DOWN ROOM, her lauded debut novel, was the first in a series to feature Commandant Serge Morel. DEATH IN THE RAINY SEASON is her second novel. She writes her beautiful novel in a literary and very atmospheric style with very detailed descriptions that really capture what she is describing exactly in one's minds eye. I absolutely loved reading this story which I recommend extremely highly.
Terry Halligan, England
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