Author – Anna Jaquiery
Published – April 2015
Genre – Crime fiction
This is the second in Jaquiery’s Commandant Serge Morel series, following last year’s debut ‘The Lying Down Room‘. In this book the action moves from Paris to Cambodia, where Morel is on leave. He’s a regular visitor, his mother having been born there (although he’s not really bonded with his mother’s relations). The death of a French citizen with connections in the Government means that Morel is required to abandon his hotel in the country to go to Phnom Penh to ‘assist’ the local police.
The structure of the story is a traditional one – a complex plot with a limited pool of suspects and a few red herrings. The location works in Jaquiery’s favour in a number of ways. By moving the setting to Cambodia we see Morel as an outsider, isolated from his team in Paris as he struggles to build a relationship with the local force. There is the suggestion that there is corruption in the local police force which increases his isolation. The resources at the team’s disposal are limited and this means that the detection has to go back to basics, no forensics, no postmortem.
Although there is pressure to get a quick resolution to the case, Morel wants to make a thorough investigation. He is suspicious about the motives of the victim’s family for wanting things to be cleared up quickly. The investigation centres around those the victim worked with in the Kids at Risk charity and his circle of friends. It’s not long, though, before Morel is introduced to a seedier side of the city. As the investigation moves forward and the potential reasons for the murder are explored the view of the victim keeps shifting between hero and villain.
Although like its predecessor the story is told from multiple points of view, including those involved in the crime, I felt as if more time was devoted to Morel in this book which I preferred. We also find out more about Morel’s background and his parents – especially his mother and her Cambodian roots.
I didn’t get a real sense of place, I certainly don’t feel I know a lot more about Cambodia as a location, but it reminded me of some of the history of the country that I probably didn’t pay enough attention to on the news. For me the atmosphere came more from the climate and the inevitable rain.
Morel remains an intriguing character, and I look forward to reading more in the series. Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy. You can see another point of view on Liz Loves Books.