This is the second book to feature Commandant Serge Morel, the first being The Lying-Down Room, which I haven’t read, fortunately that didn’t seem to matter with this book working perfectly well as a stand-alone read.
At the start of the story Serge Morel is on holiday in Cambodia from his native Paris when Hugo Quercy, a French national is murdered in a hotel room in Phnom Penh. Morel’s asked to stop his holiday and help the local police in Phnom Penh with their investigation but not only that he needs to ensure that everything is kept quiet to ensure that the murder won’t embarrass Hugo Quercy’s very important uncle. Morel does as he is bid and slowly the possible motives for murder are exposed. Hugo Quercy was admired by many in his role at Kids at Risk but he also had ruffled a few feathers and as Morel digs deeper he finds out that not everyone admired this charismatic man.
The beauty of this book, apart from the evocative sense of place which Anna Jaquieury brings to life for those of us sat in far colder climes, is the number of layers to the story. As well as the beauty of Cambodia we are introduced to policing that is entirely different to what we are familiar with, an experience shared by Morel, worse still the local police are working to their own agenda and certainly don’t want to be involved if the murder will implicate a local which will displease their government. Yes this book isn’t afraid to tackle the political elements in both Cambodia and France then there is the emotional fall-out and ripples that are the inevitable consequence of a brutal murder. The author doesn’t rush the information but slowly takes the reader through the uncovering of the motives as the secrets and lies come slithering rather than tumbling out. As unusual as this style felt for this genre, I appreciated a book that let me take the time to consider the implications of the murder on so many different levels.
Even better the various elements all came to a satisfactory conclusion that seemed entirely plausible given the information gathered earlier in the book. I will definitely be seeking out the first book in this series and looking out for the next.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Mantle for sending me a copy of this book for review purposes, I’m glad to have met Morel and have the opportunity to visualise life in Cambodia.