Why a booktrail?
The second book in the Commandant Morel series. Where he was once in Paris, now he’s on holiday in Phnom Penh. Well that’s what he thinks…
Story in a nutshell
Commandant Morel might be on holiday but when he gets a call to say that a French national has been found dead in a hotel room in Phnom Penh, he boards a plane and heads over to find out what has happened. For the dead man is a relative of a prominent French government official and he was found in a hotel room under an assumed name. he worked as the head of a humanitarian organisation and may have been investigating the government land grabs in the area. So, a long list of potential murderers is already growing…. However the trail of bloody footprints left at the scene might lead to somewhere no-one really wants to go….
Place and setting
From the calm retreat and holiday in Siem Reap with its ancient temples and traditional ways, to the bustling and murder scene and underbelly of Phnom Penh.
Maybe the setting of Phnom Penh and the rain and the humidity was the reason we wanted to read this, but the crime story and mystery soon took over and threw us into the dark murky waters and alleyways and underbelly of the country. It is monsoon season – the rainy season of the title – so the country is being deluged, homes destroyed and the Mekong River turning into a great flood.
Morel moves from Siem Reap to solve the crime in the city , a murder of a French national, the nephew of a Minister no less, with political implications for all. Cultural differences are important as although Morel is half Khmer himself, in Phnom Penh he is “ .. a tourist, a passing observer, being asked to help solve a murder in a country that remained a mystery to him”.
France meets Cambodia as the two police forces have to work together. Police Chief Sarit is a mystery and he has very different ways of working and thinking than the French. The very different approaches and facilities they have to solve the crime are fascinating as they are hard to accept.
As far as he was concerned this was a straightforward business. It was personal – a settling of accounts between Harang – Westerners.
The sights and sounds of the city buzz vividly in the background as the investigation takes place. As he wanders into the deluge of the city and the underbelly of its darkest corners (the victim was working for an NGO which campaigned in some vital yet controversial areas in the country), Morel and Sarit form a lasting relationship full of frustrations yet also respect despite their obvious differences and the nature of the investigation
Against a backdrop of heavy rains, monsoon downpours, the sights, alley ways, and tuk tuk rides this is a crime which unravels like a Russian doll – one layer pealed back reveals another part of the victim’s life and the role of the NGO but each layer is an issue in itself and reveals more about the country and police and political workings of Phnom Penh, and France.
I just love the way Anna Jaquiery not only throws you into a thrilling and complex mystery but does it with such panache and vividly evoked settings and cultural nuances. If you though the Lying Down Room was good (which it certainly was) this is going to be another fantastic literary treat to get your teeth into.
The change of location – from the serene temples to the bustling chaos of Phomn Penh brought the mystery of the crime to the fore as the city takes over and swamps Morel in a troubling and complex investigation. Cambodia society and politics are characters in their own right but now Jaquiery weaves this in and out of the narrative is fascinating to see – never does it overtake the plot but enhances it at every step of the way.
This really is a guide to the country in so many ways, an insight into its people and workings. Cambodia is a fascinating place here and its spiritual core and belief system also help to form the bigger picture.
And I have to mention the intriguing character of Morel himself – mesmerising and endlessly fascinating. The developing relationship and understanding between himself and his Cambodian colleague Sarit was intriguing and Sarit’s change from a rather secret man to a more open one as he and Morel investigate the case further. The role and he behind the scenes look into a fictional NGO also provided another level of interest to an already meaty plot
Roll on book three – where will Morel go to and get involved with next? Can. Not. Wait.