Thanks to Anna Jaquiery, Sophie Orme, Sam Eades & PanMacmillan for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I’m normally really boring when it comes to the books I tend to choose. I like books set in a few choice locations (boring alert: England, USA) and I have a horrible habit of sticking pretty rigidly to that. But I really am trying to be better, so when I saw Death in the Rainy Season (would you look at the awesome colours on that cover??) I figured this would be the perfect chance for me to try something new.
Author: Anna Jaquiery
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Mantle; Main Market Ed. edition (9 April 2015)
Phnom Penh, Cambodia; the rainy season. When a French man, Hugo Quercy, is found brutally murdered, Commandant Serge Morel finds his holiday drawn to an abrupt halt. Quercy – dynamic, well-connected – was the magnetic head of a humanitarian organisation which looked after the area’s neglected youth.
Opening his investigation, the Parisian detective soon finds himself buried in one of his most challenging cases yet. Morel must navigate this complex and politically sensitive crime in a country with few forensic resources, and armed with little more than a series of perplexing questions: what was Quercy doing in a hotel room under a false name? What is the significance of his recent investigations into land grabs in the area? And who could have broken into his home the night of the murder?
Becoming increasingly drawn into Quercy’s circle of family and friends – his adoring widow, his devoted friends and bereft colleagues – Commandant Morel will soon discover that in this lush land of great beauty and immense darkness, nothing is quite as it seems . . .
A deeply atmospheric crime novel that bristles with truth and deception, secrets and lies: Death in the Rainy Season is a compelling mystery that unravels an exquisitely wrought human tragedy.
Death in the Rainy Season follows Parisian detective Commandant Serge Morel, beginning when his holiday is cut short, as he investigates the murder of the well-connected and well-meaning Hugo Quercy. Anna Jaquiery does a fantastic job of capturing the atmosphere of Phnom Penh, of Cambodia, of some place more colourful and interesting than I have ever been to, which was an excellent introduction to novels not set in countries I’ve visited. This plot of the novel is carefully laid out, with an ending that is not surprising yet still satisfying, and with characters that seem sturdy and consistent – always something I look for in a novel.
What I liked:
Yep, you got me on this one! I loved the setting. It was so oppressive and beautiful at the same time; the endlessly heavy rains make everything seem closed in and at once more vibrant, and we get a real sense of Cambodia through Morel as a sort of outsider. Jaquiery gives readers a glimpse into the secret lives of her characters through these heavy rains – we see some people love the weather and some can’t stand it, and I’m always one for pathetic fallacy so this was something I loved.
Jaquiery does a fabulous job of instilling a sense of vibrancy throughout the whole novel, so when any of her characters is without this vibrancy, whether due to depression or grief etc., it becomes all the more obvious. It’s fantastic. I got a real buzz reading this novel, and I have to admit I may have been bitten by the travel bug…
As I said about setting, Jaquiery really is an accomplished writer. Her descriptions are fabulous, really building the novel for me. To be honest, the plot could have been much less interesting and I think I would have still enjoyed the novel, all because a few choice words from our author had me drooling about the things you can do with the English language. Awesome!
All of these characters felt like complete people to me. They weren’t constructs to forward plot or provide conflict – they were real people. And this is something I feel like we writers always struggle with, so hats off to you Author! Good job with this one. I felt like I was peeking into peoples’ lives, which of course appealed to the voyeur in me (and all of you, too, I imagine). It really is wonderful to find a novelist who can truly make me believe in their characters. I know for a fact that Morel is out there right now, somewhere in the world, sipping coffee and thinking hard, and that’s kind of spooky.
What I didn’t like:
One of the few things I had difficulty with in this novel was the point of view, and the number of characters who are given narrative space. This might just be because I was reading the second novel in the series without having read the first, but for me there was a lot of jumping around between different characters’ thoughts. It was all very well written, and definitely not a problem, it’s just that the novel became a bit disjointed because of this. I didn’t get enough of an introduction to Morel early on because we were busy hopping between the other characters for the sake of plot.
However I definitely appreciated this character insight as the novel progressed because it gave me, as a reader, a good chance to figure out the crime for myself, and I did enjoy seeing into the minds of all of these very different personalities. I’ll reserve judgement about this in its entirety until I’ve had a thumb through the first novel, but a bit more Morel earlier on would have cemented my love for him right away.
In any case, I enjoyed this novel a lot. I’m ready to return to my comfort zone of UK/US-centric books now, but the good experience has opened me up to more settings in the future, so that’s a WIN!
Death in the Rainy Season is currently available for pre-order. It will be released on April 9, 2015.