Blog Tour Feature – Death In The Rainy Season by Anna Jaquiery

By | April 12, 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 . . . 

I’m really delighted today to be part of the blog tour for the new book by Anna Jaquiery, Death In The Rainy Season, published by Mantle (Macmillan) on 9th April.  Anna’s debut novel, The Lying-Down Room, was one of my books of the year last year – here’s a link to my review. I was quite surprised how much I loved it – I’m not really much of a crime fiction reader.  But the book stood out for me for two main reasons – the wonderful characterisation, and the extraordinarily vivid depiction of the French settings through a stifling summer.  We’re not in France this time, but Cambodia – equally wonderfully brought to life, a perfect backdrop for another fascinating look at Serge Morel.  

Which is a great point at which to welcome author Anna Jaquiery to Being Anne, talking about the different kinds of crime readers… welcome Anna!

There are as many kinds of crime readers as there are crime writers. There are readers who are mainly interested in a plot that moves along swiftly and don’t really care whether Character A or B likes to build model airplanes or is fond of cats. Others delight in detail: they want to know all about a character’s home, pets, relatives, routine gestures and quirky habits. 

I belong to the latter group. I’m one of those people who gets a kick out of looking into people’s rooms when I walk past houses, and seeing what they’re up to. When I’m at a pub or a restaurant, I try to imagine what conversations other people in the room are having. I make up dialogues in my head, based on what I see. What makes me turn the pages of a book is the time I’m willing to invest in a story’s characters. I keep reading because I care about their lives and really want to know what they’re thinking and planning to do next, as well as how events will affect them. Characters need to be three-dimensional. They need to be convincing, compelling. In their introduction to Books To Die For, John Connolly and Declan Burke put it perfectly, noting ‘the mystery form understands that plot comes out of character, and not just that: it believes that the great mystery is character.’ 

But of course, there has to be a balance: a ten-page description of a meal or the way a character puts on her make-up are not what I’m looking for. Getting too bogged down in detail slows the pace. The story has to move forward. Finding that delicate balance isn’t always easy. And even when you think you’ve found it, there will be readers who wish you’d spent less time describing the type of drink and clothing your detective favours  (mine, Commandant Serge Morel, has a weakness for Otard cognac and Ermenegildo Zegna shirts. He also does origami). Others, hopefully, will be happy to sit with Morel as he sips his cognac and folds a piece of paper square into the shape of an owl while mulling over a difficult case.  

My review

I’m definitely someone who delights in the detail, but Anna also achieves that perfect balance. While I was originally slightly disappointed that we weren’t visiting Paris again, I found Cambodia the perfect setting: it is a country I’ve visited and loved (and, like Morel, sat in silence at Ta Prohm ahead of the tourist hordes), and it was interesting to see him separated from his support network, seeking reconnection with his family, and working with the Cambodian police where very different political considerations come into play. 

I loved the book’s sense of place, but again equally loved the characterisation – I enjoyed the links with what was going on in France, and was so glad that Lila continued to feature because I find her almost as fascinating as Morel himself (almost… but not quite). Morel himself is mesmerising, but there is a wonderful supporting cast too – a cast of complex and multi-layered characters we get to know at a level of great detail as Morel digs beneath the surface to resolve the mystery. The whole book is perfectly paced – totally impossible to put down – and the writing is quite beautiful.  

I’m an unashamed fan of Anna Jaquiery and her writing – this book is even better than her first, and I’m looking forward already to whatever comes next.

My thanks to Sophie Orme at Mantle for my advance reading copy.

Anna Jaquiery is of French-Malaysian descent and grew up in Europe and Asia. She has worked as a journalist in several countries, starting out 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.