Death in the Rainy Season is the second novel in the Commandant Serge Morel series but true to form I haven't yet read the first book, The Lying-Down room. It's always a concern when reading subsequent books in a series without having read the first, do I need prior knowledge of the characters for this book to make sense? Thankfully in the case of Death in the Rainy Season the answer is no and while I intend to read the first book now I felt this one can be read and enjoyed as a standalone book as well as part of a series.
Set in Cambodia, the story begins with a break-in and we almost immediately learn there has been a murder, the house-breaker knew the victim but at this point we don't know if he was responsible for his death. We soon find out the victim was Hugo Quercy, a Frenchman working for a NGO, Kids at Risk. Crucially he was the nephew of the French Interior Minister who is concerned there may be a political scandal and so Commandant Morel, currently holidaying in the country his mother was born in, is reluctantly brought in to assist on the case.
Death in the Rainy Season isn't a heart-racing thriller, instead what we're given is a novel superbly crafted to slowly remove the layers as secrets and lies are gradually revealed. Often dark and with an uncompromising look at the seedier side of life it's a deeper and ultimately more fulfilling book, one to immerse yourself in, with its vivid descriptions of Cambodia and in particular Phnom Penh. It's more than just a crime novel, exploring as it does the effects of Pol Pot's brutal regime, both on families who lived through it and those who managed to flee. If I have any criticism it would be that perhaps the subplot was tied up a little too easily, I'd have liked a little more tension there first. However, this is only a minor gripe and this is a compelling novel I thoroughly enjoyed.
With many thanks to Sam Eades and Mantle, an imprint of Pan Macmillan for my ARC, Death in the Rainy Season will be published in the UK on 9th April 2015.