His eyes were adjusting to the darkness now, and he twisted around trying to see what it was that had tripped him. At first, he couldn't make it out. Just a blank shapeless mound, spread across the frozen ground. And then he thought it looked something like a human figure, but not quite like one. He rolled over, trying to clear his head, trying to work out what was wrong.
Less of a full review, and more of a note about the first book in this (now) 3 book series set in Mongolia. THE SHADOW WALKER is the first book, which I read recently, having already read the 2nd in the series (the third is here in the queue).
A first book in a series is often slighty problematic and I have to say having read the 2nd book (The Adversary) which I loved, I was willing to cut this first book a lot more slack than perhaps others would be willing. In THE SHADOW WALKER, the two main characters from the series Negrui and Doripalam are introduced, but a lot of the central focus of the story is around a blow-in English detective, bought into help out the locals when a number of bodies are found in increasingly violent killings.
This device is a little unsatisfactory as the action therefore has an overtly "British" feel to it and it seems to deaden any feeling of Mongolia - despite a visit onto the steppes at one point. There's also a slighty unsatisfactory aspect to the plot with yet another serial killer which ends in a rather predictable manner.
Having said that, there are glimpses of the ongoing personalities of Negrui and Doripalam and if they appeal to you, then you should want to move onto the second book.
THE ADVERSARY - Michael Walters
For more than twenty years a hidden hand has ruled the backstreets of Ulan Baatar, but now Muunokhoi, the once untouchable head of Mongolia's largest and most powerful criminal empire, has finally been caught.
It should be the Serious Crime Team's finest hour. But nothing is ever that simple in the new Mongolia.
THE ADVERSARY is the second book in the Nergui / Doripalam police procedural series set in Ulan Baatar, Mongolia. The first was THE SHADOW WALKER.
Fans of police procedurals who haven't caught up with this series should give it a go. Whilst it is set in Mongolia, and there are unusual names and unusual settings which give it a slightly exotic feel, the basis of the book is a sound procedural with the same sorts of issues that plague police departments the world over. The connection between the Underworld of Gangsters, Drugs and influence and police department corruption has quite a resonance for a Melbourne, Australia based reader.
THE ADVERSARY finds Nergui moved on from the Serious Crimes Squad with Doripalam, his one time protege, taking over as head. When the crime lord Muunokhoi is acquitted because of problems with the validity of evidence against him, the issue of corruption within even the Serious Crimes Squad can't be ignored any longer. Nergui is bought back to try to get to the bottom of the fiasco. Tunjin, old, obese and totally responsible for the faked evidence is suspended. Judge Raadna. who presided over the aborted trial, turns out to be an old Nergui acquaintance and she is being threatened. Meanwhile an elderly woman - member of a nomadic family is beaten to death when she has stayed, refusing to move on with her family, waiting for her missing son to be found.
As Muunokhoi seeks to re-establish control over his empire, Tunjin must make something of himself. Doripalam has to find out who killed a poor defenceless old woman and why - whilst he also tries to find her nomadic family somewhere in the vast Mongolian steppes. Nergui must establish the lengths to which the corruption within his old department has spread. He is not even sure if he can trust Doripalam and the feeling is mutual.
Set within the partly exotic world of the Mongolian steppes and the sometimes drab post-Soviet environment of Ulan Baatar, THE ADVERSARY takes the elements of a really good police procedural, sets a cracking pace, adds some insight into the clash between the traditional and post-Soviet / Western influence and then tops it all up with characters that it's almost impossible not to like.
Probably the standout character and story is Tunjin - the failed, obese, alcoholic, compromised policeman who starts out saving his own skin, and ends up the most unlikely hero. But don't sell Nergui short - inscrutable, contained, besuited and elegant - he and his protege Doripalam are a new force to be reckoned with in detecting partnerships.
If you haven't read THE SHADOW WALKER then THE ADVERSARY will still work for you, but there's really no reason not to read them both.