Walters, Michael - 'The Shadow Walker'
Ulan Baatar, Mongolia and in an unlit back alley a body is discovered by a drunk returning home. The unidentified body has no head or hands. Soon another body is found and this one has fallen from the roof the Hotel Bayangol and then another decapitated body is found. The enigmatic Nergui recently promoted to the Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs is sent back to the Serious Crime Unit to take charge of the investigation. When a westerner from Manchester is also found decapitated in one of the city’s newest hotels, British policeman Drew McLeish is sent from the UK to assist and advise Nergui and his younger colleague Doripalam.
The solitary, introspective Nergui is a well-travelled, honest and competent policeman - not a common combination in Mongolia. The younger Doripalam is married and the pair brought to mind a Mongolian Morse and Lewis and I shall be interested to see how this relationship develops as the series progresses.
The novel begins very well as a straight police procedural with Nergui, Doripalam and Drew investigating what appear to be simply serial killings. They go to disused factories, travel into the Gobi Desert to a tourist camp, and dine in the British Ambassador's residence as the body count increases. The story then seems to lose its way a little before re-inventing itself as thriller moving towards an exciting climax.
I did not find this change of emphasis entirely satisfactory, but the interesting character of Nergui, the unusual location and the intriguing problems of a remote country trying to use its mineral wealth for the benefit of the people while also trying to retain the uniqueness of its culture made up for any weaknesses in the plot, and kept me turning the pages. The possible exploitation of an underdeveloped country by outside forces is one of the themes of this book.
Michael Walters' first book in his Mongolian series is a well written and fascinating read. I particularly liked the technique of bringing in Drew a foreigner, which allows him to explain and introduce this unknown country to the reader.
"We should have travelled business class."
THE SHADOW WALKER is an impressive beginning to this series and I look forward to meeting Nergui and Doripalam again.
Read another review of THE SHADOW WALKER.
Norman Price, England