What’s it about?
There’s a serial killer at large in Mongolia, beheading and mutilating its local and foreign victims. A British police officer comes to investigate, partnering up with two Mongolian police officers. What the embarrassing trio fumbles into is a killer that uses bow and arrows. Yeah, I know it sounds good, but it’s a disappointing book.
A few years ago, this title was stacked high on bookshelves of major stores. There was even a Mongolian version. It grabbed my attention. A serial killer? In Mongolia? I was intrigued. So I read it. To be fair, this was the author’s debut work. But this was a major let down, because the book was a boring read with just people talking, which apparently is called the police procedural genre. So you’re looking at a 3 hour pilot episode of CSI:Ulaanbaatar/Dalanzadgad.
- Nergui. A middle aged Mongolian who graduated from Harvard and spent one year in the UK is now working as a police chief. He used to work as a Minister of Security (which apparently exists) or still does, because the consistency in this book is as good as Lindsay Lohan’s remission. He is calm and intelligent, basically a Mongolian Sherlock Holmes. But he’s boring and shallow, making him a Marty Stu character. Oh yes, his favorite drinks are coffee and wine.
- Drew McLeigh, the Scottish detective who came to help with the murders. Drew usually wonders about what Nergui just said, trying to read his body language and all. So, either he’s a gay dude with a crush on him or he’s the Dr. Watson to the Mongolian Sherlock Holmes.
- Badzar. A Stereotypical Mongol warrior brought to modern times. He’s committed to ecology and opposes mining, so he beheads and mutilates mining people or shoots arrows at detectives to keep the plot going.
- Everyone talks like the same person. The British detective, the Mongolians, even the boorish Americans talk like Simon Cowell from Britain’s Got Talent. It’s a John Malkovich-esque
- No female characters (except for a passing folklorist’s wife) in the book, just a bunch of men impressed with themselves talking in British manner. This fails the Bechdel test harder than Commando.
- The descriptions of Mongolia are insipid at best. A few landmarks in the city and the province of Umnugobi are mentioned, but the day to day life and people’s way of talking and living is strangely British and abstract, maybe because the descriptions didn’t involve sensory ones (?).
- Mongolian names are creatively butchered. First you have Nergui and Batzorig, which are perfectly legitimate ones. Then you get Doripalam, which is supposed to be Dorjpalam, but okay… Then you have Cholon, Oyon, which might be a phonetic rendition of Chuluun and Oyun. But finally you get Odyal, which shows that the author just stopped caring and invented names, because closest thing to Odyal is adyal.
‘Have you tried the airag?’ Nergui said, sipping at his own glass of wine.
‘Iraq?’ Collins said. ‘We invaded that bastard.’
‘No, airag. It’s our traditional drink.’
Only part where I was impressed. I’m a simpleton.
Two out of five. A boring book with inconsistency galore. Read at your own risk.
So what do you think? Do you want to read this book? You can buy it here:
Natso Baatarkhuu lives in Mongolia and writes in English. His works have appeared in Cracked.com and The UB Post, and he started this website. He dreams of publishing novels and selling screenplays someday.