Yeruldelggar is the police Commissioner from Oulan Bator imagined in this first crime fiction book of a short series imagined by Ian Manook (real name Patrick Manoukian).
Manook wanted to create a world for his series, and far from being an artifice he manages to bring to life a region, a believable way of life, historically so different to ours but in the rush towards a modern way of life, recogniseable yet fragile as whole swathes of Mongolian mining rites are sold amid large scale corruption.
In this story Yeruldelggar is confronted with two seemingly unrelated crimes, the suspicious death of a young girl Murdered 5 years earlier, just found buried with her tricycle At Khentii in the Steppe and a particularly violent murder of three Chinese businessmen found dead and mutilated in a storehouse in Oulan Bator.
Amid the tragedy that is his own life, Yeruldelggar, his young female partner, Oyun, and the female medical examiner, Solongo, take on the Chinese businessmen who treat Mongolia as theirs and the rich Koreans drawn to Mongolia by the mineral riches the wealthy Mongolians with their own agenda and as always the corrupt police serving the money. Manook tries to describe the ageing ex-Soviet style city of Oulan Bator with its legions of poor, yet still drawing people from their traditional outdoor way of life on the Steppe and he contrasts the whole of this with the traditional respectful way of life of the nomad families. And all of this with a touch of dry humour.
A short extract will best give an idea of the way Manook handles the story:
You made me come here, three hours on this track from Oulan Bator for a pedal sticking out of the ground?
–No Commisioner, it’s for the hand!
–The hand? What hand?
–The hand under the pedal, Comissioner.
–What? There’s a hand under this pedal?
–Yes, Commisioner, there, under the pedal, there’s a hand! Without getting up, Yeruldelggar turned to look up at the district policeman. Was he making fun of him? But the policeman’s face was perfectly straight, with no sign of humour. No trace of intelligence of any sort. His face showed nothing but respect and his awareness of the limits of his own capability.
To stop himself from blowing a gasket, Yeruldelgger turned his attention to the object whose presence was now becoming more dramatic. The end of a small pedal was sticking out of the ground at a slight angle to the horizon, but now with a hand underneath!
–And how do you know that there’s a hand underneath?
–Because the nomads dug it up Comissioner, answered the police officer.
–Dug it up! ? What do you mean they dug it up? said Yeruldelgger in silent anger.
–They dug it up Comissioner. They scraped around it and took it out of the ground. When the children who were playing saw the pedal sticking out of the ground they dug around it to free it and as they dug they found the hand.
–A hand? They’re sure? A real hand?
–A child’s hand, yes Comissioner.
–Yes Comissioner, A little hand. The size of a child’s.
–And where is it now this child’s hand?
–Underneath? Underneath what?
–Underneath the pedal, Comissioner.
–You mean they re-buried it? They re-buried the hand?
–Yes Comissioner. And the pedal as well Comissioner…
Yeruldelggar looked up at the family of nomads in their brightly coloured deels still sat around in a group against the deep blue sky. They were looking at him, nodding their heads with large smiles on their faces showing their agreement with the district police officer. He turned his neck once again to look up at the district cop.
–They re-buried everything! I hope you asked them why!
–Of course Comissioner: so as not to contaminate the crime scene…
Yeruldelggar froze to be sure he had heard right.
–So as not to what!?
–So as not to contaminate the crime scene, repeated the district police officer with a touch of pride in his voice.
–So as not to contaminate the crime scene!!! Where did they get an idea like that?
–In CSI Miami. They told me that they always watch CSI Miami and that Horacio, the chief investigator always says not to contaminate the crime scene.
–CSI Miami! shouts Yeruldelgger.***
Manook gives the chapter titles which are the last phrases of that same chapter, as the book goes on the reader anticipates how the story can get to this short phrase.
A page turner for the 400 pages and a huge success here in France with the follow up due out soon
First published in French as Yeruldelggar by Albin Michel in 2013
*** My translation