Fiction. Hardback. 328 pages.
Travel writer Poke Rafferty is good at looking for trouble - so good he makes his living writing offbeat travel guides for the young and terminally bored. His Looking for Trouble series is for travelers obsessed with the unusual: how to beat official foreign-exchange rates; how to spot fake amber or counterfeit money; how much to bribe a cop; how to identify a transvestite before it's too late; and how to know, within an hour of arriving in a strange city, where to find the best bars, the best clubs, the best food, the best clothes, and the dodgiest entertainment at the best prices....
Poke - like many great mystery novel protagonists - is a man trying to turn his life around. A lot of that is due to his girlfriend, Rose, a former bar girl who escaped the sex trade and is trying to launch a maid service; and especially Miaow, the eight-year-old streetgirl that he hopes to adopt. But in Bangkok, a matter of an adoption might require friends in the right places...
Chapter 6 (p. 41):
"What's this Australian got to do with you?"
"Nothing personal," Arthit says. "She was getting passed around some of my hungrier colleagues. She arrived a week ago with about six thousand in traveler's checks, and she's down to three thousand now. With nothing to show for it. So I thought, let's snatch her from the jaws of the wolves and turn her over to someone who's going to need a few favors. Do a little something for both of you."
"I wish I could say I appreciate it."
"Just talk to her." Arthit lowers his voice. "I'll get you into his apartment, which is something my brother officers couldn't be bothered to do, and you'll probably find something that shows he flitted down to Phuket or Phang Nga. You're a reporter, Poke. You know more about how Thailand works than any other farang I know. A couple days down there, you'll have it wrapped up."
Which is how Poke takes on the case of a missing uncle, a man who has lived in Bangkok 20 years and somehow has left no trace. The trail soon leads to another mystery - or are they the same mystery? - and involves a fascinating cast of crooked cops, a boy named Superman, a safecracker, a terrifying lady in a wheelchair, and a missing maid named Doughnut.
And more than just the usual hardboiled detective novel, this book touches upon serious issues of the sex trade and homeless streetchildren, explores the clash of Western and Thai culture, and gives us a protagonist who truly has something to lose as the mystery threatens to engulf his world.
OK, but you want a gaming angle? The plot wouldn't be hard to transpose to a gumshoe game such as .45 Adventure, and the exotic Bangkok setting provides lots of unusual scenes and interesting characters. Highly recommended. (And if you're lucky, you can find it for $1 USD at Dollar Tree like I did...)
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .