Asia Hand (Vincent Calvino Series #2)by Christopher G. Moore
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Christopher G. Moore’s prize-winning series of Bangkok thrillers featuring Vincent Calvino, a disbarred American lawyer turned PI, have been praised for their captivating plots, engaging characters, and insight into the steamy Thai capital. In Asia Hand, the second novel in the series, Bangkok is celebrating Chinese New Year when Calvino’s revels are cut short. The body of an American, an acquaintance of Calvino’s, has been fished out of the lake in Lumpini Park. Around his neck are a string of wooden amulets, the kind upcountry Thais wear to protect themselves from evil spirits. Only rather than saving Hutton, these have killed him.
A freelance cameraman scraping by on the margins, Hutton had photographed something shortly before his death that he thought would make his career. Now the footagea shocking execution on the Thai/Burmese borderis running repeatedly on CNN, and the rights to Hutton’s life story have been sold to a Hollywood producer. But who killed Hutton and why? When Calvino investigates, he collides with a powerful filmmaker and an experienced old Asia hand who knows the terrain as well as our man in Bangkok. It’s all Calvino can do to stay alive, and find out who killed his fellow American.
Meet the Author
Christopher G. Moore is the author of ten novels starring Vincent Calvino, and the winner of the Deutscher Krimi Preis, the most prestigious award for crime fiction in German. He has lived in Bangkok since 1988.
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Favorite sentence from the book would have to be "Bangkok's not Brooklyn, Vinnie," said Kiko, ... "And respect is the first thing you give up living here." Mr. Moore should be required reading for any Thailand expat needing a visa extension beyond 60 days. Asia Hand is the second in the popular Vincent Calvino P.I. crime series. The first half of the book I thought had some really good writing. I was prepared not to like when I got to the Hollywood Treatment by Vinnie at the 1/2 way point but that actually worked for me and reinforced the plot lines. I liked the plot and didn't think it was particularly difficult or easy to follow. You had to pay attention. I like the little things about Christopher Moore's writing style and following a Raymond Chandler 1950's book it made the evolution of crime fiction writing apparent. I doubt Chandler would ever have a chapter like THIRD SHIFT, which highlights the misfits found in Bangkok brilliantly. And who doesn't have a little misfit in them? Chandler paints external pictures well; Mr Moore paints internal pictures well. I prefer internal assessments. An example is his brief but brilliant treatment of the triumvirate of all sexual relationships: commitment, passion and trust. I liked that a lot. It was dark, believable, nicely interwoven and full of bad guys. The ending I enjoyed. I am a sucker for a Buddhist moral so that worked for me and I thought Moore did a great job of painting the personality of Vinnie's 13 year old daughter, visiting Bangkok with his ex-wife. Vincent describing a truck load of Thai peasant labor to her also stands out as to why Moore is one of only a handful of authors who have the Thailand expertise to write about the various layers of complex Thai society. The whole insider's Hollywood scene I actually liked and learned from, unlike the reviewer who gave this book a 1 star rating. Different strokes for different folks as we say in Thailand. Start out with Spirit House by Moore then go from there. A Killing Smile is also a good read about Bangkok expat life. Pattaya 24/7 and 9 Gold Bullets were also good.
In this 1993 novel, our hero, detective Vinnie Calvino, says that he gives himself, at best, another 20 years. After all, his is a dangerous profession, especially in Bangkok. But if we have to wait 17 years for the novels, then Vinnie will be long dead before we read about is last exploits. Sad, huh? Asia Hand is full of typos and other language mistakes, the characters enter the most improbable of relationships, yet I give it four stars. Why? Because it has charm in abundance. You cannot help but like the good guys in the novel, nor can you hate Bangkok even given its numerous faults- and improbable relationships. The city is alive if nothing else, and Asia Hand entertains despite its faults. And making us wait 17 years is definitely a fault!