EPS Review #70 - Three thrillers and a rat

Bone in the Throat by Anthony Bourdain

By the "Kitchen Confidential" author. I was curious about his fiction, but not enough to read a mob book (a genre I am very tired of) until I found it used for £2. It was a reasonable read, with a lot of familiar material from the non-fiction books, particularly the druggy chef. All the expected violence, silliness, food, swearing and Italian accents are present.

Bangkok 8 by John Burdett

The gimmick with this one is that the detective, Sonchai Jitpleecheep, is a devout Buddhist in a corrupt police force. Past lives influence the plot. One of the nice things about throw-away fiction is that it often gives you an excellent sense of place, and Burdett seems to know the seamy side of Bangkok well. Unfortunately his knowledge is mostly of the present, and there is no historical depth. Also some remarks about other Asian countries are egregiously incorrect. But it is hard not to enjoy a book where crazed snakes bite someone on the eyeball.

The Giant Rat of Sumatra by Richard L Boyer, 1976

I searched the web for Holmes pastiches, and there seemed to be agreement that this is one of the best and most authentic. So authentic that it makes you reflect that were Conan Doyle writing today you would find him stuffy and stilted. On the other hand, there is a more recent pastiche with the same topic, that seems to go to the other extreme, with magic and world travel. In Boyer's book, the giant rat has a satisfactory explanation, perhaps obvious, but I liked it.

Tokyo Station (published in the US as "December 6") by Martin Cruz Smith

By the guy who wrote "Gorky Park". Harry Niles is a cynical bar owner, who grew up in Japan with clueless missionary parents who were always away. It is set on the eve of Pearl Harbor, and Harry is trying to save his own skin and that of a few others. Amazon reviewers seemed annoyed by similarities with "Casablanca", but I was not. I thought the difficult love for Japan at such a time was well done, and of the four books in this review, this one swept me along the fastest. Giant beetles play a part. Recommended by the Economist in its summer reading section.

I am happy to hand off these books (except "Giant Rat") to anyone within handing distance. Just drop me a note.

Ed wrote: Have you read Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem? It's a crime thriller set in Brooklyn where the protagonist/sleuth is a tourettic orphan. It takes the genre to a higher level.