By Harlan Wolff
****1/2 Clever book!
Bangkok Rules, the international mystery/crime/thriller book by Harlan Wolff was certainly a page turner. It’s the story of an expatriate private detective living in Thailand that happens upon the case of a lifetime. I couldn't put it down. It was a page turner with a clever story that kept me immersed in Bangkok until the very end. All it took was the first two pages or so to hook me.
In Bangkok, Thailand lives a private detective by the name of Carl Engel. Although considered farang (of European decent, white) by the natives, he came from London over 30 years ago as a teen. He typically lives case to case until approached by a portly American who hires him to find a man he claims is his brother that has been missing for several decades. The client makes it clear that money is no object, which immediately raises the suspicions of the seasoned PI.
As Carl works his sources that range from police colonels to CIA agents to taxi drivers, a sadistic serial killer is on the loose in Bangkok. Young, female students are being found with their bodies burned and ears cut off. The police seem to think it’s a boyfriend, but Carl isn’t so sure.
Wolff leads the reader through the streets of Bangkok during monsoon season. The sights, smells, tastes, and even the sex trade are so vivid one might think they are there right along with him. With a strained political climate where greed rules, a serial killer, and his ongoing case there isn’t a dull moment. Wolff keeps you guessing with the clever way the story line develops.
Bangkok Rules was well edited, intellectually stimulating, and challenged your imagination with the provocation of your senses. My suggestion, however, would have been that Wolff didn’t assume some things about Thailand were common knowledge to the reader. I also have to warn readers about the explicit language, the plenitude of sexual situations, and violence.
There is no doubt that I would highly recommend Bangkok Rules to the readers everywhere while readily admitting that I didn't expect to feel this way about it. I could compare Wolff to the likes of John Sanford or one of the other popular thriller/crime/psychological thriller writers, but that would be doing a disservice to Wolff because in Bangkok Rules he offers a story line and in-depth world all his own.