Written by Christopher R Cox — Christopher R Cox was a journalist for 20 years and is very widely traveled, so perhaps it’s not surprising that his first suspense novel takes place in Bangkok and the outer reaches of Southeast Asia. PI Sebastian ‘Bass’ Damon has been sent to Thailand to find a woman named Linda Watts. Linda was supposedly found dead in a backpacker’s hostel with a needle in her arm, but her insurance company is dubious. They think she’s alive, and they’re not about to issue a $500,000 death benefit without proof that the body does, indeed, belong to Linda Watts. After all, Linda is, by all accounts, a success story. A refugee who came to the US as a child, against all odds she became the very definition of the American dream, eventually enjoying a lucrative career in finance. To Damon, it doesn’t seem to make sense that a woman like that would fake her death for a rather paltry payout. However, it’s certainly not for him to make that judgement.
Damon knows this case could be lucrative for the PI business he took over from his father, but finding out the truth in Thailand proves to be much harder than he thought it would be. When he sees the actual coroner’s report, which he must have translated on the spot, he notices quite a few inconsistencies about the body suggesting it isn’t that of Linda Watts. However, lacking any other clues, he starts to think that he’s on a wild goose chase, although he’s not thrilled about having to go back to his client with that news.
Soon, the tide turns, and he looks up his father’s Special Forces buddy, Sam Honeyman, who knows Bangkok and the jungles of Thailand like the back of his hand. Damon is a fish out of water in a country where the beautiful mixes with the deadly in equal parts, and Honeyman might help him get to the heart of a very old, very unexpected mystery. This mystery may go back as far as the Vietnam War and will take him deep into the jungles of Laos, and beyond.
The late 90s were a tough time for the Thai economy, and all through the novel there’s a pervading sense of instability and people on the edge. The author’s gift for creating an atmospheric setting is immediately evident, especially when Sebastian first arrives. He’s struck by the sights and sounds of Thailand in motion and continues, throughout the story, to struggle with such a different way of life, as well as dealing with corrupt officials at every turn. Luckily, help is offered, in the way of Sam Honeyman, and Sebastian isn’t without his own skills.
The main issue with the novel is that even though it’s told in Damon’s voice, you don’t really get to know him very well. I became frustrated at the fact that so much didn’t add up in the beginning, and yet he was still willing to declare Linda’s death a ‘good death’. In spite of these things, this is an enjoyable international myster. It’s a book that’s hard to dislike with such a steamy, exotic, and sometimes very strange, setting. Sebastian Damon is an affable protagonist, and hopefully we’ll see more books from this author in the very near future.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars