Kingdom of Make-Believe

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The Kingdom of Make-Believe has a cover that makes it leap off the shelf, particularly for male readers.  However, any book by Dean Barrett is always worth investigating further.  

Barrett, a prolific writer of at least a dozen books, has a strong following in literary circles, in being able to write in different genres, yet make them all books well worth reading.  Descriptive items, such as describing a woman bathing a child, author Barrett writes, “… threw water over the head and shoulders of a small, naked child.  In the sunlight, the water’s iridescence sparkled like a many-faceted gem.”  A gem of descriptive prose.

This latest from Dean Barrett is called Kingdom of Make-Believe (ISBN 0-9661899-0-6, Village East Books, Florida, 2010) and is a thriller set in Thailand, about which, Denis Gray, AP’s Chief of Bureau wrote, “The novel could only be written by one who has experienced the Kingdom – and felt the pangs of seeing its magic mirrors crack and shatter.”

The principal character Brian Mason returns to Bangkok after an absence of many years.  The Oriental was the only hotel on the river that he remembered, but that has changed with the plethora of hotels and condominiums on both sides of the Chao Phaya these days.

He has returned after a request which he thought was from the widow of his brother, who was killed in Vietnam, during the VN offensive.  However, this was a woman he had once loved as well.  An interesting triangle, and an intriguing factor very early in the book.

Barrett shows his understanding of Thai life today, as well as reminiscing over yesteryear.  Anyone who has lived here, and not in a hotel, will relate to, “There is always something to do.  If the water isn’t out, the electricity is weak.  Yesterday the phones went dead.”

Barrett is also able to see through the superficiality of Bangkok and the bar scene.  “The Horny Tiger changed in atmosphere from a bewitching, seductive and infamous lounge into a very ordinary room smelling of garlic, Thai beer, nicotine and sweat.”  The Kingdom of Make-Believe indeed.

The individuals in the story begin to have much more in common, as the plot unfolds, but yet manages to keep the reader guessing.  This is no easy ‘who-dunnit’, but prompts you into trying to work out firstly the ‘who’ and secondly the ‘dunnit’.

Short chapters keep the pace flowing, and even though the action is predominantly centered on Patpong Road, you do not get bored at all.  This is a thriller, and an action thriller at that.

And if it were not enough to have some sort of extra-marital battleground, author Barrett also manages to throw in 100 mules transporting heroin from the Shan States to Hong Kong!  Now throw in the CIA and the DEA and Vietnam vets and you really do have a story with twists and turns.

At only B. 460 this is a great read.  I got my copy at Bookazine Royal Garden Plaza, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so much so that I wanted it to continue.  You will also.  Get this book.