Laundry Man

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Another crime thriller this week for review.  Jake Needham’s earlier manuscript Tea Money has been expanded and is now under the title Laundry Man and has been published this year (2012) and is available at Bookazine Royal Garden Plaza.  (ISBN 978-981-4361-27-9, Marshall Cavendish.)

This is one of his Jack Shepherd series, featuring the ex-US based legal exponent, with the back cover describing him as – “A lawyer among people who laugh at the law, a friend in a land where today’s allies are tomorrow’s fugitives, Jack shepherd battles a global tide of corruption, extortion and murder that threatens to engulf both him and the new life he has worked so hard to build.”  And of course, corruption fighters (at least in name) are the flavor of the year globally.

Shepherd finds himself drawn deep inside the machinations of old friends, one of whom was supposed to be dead, but isn’t.  Hired as a financial consultant, you are taken into Hong Kong boardrooms and registered offices of dodgy banks and other financial enterprises.

All the usual acronyms such as the (reputedly) good guys, the FBI, CIA, ASIS, NSC, IRS and DEA turn up in the plot, though not necessarily main players or in that order, interspersed with Russian mobs, Burmese drug producers and Chinese generals and politicians on the take.  And many more – you will not be disappointed by the cast of hundreds, and probably thousands under cover.  There is also the ABC which runs through the plot (and you will have to read this book to find the meaning of the acronym).

As the pace increases and Jack Shepherd’s life becomes even more convoluted, author Needham throws in some black humor to release the tensions every so often.  An aged female pilot called Ike was to fly him to Phuket and Shepherd thinks it is in a glider.  “Grandma Moses here was about to take me flying in an airplane with no engine.  You’re Ike? I asked.  No son, I’m the fuckin’ Easter Bunny,” was the reply.

Good writers have an “eye” even better than good photographers.  Needham describes an office receptionist in Hong Kong as “A young Chinese girl slumped over the desk.  She had badly permed hair, skin blotched with acne scars and a dimple in her chin deep enough to hide Easter eggs.”  You can see her immediately.

Characterizations are well handled too, with the Australian vernacular of one character so correct, I could almost hear the nasal twang, “…the rest of the time it pays off like a busted pokie machine.”

The book has many characters who all seem to come together at the end of an extremely exciting thriller, which keeps you guessing right till the end, the very end, and even then you have questions.

At B. 530 for 352 pages, this is a book you don’t want to finish to spoil your fun and enjoyment.  Jake Needham could have made it 704 pages and I would still be avidly reading.  Whether you are a fan of Needham’s Jack Shepherd series, or just someone who enjoys a cracking good yarn, this book is for you.