Christopher G Moore’s Bangkok PI Vincent Calvino has been sleuthing again in his latest book 9 Gold Bullets (ISBN 978-616-90393-7-2, Heaven Lake Press, 2011).
As opposed to the usual connotation of “bullets”, the nine referred to here are a set of old “bullet” coins which were used as commemorative coinage in Thailand in the late 1800’s.
This book sees a ‘new’ Calvino, one who having been left some considerable sum of money does not have to take on cases with hopeless odds. Cases where Calvino usually ended up being severely beaten – physically rather than mentally. This time Calvino finds himself unwillingly (and unwittingly) in the middle of a gold scam after agreeing to be the best man at the marriage of an old school chum in America.
Scams are the real fodder for the Private Eye, and this one involves Russians with too much money, both in Thailand and in the US, and Calvino’s childhood friend appears in the midst of them all, apparently an unsuspecting passenger, who is then abducted. Add in Calvino’s Thai Colonel Pratt and the Thai treasury and you have many characters and just as many leads to follow. And follow them you will, voraciously turning pages wondering what is coming next.
Author Christopher G Moore is a master at leading the reader on to what ‘should’ be the finale, but then you find it isn’t. And neither is the next conclusion, just as you thought you had wrapped up the entire case, as Calvino had thought he did!
Another reason for the popularity of this author’s books is his detailed description of the individual scenes. This makes the reader part of the action and aids belief in the narrative. Take the description of a grieving middle aged Thai woman. “Wirot’s wife wore a black dress that tented over her plump hips. Her surprised eyes made the Colonel wonder whether her expression was the collateral damage of Botox or whether she was in shock over the disappearance of her husband.”
For previous Calvino fans, I can assure that this latest book has been worth waiting for. However, do not start reading until you have a few hours spare, otherwise you will find yourself cursing any interruption, such as getting ready for work. The twists and turns at the end are more than the Chao Phraya and have you guessing, right through to the final chapter. However, Colonel Pratt, Calvino’s Thai police friend does manage to wrap up any last loose ends by simply saying, “Karma will take care of the rest.” But Calvino, no matter how much Thai culture and customs he has absorbed is still a farang in the end as his belief extends to “Good old karma. Waiting until the next life to see what kind of lizard, bird or ant a murderer came back as wasn’t an immediately satisfying alternative to revenge.”
Incidentally, Pattaya numismatist Jan Olav Aamlid does get a mention in the acknowledgements, being one of the world authorities on old Thai currency, and has a fine collection of bullet coins.
The book is available in Bookazine at B.495.