The latest Jack Shepherd crime novel is entitled A World of Trouble (ISBN 978-981-4361-51-4, Marshall Cavendish, 2012), written by well-known author Jake Needham and is the third in the series after Laundry Man and Killing Plato.
I will admit that I have always enjoyed Jake Needham’s work, including his other series The Big Mang o and The Ambassador’s Wife. However, I have to state from the outset that Needham is one terrible liar. Strong words perhaps, but I can back my claim with irrefutable evidence. In the Author’s Note at the very front of the book, Needham proclaims “This is a novel. It’s not journalism. That’s why I got into the fiction business in the first place, folks. I make this stuff up.” Yes, Mr. Needham.
This new book is about a very rich and influential Thai ex-prime minister who is living in exile in Dubai, a new lady prime minister in Thailand and whole bunch of grass-roots Thai folk wearing red or yellow shirts, who have gone so far as to have battles on the streets of Bangkok. If you just “make this stuff up”, it has an amazing similarity to events that have happened recently. However, perhaps we should accept your characters, Mr. Needham, at face value and not delve too deeply into how you came up with them in the first place.
The prologue is intriguing and is close to the end of the plot, but is used to introduce the characters and the timeline that went before. In essence, Jack Shepherd, a low-flying American lawyer has been hired by General Kitnarok to move money around for him, as the general is in Dubai. The general is a hero in the eyes of the red shirt hordes, who all want him back and in the prime ministerial seat once more. How this will (or could) happen is the thread running through the book.
Jake Needham is not afraid to point the odd finger or two at the Thai political system (it is a novel after all, and he made it all up), musing at unfinished road construction, “Shepherd had seen senseless pieces of construction like that scattered all over Thailand, the product of a public works system designed primarily to generate payoffs to politicians rather than to provide anything of value to the country.”
Shepherd soon finds himself being drawn into a scenario with an FBI operative, who remains enigmatic until the final showdown, and there is a cataclysmic final showdown.
Needham has a droll wit that pops up through the prose. Shepherd was thinking he was about to be attacked by an assailant, “… the only thing Shepherd could do with his hands was operate a laptop. Somehow he doubted he would be able to email this guy to death.”
The Asia Books website has an RRP of B. 495 for A World of Trouble, which is far too low for a meaty 400 page paper-back with quality writing such as Needham provides. This is a very good read. Get it, and hope that the plot unfolds differently from that penned by Mr. Needham.