Thailand prides itself on being the hub of many things, some of which are not so complimentary. I have even heard it said that Thailand has become the hub of crackdowns, encompassing wearing crash helmets, methamphetamine sales, gambling, visa overstays and finally selling penis shaped soap. All this was overseen by the BiB, previously known as the finest police force that money can buy.

However, things have changed. The military coup has placed the fate of the country in the more capable hands of the RTA and one year on, the army is firmly in charge. For the man in the street, the presence is not overpowering, but for those who wish not to conform, the presence is more apparent.

Into this very real scenario comes Christopher G. Moore’s latest Vincent Calvino novel, where Vinnie inadvertently finds himself involved with student protests, while trying to investigate the death of an American in Bangkok. A death which had led to fingers being pointed in Vinnie’s direction. And a couple of those fingers belong to ‘spooks’ associated with the American Embassy.

Author Moore knows how to lead the reader along, or should I say “string the reader along” as he introduces new characters, on top of his old characters (some from previous Calvino books), like McPhail, the hard drinking ex-pat we all know, Pratt his buddy in the Thai Police Force, and Rattana, his long suffering secretary.

While carrying out very routine sleuthing, made easier by iPhone applications that can show exactly where you are, assisted by Mr. Google, Calvino suddenly finds that there were hidden agendas. He should have seen them coming, but didn’t, as it all seemed so routine. Or was Calvino attempting to hide from the obvious to save his sanity?

Into the mix comes a Cambodian, Munny. An illegal Cambodian living in a deserted, never finished eleven floor hi-rise, which only had a permit for four floors. Ring any bells? Certainly rang a chorus for me.

One reason that the Vinnie Calvino series is so popular is that the characters are described in such detail that the reader can almost ‘see’ them, and then by placing these characters in real life places, such as Soi Cowboy, it all adds to the realism. After all the previous Calvino novels I have read, I can visualize Calvino, scars and all. He is a PI who bleeds, physically and emotionally.

Moore manages to thread all the disparate characters together using an art photograph of a naked post-coital man holding a teddy bear. And no, I am not going to even try and explain that. You will have to read the book to get an understanding.

This is the 15th in the Vincent Calvino series and at B. 495 this is bargain basement pricing for a hefty 400 page novel. Buy it. Don’t hesitate, or Asia Books will put the price up before you get there! ISBN 978 616 7503 32 5 if ordering through Amazon.

As Calvino, the philosopher, said, “History is a territory where mostly bad things happen to good people.” Calvino has had more than his fare share.