Missing in Rangoon


Vinny is back!  My mood lifted by two grades when the packet I received from Heaven Lake Press and author Christopher G. Moore turned out to be the latest Vincent Calvino novel, and Moore’s 13th in this series.  (ISBN 978-616-7503-17-2, Heaven Lake Press, 2013.)

The front cover almost says it all, where you read “A Vincent Calvino novel.”  Author Moore has, over the 13 novels, built up Vincent Calvino, Private Investigator, to be a ‘real’ identity, and with that, has built up an enormous following of readers, eager to see who puts Vinnie down this time?  Though with all due respect to Vinnie, he always bounces back.

This one is set in Myanmar, where he very reluctantly accepts a contract to look for a rich American’s son, a guitarist in a rock group, who has disappeared in Rangoon, along with the lead singer from the band.  Going with him is his friend Colonel Pratt of the Royal Thai Police Force, who has his own agenda for being in Myanmar, looking for the source of cold pills that are being shipped into Thailand to be used as the precursor of the ubiquitous Ya Ba.

Moore describes the ethos behind running organizations (such as the Hash House Harriers, without actually naming it), “Giving themselves rude schoolboy names, they weren’t running to stay fit, they were running against time itself, in a run no one ever won.”  And isn’t that the awful truth.

He describes the farang visitor that makes us all cringe, “The look of an expat who’d taken an airport taxi to Soi Cowboy and bar-fined the first dancer who’d sat on his knee and provoked thoughts of marriage and children before the ink on his visa stamp had dried.”

Moore has done his research into the Burmese culture.  Myanmar, though adjacent to Thailand, has its own peculiar quirks and beliefs.  Dreams are important in Thailand, but in Burma, families have collective dreams, and the way forward can depend upon the direction of the family’s dream.

His ability to take the reader through the layers of Burmese cultures brings one to attempting to pre-empt Calvino’s thoughts, and as always, this is not a good idea.  Moore is a masterful story teller and inevitably, those characters which one had consigned to the “bad” bin, could turn out to be much less of a villain than the “clean” side of the plate.

I have always enjoyed this author’s style, which draws the reader into a plot that the reader has failed to imagine could happen.  The classic denouement which leaves the reader breathless (and I am not going to reveal its substance) will ‘blow you away’ to use the vernacular.

There is a tendency to try and decide if this is the “best” of the Calvino series.  Each to his own, but this is excellent.

At B. 495 in Bookazine/Asia Books, it is another enthralling tale and worth far more than the cover price.  Add it to your Calvino collection, but if you are only now discovering Vinnie, go and buy the other 12 as well.  You will not regret it.