Angela Savage won the Victorian Premiers Literary Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript by Emerging Author in 2004 for this book, then called Thai Died.
Jayne Keeney is an expat Australian woman who, in order to avoid a predictable life, left Australia and started teaching English in Thailand. Whilst helping out a student by doing some surveillance on a cheating partner she discovers she has quite a flair for detecting, and that there is a demand for this type of service. She gives up teaching and sticks to working as a private detective in Bangkok doing a good trade in following suspected partners. After a particularly violent turn of events during one such job she seeks some solace in the company of her dearest friend Didier de Montpasse in Chiang Mai. Didier and Jayne share a passion for crime fiction, even though they don't exactly see eye to eye over genre (Didier's a cozy fan, Jayne is strictly hard boiled).
As soon as Jayne arrives there is some apparent tension between Didier and his Thai lover Nau. After a night out with Didier at a gay bar in an out of way part of the city, the next morning Jayne finds the papers leading with stories about a brutal murder in the bar that she was drinking in earlier. Things rapidly take a much bigger turn for the worse and Jayne finds herself having to investigate what really happened in that bar.
This book covers a considerable amount of ground in and around the sex trade in Thailand - local, sex tourism and paedophilia. There are some big players making a lot of money from this trade and there are lots of connections to the police investigating the bar deaths.
Savage has spent some considerable time working in and around Bangkok on Australian Red Cross HIV/AIDS programs and she obviously has an understanding of Thai customs and of the people. The story is peppered with Thai words and phrases and Jayne speaks fluent Thai. The book has a very clear sense of place and the Thai characters and location are clearly defined and interesting.
The compelling thing about this book is that it's a crime fiction novel which is touching on a number of very serious social issues: child sexual exploitation, AIDS/HIV, sex tourism and official corruption, but the book tells the message, reveals the consequences, and avoids lecturing. This is a first novel and there are some
DEATH BY DEMONSTRATION - Patricia Carlon
It's the Sixties and Australian university students are marching against the war. They are demanding the release of a conscientious objector. Somehow a peaceful demonstration turns into a riot.
A young woman student is struck down and killed. The demonstrators are blamed by an outraged public. The students accuse the police. Most people assume that somehow an unfortunate accident occurred. But was Robyn Calder's death an accident? Or was she murdered? Private detective Jefferson Shields is called upon to find the answer before the wrong person can be made a scapegoat.
This book is quite different from Patricia Carlon's usual psychological mysteries, and it is far from her best work. Originally published in 1970, this book shows its age, not just in style but in the plot. The plot had potential, but is let down by boring characters and what I believe was the author's political agenda.
What action there is gets bogged down by the long tedious speeches that most of the characters would launch into at every opportunity. Although this was only a short book by today's standards (190 p.), it seemed much longer, and I found myself skimming many of the longer passages of dialogue.