Friday, March 25, 2016

Hunters in the Dark

Lawrence Osborne is a British writer who calls Bangkok, Thailand, home.  As such, he is well acquainted with the cultures of that part of the world and how they change as one crosses from border to border in the region.  Hunters in the Dark, in fact, begins with the book’s main character, an Englishman by the name of Robert Grieve, crossing into Cambodia at a border crossing that country shares with Thailand. 

Grieve is a schoolteacher with only very tenuous ties to his work or, it seems, to his country.  He considers himself to be somewhat of a world traveler during his off time and, although he greatly overestimates his own survival skills, likes to extend himself further and further into the unknown with each succeeding trip.  However, unlike so many Westerners who come to the Far East looking for women and gambling, Grieve is in Cambodia simply as much to experience its atmosphere as for any other reason. 

Lawrence Osborne
As fate would have it (and this book is very much about fate and karma), Grieve’s one big night in a local casino paints a neon target on his back for all the local hustlers to see, including Simon Beauchamp, an American who knows exactly how the game is played in Cambodia.  Grieve is no match for a man like Simon Beauchamp, and when their paths cross, that becomes obvious even to him.  But even in the aftermath of that encounter, the ever-passive Grieves is still hoping to find a way to chuck his old life and begin a new one in Cambodia - and when he gets a well paying job as English tutor to a beautiful young woman, he begins to believe that he might just be able to pull it all off.

Despite its exotic locale and the decadent lifestyle described, Hunters in the Dark will never be (nor should it be) characterized as a thriller.  That is not what Lawrence Osborne was going for here.  Instead, Osborne has written a highly atmospheric novel charged throughout with a static electricity of background tension that promises an explosion at any moment.  All the while, our hero is content to wait around to see what happens next.  Anything it seems, beats the life he left behind in England – unless it actually gets him killed.

Bottom Line: Hunters in the Dark is one of those books where the reader keeps waiting for something exciting to happen – and finally figures out that whether or not it happens is beside the point.  This is a book about fate and what happens to those who buck it.  Come to think of it, Alfred Hitchcock would have loved this one.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

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