Lawrence Osborne – The Glass Kingdom

Lawrence Osborne – The Glass Kingdom

What could be a good place to hide for some time? Bangkok it is Sarah resolves after she has stolen $200.000 from her former employer in New York. In the anonymous building “The Kingdom” she hopes to spend some weeks alone to have the situation cool down. Soon, she gets to know some other tenants, Mali, a half-Thai girl whom Sarah can never fully grasp. And there is the Chilean Ximena, a chef who dreams of her own restaurant whereas Natalie lives the life of a rich wife and sees Bangkok only as a short stop before moving to a better place. Even though most of the people keep to themselves, secrets move fast within the walls of the glass skyscraper and it does not take too long for Sarah to rouse her neighbours’ suspicions and interest.

I have been a huge fan of Lawrence Osborne’s novels for some years. Not only do his settings vary enormously – Morocco, Greece, Mexico, now Thailand – but he also creates highly interesting characters whom he confronts with challenging situations they, on the one hand, provoked themselves but which, on the other, unexpectedly get highly complicated without an actual good way out. Thus, he brings out the worst of human nature.

At first, Sarah seems a bit lost and you feel sympathy for her, but just until you learn which reckless behaviour brought her to the strange house. Yet, only for a short time do those negative feelings towards the protagonist linger since you soon realise that she is too naive and trusting for the world she entered. All other characters behave highly suspiciously and it is obvious that the young American will easily fall prey to them even though they are all quite diverse and aim at different things, whom their victim will be is more than obvious.

Just as the outer world is shaken by a political turmoil, also the inner world of The Kingdom seems to crumble. Decision have to be made and options have to be weighed quickly. Cleverly, Osborne builds increasing suspense and shows those sides of human character you never wanted to see. Threats appear from all corners, even the most unexpected, all heading to a highly tragic end.

Tom Callaghan – Erbarmungsloser Herbst

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Tom Callaghan – Erbarmungsloser Herbst

Eine junge Frau wird tot aufgefunden. Akyl Borubaew, Inspektor der kirgisischen Mordkommission in Bischkek ahnt, dass dieser Fall alles andere als einfach werden wird, denn die scheinbar Drogensüchtige ist an einem neuen Stoff verstorben, um ein Vielfaches stärker als die bekannten Drogen. Aber lange hat er an diesem Fall nicht zu ermitteln, denn der Minister für Staatssicherheit entlässt ihn. Eine Kleinigkeit, passende Beweise für sein vermeintliches Fehlverhalten zu finden. Stattdessen bittet er ihn um eine ganz besondere Mission, die er undercover durchführen soll. Doch bevor es so weit kommt, erschießt Borubaew seinen Erzfeind und wird zum Staatsfeind Nummer 1. Schutz kann er ausgerechnet nur bei den Drogenbaronen der Region finden. Und so wird aus dem einstigen Vorzeigepolizisten der eifrige Diener der Unterwelt.

Auch der vierte und scheinbar letzte Teil der Serie um den kirgisischen Inspektor erfüllt nicht nur die Erwartungen, sondern schließt die Handlung überzeugend ab. Borubaew sieht sich dieses Mal nicht nur einem Feind gegenüber, sondern wird gleichermaßen mit dem korrupten Polizeiapparat wie auch sich bekämpfenden Drogenkartellen konfrontiert. Dass er lebend aus der Nummer rauskommt, ist schon fast ein Wunder, aber daran hat er ja nicht alleine Anteil, ohne tatkräftige Unterstützung seiner Geliebten, der usbekischen Agentin Saltanat, die für nicht wenig Überraschung sorgt.

Die Handlung ist ausgesprochen komplex und die Spannung wird durch die Erzählperspektive konstant hochgehalten. Man kann den Ich-Erzähler Borubaew nicht als unzuverlässigen Erzähler bezeichnen, er bietet keine Mehrdeutigkeiten, aber geschickte Auslassungen schaffen Lücken, die vielfältige Auslegungen zulassen und den Leser in die Irre führen und auf die falsche Fährte locken. Am Ende löst sich aber alles glaubwürdig und restlos auf und auch die Persönlichkeit der toten Drogensüchtigen wird aufgeklärt.

Ein rundum clever konstruierter Thriller, der vor allem von seinem Protagonisten lebt, der mit Menschenkenntnis und Mut für die richtige Sache kämpft und sich einem – vermutlich leider sehr realistisch dargestellten – durch und durch korrumpierten Verwaltungsapparat und von Gaunern unterwanderten Gesellschaft gegenüber sieht.

Fiona Barton – The Suspect

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Fiona Barton – The Suspect

It was supposed to be the best time of their life: Alex and Rosie fly to Thailand after their A-levels to travel and party. But then, things go completely wrong and now the two girls are dead. What happened in the burnt-down-guesthouse? And where is that English boy who might have seen them last and is obviously closely linked to the fire? The parents fly to Bangkok and reporter Kate Waters comes with them to cover the story. But what they find out isn’t what they had expected: Kate’s son Jake is the wanted English boy who is now on the run and prime suspect in the murder of Alex and Rosie.

Again, Fiona Barton could well entertain me with a plot with many twists and turns and a story full of suspense. The narrative does not follow chronology and is told from alternating perspectives which I found great since it provides a lot more depth for the characters on the one hand and keeps suspense high on the other. In the end, the case is solved without leaving any questions open.

What I liked most were actually the very different characters who seemed all quite authentic to me: first of all the two young women who could hardly be more different. Quiet Alex who wants to see the country and learn about the culture and Rosie just expecting to have a good time partying. That this combination wouldn’t work out too long is pretty obvious. The girls behave like typical teenagers do on their first trip alone far away from the parents, they are careless and easily fall prey to all kind of wrong-doers. Also their mothers are portrayed in convincing ways, especially Jenny who is very bitter after her husband left her alone with the daughter.

Most interesting of course is Kate whose role changes massively throughout the story: from the nosy reporter she herself becomes the target of the press and has to endure what is written about her boy without being able of doing anything against it.

Altogether, a perfectly pitched thriller that keeps you reading on and on and on to find out the truth about what happened in Thailand.