One of the top UK authors, Stephen Leather has made paedophilia the major theme of Night Shade. His literary creation, Met detective turned private eye Jack Nightingale, is hired by the brother of a man who topped himself to prove he had everything to live for.
Nightshade by Stephen Leather 425pp, 2013 Hodder & Stoughton paperback Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops 695 baht
Of course the man had shot to death eight schoolchildren and a teacher earlier, but that made no sense either. To the upcountry police, it's an open-and-shut case _ the man simply snapped _ but Jack doesn't buy it. With the assistance of his former colleagues, he keeps digging deeper.
Unattached, London-based Jack all but lives on Mexican Corona beer and Marlboro cigarettes. Paedophilia disgusts him and the bodies of murdered children give him nightmares, which a bottle of Russian vodka helps erase. His intrepid investigation uncovers an organised paedophilia ring catering to executives in every profession, including the police.
The minor theme focuses on the occult. Bloody Satanic rituals, possession, the undead. Believed by many a century ago, pretty much of a joke today. Jack, however, keeps an open mind. Why shouldn't those who have passed try to contact the living? A ouija board works for our shamus.
He even knifes a nine-year-old girl who may or may not be dead, the evil shade in her soul directing people to kill their families and loved ones. The connection between the themes is spurious. What we learn about the operation of the British police is best. And if you didn't know how huge the practice of paedophilia is, you know it now.
Leather's range of topics encompasses Europe and Asia, the Land of Smiles the venue in a number of his thrillers. He has been to the places he writes about. Nevertheless, this reviewer suspects that the demons he describes are more imaginative than real.
Sleepwalkers by Tom Grieves 378pp, 2012 Quercus paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops 325 baht
Make up your mind
Fatally ill or injured? No matter. In this day and age, virtually all body parts can be replaced and be as functional as new, which also goes for organ transplants. A healthy heart? Sure. Virtually means not entirely. The time will come, but until it does there are no brain transplants.
Until then we are stuck with our minds, well and unwell. Analysts try to treat the unwell, suffering from trauma or refusing to conform. Dictatorships subject dissidents to brainwashing in re-education camps. Those who survive assent to whatever they are told. Those who have undergone therapy don't know whether they are coming or going.
In his first novel Sleepwalkers, British television writer Tom Grieves tells the reader of the research and development on mind control. However, it is problematical whether you can follow his chapters explaining it. Or whether your interest holds up until the finish.
To hear him tell it, hundreds of people without their knowledge and certainly without their approval are designated as experiments. They are given memories that aren't really theirs. Nightmares, too, that belong to others or are just made up. Their real names are changed. They have relationships that are in fact dreams.
A woman teacher and two of her male students are the main characters. They are joined by a veteran shattered by the war and the loss of his family, any or all of whom may not exist. If you find their pages of dialogue confusing, join the club. Oh, yes. Control has to be constant. Otherwise, the older self fights its way back.
In the latter part of the story, each personae has to decide which of their incarnations they will choose to live as permanently _ the former painful, the latter painless. One can't make up his mind and commits suicide. Another wants the best of both. He works hard at achieving it. We learn the result at the climax.
Brain transplants may well come about this century, surely no later than the next. If Grieves is on the right track I, for one, don't want to be around when it does. I believe that though homo sapiens have been at the top of the food chain for 100,000 years, we are not the end product.
Through mutation or mating with aliens from another galaxy, a higher form will evolve. When _ not if _ it does I trust that it won't practise brainwashing. As for Sleepwalkers, it gave this reviewer a headache.
About the author
- Writer: Bernard Trink
Position: Freelance Writer