Asian crime fiction
SEX, drugs and murder. That’s how we like our crime. Or at least that’s what the nine authors featured in this book of short stories seem to think. As they lead us through seedy hotels, dark alleys and go-go bars, we are given a glimpse of the sordid underworld of Asia.
Ranging across South and South-East Asia, these nine tales offer everything from the prosaic to the bizarre, across all levels of society. We are able to sympathise and possibly even empathise with the abused prostitute-turnedthief, while feeling horrified at the story of the secondary school teacher who really is a serial killer.
I liked some of the stories in this book, with some notable picks being You Get What You Paid For by Elka Ray, Wet Nightmares by Jim Algie and The Hanoi Sword Swindle by William L. Gibson.
We’ve all heard stories of the gold-digging wife and the tapped-out husband. The story that Elka Ray spins out of these stereotypical characters in You Get What You Paid For is simple but gives us an interesting look into the new niche segment of “murder tourism”. I felt that this story was well written and that it explored its characters as well as can be expected within 16 pages. The author’s style lent itself well to allowing me to feel as though I was witnessing the events of the story through the eyes of the protagonist. Unfortunately, the ending felt very trite and much too juvenile for the rest of the plot.
I felt as though I was reading a typical secondary school essay, terminated by word count.
Jim Algie’s Wet Nightmares is an enthralling and gripping read about the aforementioned prostituteturned-thief. The author takes us on an emotional roller coaster through the life and times of our protagonist, spinning a tale that leaves the reader fervently hoping that, someday, her simple dreams will come true and she will be happy once more.
I felt that this story was a well thoughtout, very real look at the life of a desperate woman in a desperate time just doing what she has to do to survive. An excellent read.
The Hanoi Sword Swindle is, in my opinion, the best written story in this collection. Author William L. Gibson writes with a style that invokes vivid imagery, not only of the places that the protagonist travels to, but also of the characters, both main and supporting. Even though the language used is lighthearted, there is a feeling of barely restrained violence lurking just under the surface and this is explored in great detail in the relationship between the protagonist and his nemesis. The swindle itself is of no great importance. The author chooses instead to flesh out the characters one would supposedly meet in the criminal underworld and does a brilliant job of making them believable and, in some cases, even likeable. I thoroughly enjoyed this story.
Overall, I feel that these stories are somewhat bland, and most of them are nowhere near the level of the crimes and criminals we read about in real life. Many of the stories seem better suited for the YA (young adult fiction) section, as they deal with extremely prosaic crime, themes that have been revisited again and again over the years. These stories are also written in language and style more suited to a younger audience, with predictable plots and feel-good endings. I felt that at least three out of the nine stories were guilty of this.
Another peeve I had is with the number of stories about foreign criminals in Asia. From what I can tell, we have plenty of very capable criminals in Asia and we don’t need foreigners coming in and stealing the best criminal jobs. Why five out of nine authors chose to write stories about foreign criminals in Asia I simply do not understand. I hope the next volume gives better exposure to the criminal talent we already have.
In short, an entertaining read for the casual crime-fiction buff. May not appeal to mature, Sherlock Holmes fan types who are actually Asians in Asia.