(BOOK REVIEW) The theme of this fast-paced novel is the murky world of wealthy men who have secret lives as child molesters. For most people the very thought of sexually molesting a male or female child is so repugnant they cannot believe such characters could possibly exist. Yet the reality is that they do, and places like Pattaya attract them, although arguably those who desire sexual activities with children under the age of 10 are compelled to sate themselves elsewhere and in a far more clandestine manner.
Author Will Patching uses the Stephen Leather-style of thriller writing: short, sharp pieces running a thread between a variety of characters, building the suspense.
The 292-page book (published by TimeFrame Co Ltd) begins with the mysterious murder on Koh Samui of George Simm, an internationally-known businessman famous for his Internet travel conglomerate and a friend of the United States president. The main character is an English-born freelance journalist named Kate O’Sullivan, who lives in the United States with her computer-geek brother Johnny. The latter hacks into the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) main database and discovers information about Simm that is incredibly sensitive, and potentially extremely dangerous to those in possession of this knowledge. He tells Kate and she sells the story to a British tabloid newspaper called The Crusader.
Charles Tandy, the editor of the newspaper, sends both Kate and Johnny to Thailand to follow up the story, while the CIA boffins realise they have been hacked and set about locating the source.
The killer of George Simm is a man named Doug Brown, a former US soldier and rogue CIA operative, who had been raped as a child, and is known as the Angel of Death. He is also a central character in the story. Other players include Chief Lee, the Thai detective charged with investigating the murder; Gary Knight, the young and ambitious right-hand man to George Simm whose task is to keep the slowly imploding company afloat in the wake of his mentor’s slaying; Sir Jeremy Green, respected judge and serial paedophile who is a regular abuser of a young girl by the name of Kylie who has been ‘imprisoned’ in a safe house in central London.
The central plot plank of the story revolves around the fact the CIA had cracked a major and influential paedophile ring many years earlier and had sent a list of names based in the United Kingdom to the British police, but Simm was so well-connected he was able to pay enough money to have the file ‘lost’. The worry, for Sir Jeremy Green and his even more odious fellow child-abuser Sir Benjamin, was that Simm may have kept a copy of the incriminating file somewhere on his computer and they wanted to gain access to it before anyone else.
The editing of the book could have been better. Although far from the worst I’ve seen, things like misspelling the word ‘breach’ with ‘breech’ or ‘canon’ instead of ‘cannon’; not explaining the acronym FT (for the newspaper the Financial Times- or perhaps the author assumed his readership will only be English), and a few failures in punctuation are annoying but not detracting enough to spoil the book.
A couple of statements, made by journalist Kate and Chief Lee, are just plain rubbish. For example: Chief Lee, talking to Kate about certain types of tourists he didn’t like, says, ‘I believe the innocent, loving nature of my people is being corrupted, perverted and commercialised. It started with the Americans arriving here when they were fighting in Vietnam…they ruined my country, encouraging the worst forms of sexual deviance to blossom.’ Two points: one, Thailand ranks in the top 10 worst countries in the world for murder by weapon, so that puts paid to the ‘innocent, loving nature of my people’ comment and, two, prostitution was legalised following the final abolition of slavery in 1905 and remained legal until 1960. The first large-scale number of American troops to splash ashore in Vietnam did so in 1965. Even today, the vast majority of (illegal) prostitution takes place between Thais, the Thai-foreign component is small by comparison.
Later there’s another fatuous and completely incorrect comment from the mouth of Chief Lee. “Our sex industry, the tourists, ensure the continued early death of many young mothers, often mothers who were impregnated by tourists, infected by tourists.’
On the positive side of the coin, Patching correctly cuts to the heart of the news media profession with Kate aware ‘the half truths and innuendo of tabloid journalism could paint a saint as the devil himself.’ Chief Lee, talking to Kate about the age of sexual consent, comments, ‘In many countries, including Thailand, the age is [low]. So if I were to have sex with a fifteen year old girl it would be legal. Yet in [England] I would be branded a paedophile…It seems our difference in culture allows the same thing to be deemed a criminal activity in one country at the same time as being entirely legal in another…’
There’s quite a bit of the deux ex-machina about the plot but the book is well enough written to draw the reader in and if you can get past the silly comments and statements it’s worth a read.
Update by information sent me by author Will Patching:
Hi Sean, Thanks for the review, although you have an early copy of the novel from 7 years ago, since updated, edited and renamed The Hack (see http://www.thehacknovel.com for the rather more marketable cover design). The novel is now only available on Amazon digitally. I’m not sure where you picked up your copy, though guess it may have been from diving/contacts aboard the Oriental Siren (formerly The Siam Junk) – I was one of the owners and left a few copies aboard.
I don’t know if you have followed the UK news regarding Jimmy Savile OBE – the paedophile cover up/conspiracy exposed this year that is still making headlines as other prominent people are arrested – but it rather adds to the credibility of this work of fiction.
Two points: the ‘fatuous’ comment from Chief Lee is a bastardized quote from a senior military guy I met here who was in the Thai air force at the time of the Vietnam war… You (and I) may disagree with the reality, but his opinion is from a Thai perspective, hence inclusion in the novel. Similarly, AIDS did not have its genesis in Thailand – it was imported – many would say by sex tourists. Again, you mistake Lee’s comments for a factual assertion rather than understand this is meant to be stated from a Thai perspective – common among locals.
If you are interested I have a rather different crime thriller on offer too – Remorseless (http://www.remorselessnovel.com). If you check out the website and would be interested in reading a copy I will happily forward a free e-version. Cheers!
Sean – Further info on the contention Lee makes regarding prostitution in Thailand: the influence of the Vietnam era is considered valid in some quarters (especially by nationalist politicians here, who also still blame ‘violence/corruption’ on the same cultural invasion). An independent assessment:
Kathryn Farr makes clear that the correlation between the number of troops in Vietnam and the number of prostitutes in Thailand is impossible to ignore. “In 1957, an estimated 20,000 prostitutes were working in Thailand. By 1964, that number had grown to 400,000, and by 1972, when the United States withdrew its main combat troops from Vietnam, there were at least 500,000 working prostitutes in the country. From there on, the Thai sex industry simply exploded.” [Farr, Kathryn 2005 Sex Trafficking: The Global Market in Women and Children. New York: Worth Publishers]
We could debate the veracity of her findings (especially given that figures for prostitution are notoriously difficult to verify) but the point I am making is that Lee’s assertions are quite commonly held views. Hope that helps!