Very much a book of its time A Killing Smile is both a work of fiction and a guidebook for those heading to the neon underworld of Bangkok's bar scene. Before the internet one had to turn to a novels like A Killing Smile to find out the juicy details about 'the scene'. The stuff that didn't make it into the guidebooks made it into works of fiction. The kind of information that may save a tourist from a broken heart, an empty bank account, or worse.
Christopher G. Moore is the pioneer of Bangkok noir fiction. He has written about life and all her bruises in Bangkok for decades. A killing Smile is the book that got the ball rolling. Isaan b-girls, cutters, pissers, the scammers, the actresses. And their customers; lost alcoholics, grifters, chancers. Moore's writings are brilliant observations on the Bangkok nightlife and this one book is the benchmark that all other books on the Bangkok bar scene (including Christopher G. Moore's) have had to follow. It set the standard of an artistic movement: Bangkok Noir.
US lawyer Lawrence Barings’ wife Sarah dies in an auto accident. Lawrence travels to Bangkok to find his old college pal Tuttle stagnating in the Bangkok bars. There are no great plot twists. Little action. But the novel makes up for this with its richness in characters, description, dialogue and most of all setting. The cast is fantastic. Crosby the English trust fund kid who grew up on hookers and darkness. Snow who wants to go up north with a box of New York magic tricks to become a Lahu Godman. The tussle between Lawrence's western lifestyle and Tuttle's expat existence frames the major conflict and theme of the book. The novel deals with cultural shifts, personal adjustments, death and acceptance.
The novel is mainly written in third person, yet switches to second person to add descriptive depth. It also employs journal articles and letters. In many ways the novel was and is a creative triumph. It is a book I will read from time to time noticing something new each visit.