Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Missing in Rangoon. A Review.

MISSING IN RANGOON is not only Christopher G. Moore’s most accessible and finest novel, but a coherent continuation of all the books the Canadian born Bangkok based author Moore has written and published in over a quarter of a century of prolific literary accomplishments.

One can get lost in the language of the early land of Smiles trilogy (A Killing, Bewitching, and Haunting Smile), and reread passages with renewed enjoyment each time. The early Bangkok Land of Smile novels were experimental in their use of POV switches, cutting in of newspaper and magazine articles, seamless dialogue, and dreamlike narrative voice; chapters verging into stream of consciousness voice. The reader could eat the language and recognize the wide, vibrant, colorful cast. Three books of their time and place they indeed were. However, Christopher G. Moore, as a novelist has moved to a more commercial and in my opinion better place.

The publication of Spirit House first in the Vincent Calvino crime series marked a sea change. Moore gets a firm grip on plot, action, and narrows the cast down to a net of familiars and necessary extras. With Vincent Calvino, the writing becomes tighter, more organized. The books become pager-turners. 

Never an author to create fully formed antagonists, and perhaps true to the noir genre, the cities themselves breathe fear and anxiety, mystery and suspense onto the pages.

The big pull with Moore’s work is the descriptions of the exotic places he knows too well. Descriptive passages I feel detailed rather too heavily in some earlier works. I live and walk the same streets as Calvino does.

One way of looking at a brilliant piece of fiction is that if one single paragraph be taken away from the work then the whole story crumbles to dust without making sense. Writing fiction is about taking away what is not required. One must chip chip chip away at a rock to uncover a statue. Missing in Rangoon achieves this.

The balance of dialogue, description, and action is perfect.

The story?

Calvino – half-Jewish-half-Italian private eye and his jazz saxophonist police connection take a trip to the recently opened Burma on a twofold case. One to find the whereabouts of a Bangkok bar-owner’s wayward bass guitar bothering son, and two to intercept the smuggling of over the counter cold pills smuggled across the border from Rangoon into Bangkok for the production of methamphetamine. Calvino encounters an interesting cast of characters including a fine noir vixen, a fortune-telling private dick, the mob, and the usual cast of ways and strays flung to any South East Asian city. I recommend reading Missing in Rangoon, even if you have not read Christopher G. Moore’s novels before and especially if you have.

His best yet.

Christopher G. Moore reading in the Bangkok Night.

Review by James A. Newman

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