The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis book review: ‘The Solitary Man,’ Golden Triangle adventure by Stephen Leather

Written By: herbrunbridge - Feb• 18•13

LeatherSolitaryManWe’d imagine that comparatively few of our WoWasis readers have served time in their nation’s prisons. Fewer have served in overseas prisons. And fewer still in the legendarily filthy prisons of Thailand. And that’s why so many people just love to read about them. From shit-encrusted holes in the floor that serve as toilets to the ever-present cockroaches, Thai prisons remain a nightmare. Author Stephen Leather’s The Solitary Man (1997, ISBN 978-0340-62837-9) puts you right inside.

Chris Hutchinson didn’t plan on spending much time there, actually. He was placed there by strong-arm elements that needed his expertise to spring a man out of prison. He couldn’t refuse: someone he loved was going to die if he didn’t agree to do it. Sound far-fetched? Plots such as these never are, in the novels of Stephen Leather. He never leaves dangled strings, leaking plots, or “wet” endings. Which makes book such as this one, at 567 pages, a joy to read. It’s a book that builds momentum with every page.

Hutchinson’s dilemma is touched by the DEA, the Thai court and prison system, Golden Triangle drug enterprises, and the Hong Kong mafia, just to name several. Many characters are memorable, from his African cell-mate to his beautiful, connected, intelligent, and loyal girlfriend, who, as the story progresses, knows less about him with every page. Even his relationship with her is a shadow.

Leather’s emphasis on verisimilitude is ever-present. Every element in the story is corroborated by countless tales in Thai newspapers, but the author’s gift is being able to furnish a beginning and an end to which newspaper readers are rarely privy. He’s a novelist that thinks like a newspaperman, which he was for a number of years, before becoming a successful novelist. He throws enough teasers in The Solitary Man that the thinking reader is never bored, but it’s tough to stay ahead of him. The twists in this story have too many turns to make them predictable. Highly recommended.  Buy it here at the WoWasis eStore.

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