If crime thriller novelists are to be believed, CIA agents rival politicians and lawyers as the least trustworthy professions. Intelligence salaries and pensions are so low that they accept bribes from America's enemies to turn a blind eye to their heinous activities. Some, such as Aldrich Ames, are caught. How many are not?
Last To Die by Tess Gerritsen, 328pp, 2012 Bantam paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 650 baht.
Are the authors exaggerating their numbers? Readers have no way of knowing. Yet books about such real and imaginary rogues keep coming out.
US physician-turned-scribe Tess Gerritsen does the literary world proud with her criminalist works. Her two creations are homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles, friends in Boston. Jane is married and the mother of a baby. Maura is single. Cases keep bringing them together.
Though occurring in different states in the space of a month, Jane notes case similarities she's been handed: parents dying together. Shot in an alley, burned up in a farm fire, a boat sinking, a plane blown up. Oddly, their kids survive. Is a serial killer on the loose?
Robbery isn't the motive. What is? Then some of their children are slain, with Maura doing the autopsies. Professional executions. Nothing slipshod. No clues. Was there a connection among the victims? Jane does an extensive background check. Sure enough, they had crossed paths in Rome 16 years earlier.
The running joke is that Jane's father walked out on her mother, but when rejected by his playmate, wants back in. However, Mum now has a boyfriend. Can Jane straighten things out? Meanwhile, the surviving children have been placed together in a castle of sorts in Maine for their protection.
Enter the CIA villainess, seen earlier in other guises, with a load of "dirty" money in the bank. Can Jane prevent a massacre? Trust the author to drag red herrings before us throughout, with surprise twists and turns at the finish.
Along with fellow doctors/writers Robin Cook and Michael Palmer, Tess Gerritsen's stories are much awaited. In Last To Die she's at her best, even though it's another slap at the CIA.
Watching The Dark by Peter Robinson, 410 pp, 2013 Hodder paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 325 baht.
Twenty-five books on, British author Peter Robinson is still building stories around his literary creation Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks of the North Yorkshire Police. Divorced, his son a musician and daughter a post-graduate student, he has a liking for classical music. Brain, not brawn, puts him at the top of his job.
His team (e.g. Annie Cabot) has the highest respect for his investigative ability, though his superiors gripe that he's not the only expert on the force. His best feature is his experience-based intuition when it comes to "reading" people. However, he's not above lying to save a victim's loved ones' pain.
In Watching The Dark, DCI Banks is given the case of a murdered police inspector. Bill Quinn had enemies like any cop, but enough to send a crossbow arrow through his heart? The only clues found are are porno photos of him with a young girl. Where were they taken and what is their exact significance?
Quinn's case files are studied, the most famous one occurring six years earlier when he went in search of a missing English girl in Estonia.
This work of crime fiction opens up with Banks going to Tallin to follow up Quinn's investigation of Rachel Hewitt's disappearance.
Unlike Norway, Sweden and Denmark, largely written from and about, there are no widely known novels from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Aware of this, Robinson spends hundreds of pages of Watching The Dark describing Estonia to the readers. Its cities, towns, farms and people now independent and under the Russians.
Characters include the Baltic country's lawmen, journalists, businessmen, underworld, playboys. Its mafia isn't as well known as its sizeable neighbour's, but they are in the drug trade together. Banks learns that they had set Quinn up and were blackmailing him.
The heavies are an Estonian godfather and his psychopathic son. Suffice to say that it all works out in the end. The author is one of the best detective fiction scribes around. But with all the will in the world, he doesn't make Estonia an attractive tourist destination. Mile after mile of forests is tedious.
DCI Alan Banks should confine his sleuthing to Yorkshire, which is more appealing to his aficionados. This reviewer suggests that the respective Baltic republics encourage their local scriveners to write for a global readership, even having their works translated.
About the author
- Writer: Bernard Trink
Position: Freelance Writer