Friday, July 17, 2020

Murder at the Slaughterhouse by Tom Crowley

Murder in the Slaughterhouse
In most cities of the world, you could say as the dawn eases its way above the horizon that the city begins to stir. In Bangkok, that wouldn’t be precisely correct. The mystical mix of the city’s night beat continues through the verge of dawn and the pace of the city only hesitates. There is a somewhat perceptible pause in the city’s life movements as the often desperate human night activity slows to a crawl, around dawn, as the night people complete their retreat with the last of the seductively clad sex workers and transgender beauties scurrying out of the growing light into the back of taxis. But the beat is taken up virtually immediately with the morning traffic of the day people as they begin to reclaim the city.

So opens Chapter One of this second Matt Chance thriller, which, like the first, is set largely in Thailand. The first few paragraphs continue this almost lyric ode to Bangkok, which appreciates the city’s beauty but doesn’t shy away from describing the darker side. But before long, this wide pan of the city landscape homes in on the violated body of a teenage boy, found within the perimeters of a slaughterhouse for hogs.

Matt turns out to have known this boy as a student in a kickboxing class for at-risk youth at which he has helped out. Through his connections there, he is pressed into trying to find out what happened to the youth, but finds himself entangled in an ever widening circle of people involved in one way or another with this tragedy, reaching the highest levels of both crime syndicates and governmental agencies. And their range isn't confined to Thailand alone.

Crowley, who is a Vietnam vet who went on after the war to work in both governmental and business communities in Thailand and Washington, has a lot of knowledge to draw on from these quarters. But just as valuable is his observation of daily life in Bangkok, where he has volunteered at a center for Thai street children, which I’m sure helped him flesh out the the community that the murdered boy of the novel comes from.

I've been remiss in waiting so long to get to this story, but at least I'm not too late to be ready for the third Matt Chance book, which is rumored to be coming out in November.