26 January 2011

Review: THE HALF-CHILD, Angela Savage

Publisher: Text Publishing Melbourne Australia 2010
322 pages
Source: Local Library

Publisher's blurb
Jayne Keeney is a fiesty thirty-something Aussie who has been living in Bangkok for many years. She has been hired to investigate the alleged suicide of a young Australian woman in a seedy Thai coastal town. Maryanne Delbeck was happy and harmless, her father refuses to believe she took her own life. Jayne immerses herself in the case, navigating the backstreet world of Thai ladyboys, monks, strippers, expats and corrupt officials.
Maryanne’s death is not the only mystery awaiting Jayne among Pattaya’s neon signs and go-go bars. While working undercover at the orphanage where Maryanne volunteered, Jayne discovers something far more sinister. Now her life is in danger, her case is still unsolved and she barely has time for dinner with her handsome new love interest, Rajiv. With love and death both circling, Jayne now has two cases to crack and very little time to do it.

My take:

Maryanne Delbeck was a twenty-one-year old Australian volunteer working for Young Christian Volunteers in Bangkok. The year is 1996. Less than five months after her arrival in Thailand Maryanne jumped from a hotel rooftop in Pattaya, falling fourteen storeys to her death. She had found work at the New Life Child Centre in Pattaya, an orphanage that prepares babies for international adoption.

Jayne Keeney decides the best way to investigate what caused Maryanne to jump is to volunteer at the orphanage herself.  In her gathering of relevant information she calls in favours from a friend at the Australian Embassy, from a new Indian friend Rajiv, and from Police Major General Wichit whom she assisted in a case involving his own daughter. As Jayne extends her net she realises she is looking at something much more organised than a young woman's suicide.

I'm not an expert in Thai culture by any means but I have been to Thailand several times in the last 30 years, and spent time not only in Bangkok but also Chiang Mai and Kanchanaburi. Angela Savage's settings and descriptions rang very true for me, and I thought a very credible flavour of Thailand came through.

The plot in THE HALF-CHILD is very credible, and well threaded. Angela Savage shows how a crime fiction author can get under the skin of another culture, and focus on social issues as well as a crime fiction theme.
A very good read from an Australian author worth your while to look for. I think you can read these books out of order - I had rather hazy memories of the previous title in the series, BEHIND THE NIGHT BAZAAR. See my mini review below.

My rating: 4.5

About Angela Savage (from Text Publishing)
Angela Savage travelled to Laos on a six-month scholarship in 1992 and ended up staying in Asia for six years. She was based in Vientiane, then Hanoi and Bangkok where she set up and headed the Australian Red Cross HIV/AIDS subregional program. Her love affair with Asia continues and she has returned many times since. Behind the Night Bazaar won the 2004 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. Angela lives in Melbourne.

Angela Savage writes (on her blog) about the launch of THE HALF-CHILD

Mini-review of
BEHIND THE NIGHT BAZAAR  (published 2006) My rating 4.5
Jayne Keeney, fluent in Thai language, is an Australian private investigator living in Bangkok. Her last investigation into a marital infidelity resulted in her being severely wounded and two weeks later, stitches out, she has arranged to visit her friend Didier de Montpasse living in Chiang Mai. Didier is gay and works on an HIV/AIDS awareness program. He and Jayne get on very well, drawn together by a love of crime fiction. Jayne and Didier go to meet someone in a gay bar behind the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai. There Didier has an argument with his Thai lover who has a gambling problem. Later that night Nou, Didier’s lover, is discovered dead, in the bar, butchered and mutilated. Soon Didier is also dead, shot at home by the police who say he was attempting to escape arrest. Jayne is determined to prove Didier’s innocence and to find out who really killed Nou. The content of story seems to stem from Savage’s own experience in South East Asia when she worked for the Australian Red Cross in setting up an HIV/AIDS program in Bangkok. In some senses it presents a stereo-typed view of Thailand, particularly of Bangkok and Chang Mai, where the under-age sex industry seems to flourish, with Australians amongst those who feed it. On the other hand, there is an unmistakeable tone of authenticity, raising issues that we need to think about.
A Victorian Premier’s Literary Award Winner in 2004, shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Best First Crime Fiction in 2007.

I am going to "count" THE HALF-CHILD in

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Kerrie,
Just wanted to drop by and say how happy I was to read that you enjoyed The Half-Child. I am currently working as hard as I can on the next Jayne Keeney novel, balancing fiction writing with paid work, life and parenting my own child. Reviews like yours give me an added incentive to stick with it, so thank you.


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