Jack Shepherd gets woken in the middle of the night by a man murdered some time ago. Jack’s disbelief gets all shook up by Barry Gates’ knowledge of minute details, forcing Jack to arrange a meeting. They meet, Jack recognises him, and is thus pulled into Barry’s dodgy world, looking for missing millions from a shady international bank that has connections to the Russian mob, corrupt Chinese officials, and maybe organisations closer to home.
So ends Jack’s comfortable existence as a university lecturer in Bangkok, Thailand. Unable to stop his curiosity, he makes a few inquiries, making him a target for he doesn’t-know-who. He finds tracking devices on his car, he finds dead friends in his car’s front seat, and gangsters warn him about what he’s getting himself into.
Jake Needham’s novel is about grand conspiracy, including Treadstone-style organisations going loony; dirty money getting shuffled around to hide dodgy business, and local coppers getting used and not liking it. The protagonist is a likable main character, a quiet man caught up in something so much bigger than his understanding, who ends up self-consciously ‘assaulting’ the bad guy’s lair deep in the Thai countryside.
I enjoyed Laundry Man, with its affable main character, living a nice, if bland, life in the Far East. There are some enticing descriptions of Thailand, pulling you into the country for a good look, even if you should avoid its officials. However, the novel lacks menace. There’s a couple of deaths that make you worry for the main character, but somehow the book meanders to its finale, rather than drags you there breathless. I never felt Jack was in intense danger, though he had people constantly watching him. Maybe it’s because he was just too laid back, I can’t quite put my finger on it.
I’d also have liked it if everybody stopped saying the name of the person they talked with in a lot of dialogue sentences.
Still, I did like Jack and his girlfriend, Anita. And the author did make me want to visit Thailand.