Samui, January 2005: a foreign tourist has been murdered and his body incinerated. Robbery is not the motive – the wallet is left on the corpse. Nor, one hopes, is sex, since the victim is male. The murder of foreign tourists is a dreadful thing, and Chief Charoenkul does what any thoughtful policeman in his position would do: nothing. After all, if he investigated the murder he’d have to publicise it, and that would be bad for the tourist industry.
Then another foreigner turns up dead and barbequed. Charoenkul‘s superiors call in a superior officer from the mainland to take over the case. This is potentially career destroyingly bad for Charoenkul. Thinking quickly, he in turn calls in David Braddock, Samui’s only but unlicensed farang private eye and a man with a secret past. (A very interesting secret it is too – when it’s revealed it hits like a killer whale on a penguin). If he, Braddock, will kindly find the real murderer then he, Charoenkul, will be eternally grateful and might not throw him, Braddock, off the island after all. What Charoenkul doesn’t know is that he, Braddock, is having an affair with his, Charoenkul‘s, wife.
Over on Goodreads it has 57 reviews, almost all with five stars, which is no mean feat – Goodreads reviewers can be brutal. It deserves the five star ratings. The story is beautifully structured, the setting richly realised, the characters compelling. Dolan is also skillful at integrating the apparently obligatory instructions on Buddhism into his story – that sort of thing can be a drag, but our author seems to have avoided the trap. In fact there’s a hefty dose of Buddhist metaphysics in the title, but I’ll leave that for you to unravel.
The ‘Time, Blood and Karma’ series comprises novels spanning the period from the aftermath of World War II to the present day. While each book contains a complete story, the novels collectively form part of a larger narrative trajectory involving themes of relationship and the consequences of actions in an interconnected world.
The individual stories can be classified as belonging to the mystery/thriller genre (the emphasis between ‘thriller’ and ‘mystery’ varying by book). Most of the action takes place in South East Asia – although there are interludes in other parts of the world – and the imagery and philosophy of the series is essentially Buddhist in nature. The overarching narrative jumps forward and backward in time to show the planting and ripening of the seeds of karma.
The series is really about interconnection – the idea that everything is connected to everything else…
If everything is connected to everything else, I wonder what Mr Dolan will make of this: while researching this review I looked him up on the universally respected Wikipedia, and I found this:
John Carrol Dolan (born 1955) is an American poet, author and essayist. … completed a PhD thesis on the … Marquis de Sade. … has held various jobs including attack-dog handler at a truckyard in Oakland. … In 2001 Dolan resigned his academic post and moved to Moscow … He was the first reviewer of A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, a bestseller featured on Oprah‘s monthly bookclub, to correctly expose this alleged memoir as fraudulent … (the title of Dolan’s review was “A Million Pieces of Shit” and the first line was “This is the worst thing I have ever read”) … Dolan relocated to Canada to teach at the University of Victoria in Canada …. fired for encouraging students to criticize George Monbiot …. Until spring 2010 was an associate professor of English composition and literature at the American University of Iraq – Sulaimani….. fired in 2010 and wrote a lengthy article on his experience there.
This feisty John Carrol Dolan is not, I repeat not, the author of noir thrillers set in Samui, but everything is connected, no?
If you’d prefer the real John Dolan (ah those Buddhist themes – what is reality?) he does an interview here in which he gives the reviewer a writing tip (don’t do it, it’s more addictive than heroin – buy a dog instead), and another here, in which he reveals that the series will have seven titles and that he has a little man inside his head who makes up the stories and he, John, just writes them down. I’ve heard about this little man from a lot of writers so I think it must be true.
John is on twitter here.