Review - BANGKOK COWBOY, Ron McMillan

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Bangkok Cowboy
Mason & Dixie
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Book Synopsis

In Bangkok anything – or anyone – can be had for a price.

Two days after private eye Mason sees a drunken Australian kicked to death in Bangkok’s notorious Soi Cowboy, he is approached by one of the men involved. Mobster Raymond Long owns nightclubs on the seedy sex strip and wants Mason to find his American accountant, who has disappeared, taking with her a computer hard drive. Mason is about to turn him down, when he realises the missing accountant is his friend Nathalie West.

A British Army veteran of the Afghan war, Mason has seen his share of conflict - but finding out why Nathalie was secretly working for scum like Raymond Long pushes him beyond even his combat-hardened limits. Mason and his Thai partner Dixie urgently need to discover why the missing hard drive is so important – and to get to Nathalie before Long’s murderous gang find her. The arrival from Vancouver of a psychotic hitman representing Raymond Long’s mob bosses only adds to tension that mounts all the way to a late night climax on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. 

Book Review

Written with incredible pace and verve, BANGKOK COWBOY combines a very good plot with a couple of great central characters. Army veteran and PI Mason is in Thailand, disappearing after a bad war experience and an imploded marriage. In a series of elegantly incorporated thought bubbles, Mason's backstory is filled in well, including how he came to be in a business partnership and close friendship with Dixie. A Thai ladyboy, Dixie is a strong, brave, and gorgeous character, working with Mason and as a highly sought after personal escort. An unlikely friendship maybe, but well done, with a real sense of affection and concern for each other. They work as a pairing, as unlikely as it might seem.

The plot of the novel centres around the disappearance of a friend of Mason's - Nat West has been working as an accountant for a notorious gangster nightclub owner. She's gone missing along with a hard drive full of information that Raymond Long is very keen to get back. As are his mob bosses, right back to his Canadian roots.

There's quite a bit more to BANGKOK COWBOY than your standard thriller, mostly based on the lifestyle of Mason and his friends, and Dixie's contacts. Their connections and respect for each other adds a different dimension to the novel, although not at the expense of everything you'd normally expect. There's action aplenty, and some cunning outwitting of the bad guys by both Dixie and Mason. Perhaps less convincing is a bit of voluntary jeopardy at points where some resolutions were required - all of which were just a bit too daft on the part of the characters to be totally believable, although the action built into them does make it all a lot more palatable.

Minor quibbles apart, there was a lot to like about BANGKOK COWBOY, and a lot to look forward to in the next Mason and Dixie outing. Hopefully soon.

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I agreed with this reviewers comments. My initial reaction to the main characters was skepticism. A hard-boiled special forces veteran being not only pals but partners with a Thai ladyboy struck me as odd until I read enough into the story to see the basis of the friendship - mutual respect, which is the basis of all friendships. Mason seems to have a soft spot for underdogs who bite back instead of whine, and he's honest enough with himself and his beliefs to earn Dixie's respect. The pacing is steady, the narrative tight, and the action believable, though I did wonder, as this reviewer did, whether some of the jeopardy the protagonists came up against could have been avoided, but I chalked that up to realism - superheroes make no mistakes, and in real life, we all do, the clever as well as the clueless. I also hope there's another Mason-Dixie story coming out soon. They're not a run-of-the-mill pair, and Thailand is a place I know almost nothing about, so the interest for me is quite high.

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