Review: “Hunters in the Dark,” Lawrence Osborne

Pros: Incredibly vivid sense of place
Cons: From the description I expected more conspiracy and thrills
Rating: 4 out of 5

Lawrence Osborne’s Hunters in the Dark is “a sophisticated game of cat and mouse” set in Cambodia. After being robbed of his gambling winnings and his passport, 28-year-old Robert Grieve decides to go missing. And since he woke up in the clothes of the man who robbed him, Simon, he decides to pass himself off as Simon. He looks for work as a teacher of English, and is hired by a quirky doctor for his daughter, Sophal–who, frankly, already knows English. Robert’s naivete drags them into–and out of–some unlikely and entertaining adventures, some fun and some quite dark.

 

Just as a note, there is an off-screen rape that happens; if you need to avoid such things, don’t read this book. (It is not lurid nor was it used to titillate.)

The book was described in the cover notes as a ‘sophisticated game of cat and mouse’, which led me to believe this would be more of a thriller than it is. Small parts of it would not be out of place in a thriller, but in general this is a slow, languorous tale. It unwinds in a relaxed fashion, and the real goal seems to be capturing the feel of Cambodia. The plot feels secondary to that. Which is fine, actually, because Osborne does a wonderful job of creating atmosphere for his tale.

I like the fact that sometimes we get Robert’s (foreigner) view of Cambodia, and sometimes we get a native’s view for various reasons. It illuminates different aspects of the place.

I had no idea how the story would end, and it took some unusual turns. That was nicely done. There are little things, like one paragraph taking up two pages. There are one or two character decisions that didn’t entirely work for me. But overall, this is a gorgeous set-piece. I’d read it for the feel rather than the plot; although the plot is good and the characters interesting, it takes a back seat to the locale.

 

Book provided free by Blogging for Books for review

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