Hunters in the Dark by Lawrence Osborne


Reading Hunters in the Dark was a pleasant surprise for me. I have not read books by Lawrence Osborne prior to this, let alone heard of him! A little research on the internet tells me he is a British novelist who lives a nomadic life, and his non-fiction, The Wet and the Dry, chronicles his travels through Islamic countries in search for booze. How amusing! 😀 So it is no wonder the main protagonist of Hunters in the Dark, Robert Grieve, would also have some of Lawrence Osborne’s adventurous traits.

Robert Grieve is an unmarried Englishman. His life as a teacher of English Literature has never been exciting, so he looks forward to his travels to escape his mundane life. When his money has almost run out in Bangkok, but right when he starts getting used to the South East Asian heat, some backpackers mention Cambodia to him.

They portrayed Cambodia as a tough paradise where you could live even cheaper than you could in Bangkok. He learned all about the gambling buses that went to the border from Lumpini Park every morning at 5 a.m. and the $3 flophouses in Battambang where you could live “like a fish.”

With only $100 in hand he crosses the border and enters Cambodia, hoping to return after a short visit. But when he wins $2000 (which will take one a long way in Cambodia) on his very first night at a casino, how can he resist the temptation to stay awhile and go missing from the life that waits back in England? Thus begins the tale of Robert Grieve, “a bag of jinxed money, a suave American, a trunk full of heroin, a hustler driver, and a rich doctor’s daughter.”

This novel, a ‘literary suspense’, is full of twists and turns in every corner. It is completed with an evil principal antagonist, Davuth, a corrupt policeman with prejudices against “barangs”. However, it not the evocative narrative or Osborne’s splendid prose of Cambodia that captivated me, but the character of Robert Grieve. When life threw curve balls at him, even when he knew the perpetrators, he never got aggressive, and instead tried to find a silver lining. One might find him naive – tad bit too naive for a twenty-eight year old – and wonder “how a man could remain so beautifully ignorant and innocent”, but who would not wish for it, to be blissfully ignorant and hold on to childhood innocence?

[Note: I received an Early Reviewers copy of Hunters in the Dark via LibraryThing]

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