24 February 2008

S.P. Somtow, The Other City of Angels, 2001

A dark comedy set in 1990s Bangkok that Somtow wrote as a cliff-hanging serial for Thailand’s The Nation newspaper, directly based on the tale of Bluebeard. Several times divorced Jude Abramowitz is more-or-less kidnapped by marriage from her Californian lifestyle and thrown headlong into some over-the-top Bangkok high society decadence, with a murder mystery to solve along the way. It features at least one real-life character, the food critic Bob Halliday (who also appears in several more of Somtow’s stories), but beyond that any connection to the real world is deliberately suspect. Probably written with a predominantly female audience in mind it readily skims between genres, from Californian chick lit to whodunnit to supernatural thriller, all ending bizarrely in a fit of science fiction fury. For male readers it has its moments too but is best regarded as a kind of lightweight antidote to John Burdett’s Bangkok Eight, which didn’t contain nearly as much wisecracking in the face of death.  PY


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