Review Blog

Aug 27 2013

The dying beach Angela Savage

cover image

Text, 2013. ISBN 9781921922497.
Recommended for older teen readers. The main character, Jayne Keeney, is a private investigator living with her partner Rajiv in Bangkok. In the tradition of P.I.s she is tough, attractive but not getting any younger and has a strong sense of social justice. She drinks and smokes, a lot, yet speaks Thai and so can hold her own in a culture where gender stereotyping is expected. When a tour guide at the beautiful resort of Princess Beach is found dead, believed drowned, Jayne becomes involved when she learns that the guide, named Pla (meaning fish in Thai) was a strong swimmer and diver. Investigation into her life shows that she had been involved with an environmental protest group. The consequences of tourism are shown when Jayne and Rajiv visit developments in the area that are changing the lives of the villagers. Golf courses, power stations, and shrimp farms all mean changed water usage and the destruction of both forests and mangroves, which in turn leads to the end of traditional ways of living. Pla has helped the villagers in their meetings with developers, but who would want her dead? Then there are the  murders that follow and muddy the waters even more. Jayne, of course, works her way through to a conclusion, but not before she has several violent confrontations with suspects and faces a cobra in her shower alcove. A sense of place and culture is clearly established; Jayne's meetings with the villagers and visits to temples feel authentic without the Thai villagers and their way of life being romanticised. There are tense scenes, in particular a confrontation at a bull fight with a suspect, and temptations, when Rajiv returns to Bagkok and Jayne is left to work with the attractive Australian Paul. The plot is skillfully handled with several red herrings and blind leads needing to be followed. The novel does have an explicit sex scene so despite not being very demanding it is better for older readers.
Jenny Hamilton

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