Bruce R. Cook, |
(Capital Crime Press, 2006)
Why would a member of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms go to the Philippines? To investigate the murder of a U.S. citizen. This cadaver, one Harvey Tucker, was a businessman of sorts. He was officially known for selling roosters for cock-fighting -- a big sport in the Philippine Islands. Apparently, however, he also bought and sold Chinese-made weapons on the side. The authorities were investigating these side trades when Tucker turned up dead at one of Manila's sex clubs.
In Bruce R. Cook's novel Philippine Fever, ATF agent Sam Haine heads overseas to figure out where this arms shipment is located now that Tucker is dead. Sam gets paired up with Bogie Lorenzano when he arrives in Manila. You might think their investigation would deal only with the terrorist group looking for these weapons. But to get there, you go through corrupt politicians, the slave trade and Filipino cuisine. (Maybe it is just me having flashbacks to years spent as a Navy brat in Subic Bay, but when Bruce mentions balut -- duck egg with partially developed embryos -- that was the closest I came to tossing my cookies during this reading. These things are definitely an acquired taste ... if you can get past the smell.)
Sam and Bogie make slow progress in the case until Harvey's sister, Sonja, shows up on the scene. She says she has come to pick up her brother's remains and get revenge on those responsible for Harvey's death. But she is really more interested in the merchandise he was peddling. It's worth a lot of money! Up until Sonja's entry into the story, it is fairly serious reading. Sonja brings in some comic relief. She plays the country bumpkin although she is perhaps a bit more clever than she lets on. She is also a pretty big woman who likes to throw her weight around.
Many readers in the U.S. probably know little about the Philippines and might not even be able to pick out the country on a world map. The author does a decent job of introducing bits and pieces of Filipino culture, especially at the points where he adds in little side facts about the islands. If readers aren't careful, they might start picking up some of the Tagalog that Bruce tosses into the dialogue on occasion. Hopefully, they will be astute enough to pick up the meaning based on the context.
Bruce Cook is an interesting character in his own right. According to his website, he holds degrees in physics, mathematics, film education and communication. He spent time in the Philippines for work in the film industry and, while there, did research for this novel. Bruce is the "evil twin" of another author whose work I've reviewed -- Brant Randall. Sometimes when an author has more than one pen name, one of these personalities gets to explore a different aspect of life. In this case, Bruce is definitely a darker personality than Brant. While the writing styles are similar, they are different enough that you would not necessarily know they came from the same person.
Philippine Fever is a murder-mystery full of intrigue, despair, violence and more death than just the original victim. This book is not for the squeamish -- some of the scenes are very graphic. And if you don't like reading violent stories that also contain sex, cross-dressing or more references to film-noir than your normal person could keep up with, this might not be your cup of tea. However, I found the story captivating enough to read it fairly quickly. I look forward to the next Sam Haine novel; I would like to read more about this character.
6 June 2009
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