Singapore Killer by Murray Bailey
A thriller in an exotic setting, Ash Carter is the central character in this fast paced and terrifically exciting book of murder and more. As the number of unexplained bodies mounts up, he must try to find out if they are linked, and if they are, what the chilling motive for the deaths are in a time of military activity. The 1950s is a time of unrest, suspicion of military personnel,and of memories of occupation. This is not a time of high tech operations, rather a time of investigating the random incidences of crime affecting small tradesmen though with potentially larger links to bigger time crime. Ash Carter, for those who have not encountered him in previous novels from Murray Bailey, is an ex officer in the Special Investigations Branch of the military police. He has now established himself as an independent investigator dealing with matters brought to his small office. However, he is also brought in unofficially to deal with matters connected with the military presence in the area, contacting those he knew in various units. This is therefore a book of men trying to work out where the best position may be for them, and the petty issues of military life abroad. There are larger issues to consider as well, as potentially lucrative schemes emerge that endanger not only civil order, but also the lives of all those involved. I found this an intriguing and complex read, and was interested to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
The book begins with the deliberate crashing of a helicopter. A mysterious man is chained to another man, but manages to bring the aircraft down, before ensuring death and destruction. When Ash and his ex colleague Captain Robshaw begin to investigate the scene, they discover that the modified craft was not just involved in a tragic accident, but that there is evidence of deliberate killing, even the pilot being shot. This is in an area of jungle, and there is uncertainty about what the helicopter was doing there, even who the occupants were.There seems to be more questions to answer, especially when other bodies appear, and the person responsible seems to revel in setting up obscure clues to his identity as “Blackjack”.
Alongside this dangerous and potentially explosive trail of death, Ash also deals with requests for help that come to his small office, run efficiently by Madam Chau -receptionist, translator and much more. He has established his small business following some dubious involvement in previous investigations and cases. He keeps his contacts going as he realises that the small cases of suspicious spouses and even lost dogs requires his special knowledge of not only local individuals, but also their links with the military personnel in the area. He knows that a large secret society in the country operating beyond the law will also have an impact on seemingly small disputes. He is drawn further into personal danger by attempting to support a former colleague, when he must go undercover to investigate disappearances.
This is a vividly written book which reveals enormous knowledge of a situation beyond ordinary legal and social structures. Written in the voice of Ash, he frequently faces physical danger and discomfort in the pursuit of truth rather than money. There are convincing descriptions of the landscape, roads and much else in the countryside; the author is certainly skilled in conveying a real sense of place as well as suspense. This book operates as a standalone novel in a series, and it is easy to be quickly drawn into a different world of adventure and tension. A sometimes brutal but always honest read, this is a thriller to find much to interest the reader.