Hungry Ghosts by John Dolan
I admit – I’m reading this series out of order. I’ve just finished Hungry Ghosts and have only started its predecessor, Everyone Burns. But that should be a clue. If I don’t like the dish, I don’t go back for seconds.
And I liked Hungry Ghosts. A lot.
First, it’s very, very well written. Meaning it is well-crafted and has a strong voice. So many books these days have only one or the other and those can be enjoyable, too – the way a beauty contestant can make a great date even if she’s dumb as a stone.
But Hungry Ghosts is the runway model who went to Harvard. And she knows how to have a good time to top it off – you know what I mean?
The story centers around an ex-pat Englishman named David Braddock who lives on an island off Thailand. Braddock’s got a lot going on. He’s feeling emotionally ravaged by guilt over his wife’s death, has several sometime girlfriends who want either one thing or another, an unrequited love, some Thai gangsters on his tail, and a homicidal maniac bent on revenge. All of these somehow collide at his agency (he’s a P.I. with a partner and a half: a pushy, whip-smart Thai woman and her newborn baby), even when he’s not investigating.
David is a magnetic, complex character whose flaws we forgive, and against our better judgment perhaps, whose best traits we exalt. He’s surrounded by a motley crew of friends, enemies, and anything in between. Nobody is eccentric and quirky simply for the reason of being eccentric and quirky, either. These are real people (or at least they feel real) and the author (John Dolan) writes with the voice of an experienced traveler – world weary, uncharted, but chasing the dragon of the next new adventure nonetheless. He explains a magical culture in plain, rational language instead of getting all woo-woo on us – although he does get woo-woo on us. Still, as a reader, I didn’t mind. But I’m like that.
So, go out and get Hungry Ghosts and its sibling, Everyone Burns, if you haven’t already. It’s worth your time and money and then some. And it’s a great way to feel like you’ve been to Thailand without have to get frisked at the airport and sit for twenty hours sandwiched between two nightly steak eaters from Atlanta.