Thank you to NetGallery for my free copy, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. There is some beautiful writing here, and I very much enjoyed this unique novel I was pulled in. However, I found the plot a little hard to follow and got lost…I feel like I need to read it again later, as I am sure there’s a five star reading experience for me here. Let’s get into the review.
For fans of John Burdett (Bangkok 8) and John Le Carre (The Constant Gardener): Toxic Spirits is a highly atmospheric thriller set in Thailand, a playground for colorful expats, beautiful women and limitless skullduggery. Narrated with insightful meditations on nature and biodiversity, interspersed with macabre violence and dark hilarity, the novel is also a brilliant, genetics- and AI-inspired take on multiculturalism and personal identity.
Toxic Spirits is the first volume of a TRILOGY dealing with the effects of unfettered venality on marginalized Southeast Asian communities. A teaser for the second book is included at the end. Advance Praise:
- “A complex and enthralling international intrigue with a treasure of remarkable detail neatly packed into a short novel that dances on the edge of John le Carré territory. A rich read from start to finish.” Frederick Barthelme, author of New Yorker stories and eleven novels including There Must Be Some Mistake.
- “Mani writes Thailand beautifully with heart and a lot of souls.” Colin Cotterill, author of The Coroner’s Lunch, from the Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery series, and sixteen other novels set in Laos and Thailand.
- “Toxic Spirits is a striking debut. Its prose, fluid, will tug you along; its dialogue, rendered gracefully, sparkles with authority; its plot is loaded with much to love, plenty to leave you in the kind of wonderment your soul has sought in books.” Mark Wisniewski, Pushcart-prize winning short story writer and author of Watch Me Go.
- “A fabulous writer whose sensuous and affecting prose both beguiles and transforms.” Tom Vowler, author of story collection The Method and novel What Lies Within.
Synopsis: Benton, a widowed African-American intelligence analyst from Washington D.C., retires to Thailand. At an expat bar, he is captivated by Siri, a beautiful tribal singer. When Siri disappears, he discovers that she had been speaking out about the side-effects from drug trials conducted on her hill-tribe. Benton’s investigations draw him uncomfortably close to Pierre, the seriously disturbed Indo-Cambodian doctor running the trials. Becoming an unwilling guinea-pig in the trials, Benton is transformed by the genetically-engineered drugs and falls in love with Mimi, a stunning and gifted young Thai-Australian. As the genetic manipulations spiral out of control and spread to the botanical treasures of Thailand’s Golden Triangle, the forces of tribal healing, high-tech medicine, and love battle to determine who will survive.
Kim’s Review 3.5 ‘unique and interesting stars!’
After browsing the multicultural section on NetGallery it was the cover, and title that drew me in. Reading the blurb I found it intriguing. And that’s how I would sum up the reading experience, very intriguing. There is an awful lot I like about this book. I think the author does have a beautiful descriptive style. I appreciated this as a reader, especially as I love location based stories in far away places. I also really loved all the characters, they all jumped out and really are well developed. The main character himself Benton, he was really funny at times and like-able.
I also loved that this novel has such a multicultural feel, it’s set in Thailand yes, but characters are from as far as Scotland and all over the world. I loved it.
I also really loved the uniqueness and how the story unfolds around a demographic of people. The Palin and their history, from a scientific and historical POV.
I did find the story engaging, I did whip through the first fifty percent, but it got a bit challenging. By this I mean, we are introduced to LOTS of characters early on, at first I could not understand the ‘link’ to the plot, then it started to tie up. By then, I kind of was a bit lost in what was happening. I do pay a lot of attention as a reader, especially when it’s a complex plot such as this, but I still got a bit lost in the overall structure. Like I said, I would re-read it and try to absorb it better. It’s a trilogy and I would read more from this author for sure. I love his writing style and ability to create some great characters…not to mention a very complex plot!
If it were a little more easier to read through first time, I think I would say I had a five star reading experience. In all honesty, there is nothing I dislike! It really boiled down to getting a bit lost at times. Which resulted in it taking me much longer than average to read a book of just 250 pages. Overall, 3.5 unique, engaging stars! I’d read more.