Parmelee’s understated thriller tackles a pedophilic, child-trafficking syndicate in Thailand.
Parmelee, who teaches English in Thailand, sticks close to home by setting his story in a school—a Roman Catholic scholarship school—in Bangkok, where Ignatius “Ig” Fylchworthy is a member of the staff. Through a series of sinister and grisly happenings, Ig discovers that his school is a hotbed of student sexual molestation. For the most part, Parmelee keeps the story running in the shadows, like a 1940s noir movie, and the inscrutable foreign climes make it all the more so. His writing can be strangely elliptical at times (“ ‘Yes, Sister had lunch in,’ she said, but spoke much more than this, somehow, though in an odd and very inexplicable way”) and wordy at others, but on the whole Parmelee keeps the drama perking along. Ig is a full character, if at the expense of other players who must express their personality through dialogue (“Hey, buddy, that was awesome! I’m so proud of you I could bawl, dude!”); he is a talented teacher who cannily uses his classroom to elicit information about the predation, far from a hero (“I was worried there might be something diabolical in their planning for me”) and with his own issues handling sexual appetite. But in his rage against the syndicate, he is a gratifying force for good. Parmelee is clearly at ease with his Thai locale and able to generate a realistic Catholic school atmosphere, even providing a host of colorful nuggets such as the school’s statues weeping tears of blood. An extended sting operation set up by Ig allows Parmelee to explore how syndicates like this go about their vile work, and his final speech evolves into a plea—and a commonsensical one, considering the circumstances—to relax the unnatural sexual restrictions placed on men and women of the church.
Parmelee draws the depth and range of pedophilia and sexual slavery into an appalling light.