Lured into the jungle of Thailand by the promise of pure bliss with lovely tribal girls, British backpacking buddies Jake and Will discover their guide Howard is using them as a cover to deal drugs across the nearby Burmese border. Taking matters in their own hands, they cross the line between self-preservation and moral depravity.
Lewis, who sent a Chinese inspector to England to search for his abducted daughter in the 2008 thriller Bad Traffic, returns with another dark tale of cultural dislocation. In this book, the language barrier is less an issue than the worst kind of naiveté. Will, a photography nut, is planning on a visit to a tea factory in Laos when Jake awakens him with a risky alternative. A guy he met in a noodle place told him about this beautiful, little-known spot with a waterfall where they can go swimming and Will can photograph—and be with in other ways—the photogenic Wa people. Will reluctantly gives in. Beautiful topless girls do indeed greet them at the swimming hole. Jake wanders off with one of them, leaving Will to contemplate what may become the most amazing day in his life—if only he can stop thinking of his girlfriend back home. When he spies Howard stashing something in the boot of his Jeep, the day begins its downward slide. Howard insists customs cops don't care about young tourists. One bad turn leads to another, a cop gets shot in the chest by the backpackers' crossbow, Jake and Will turn on each other, their agreeably un-villain-like guide pays for his transgressions and any remaining shreds of human decency get washed away in the rapids. Lewis writes with a subtle comic edge. The pages of this short novel turn so quickly, its dark undertow can sneak up on you.
A novel that sets itself apart from most noir fiction with its lighter and looser feel.