A look at the sex trade in East Asia, told as a suspense novel.
This work follows a Vietnam War veteran who returns to his old battlefields to try to save his granddaughter’s life. It all begins when Peter Trutch is interrupted one sunny afternoon by a letter from overseas. An Australian graduate student named Andrew Quang has located a 40-something man in Vietnam named Nguyen Le Ngoc, who claims to be Trutch’s biological son. Trutch is taken aback but recognizes that it’s plausible: in 1971, on medical leave in Nha Trang, he entered into a liaison with a local woman named Dream. Alarmingly, Ngoc’s daughter Lien—Trutch’s granddaughter—appears to have vanished, and her family fears she’s been abducted into the world of underage sex trafficking. Flying back to Vietnam to help search for her, a “knight in shining armor,” Trutch will face a harrowing underworld full of “pimps, thugs, mean-looking bouncers and cops blind to whatever nefarious activity is raging around them.” In three interwoven narrative strands, the book tells of Trutch’s journey in search of Lien, his wife Catherine’s attempts to better understand her husband’s secret, and Lien’s own horrifying story. Eventually, Trutch’s journey—like the war in which he once took part—leads him across the Cambodian border to Phnom Penh’s little Vietnam, Svay Pak. There, shots ring out, Lien cowers in an obscure room out of sight, and seedy officials warn the determined veteran: “You use many big English words. But they do not justify your desire to interfere with our way of life.” Vietnam veteran and humanitarian Logan (co-author: Back to Vietnam: Tours of the Heart, with Elaine Head, 2013) has been familiar with this region all his adult life and describes it knowingly. Here and there, readers are reminded of the old horrors of the Vietnam War and the re-education camps and the raw feelings that still circulate around them. The author deftly details Lien’s plight. Readers learn of the “rape chambers,” cattle prods, meager food, and regular beatings the kidnapped girls must endure and their constant fear. While some readers may be misled by the novel’s oddly bucolic cover, the dangerous world described therein remains all too real. It’s important that readers be woken up to it.
A tense and distressing tale of a sad and all-too-common kidnapping in an exotic land.