on January 4, 2012
I always like to use the highlighting feature when I read books on Kindle, but quickly stopped doing so as I read this book. Why? Because I found myself highlighting entire pages and soon decided I was better off just reading the book and enjoying every line of it. Everything you expect from an international thriller is there. Shadowy government figures, femme fatales, hit men, and con men are each rendered masterfully. What sets this novel apart and places it on my list of my favorites is the evocative and spot on accuracy in passages describing the settings of two of my favorite cities, San Francisco and Bangkok. I've lived in both places off and on over the years and often seek out literature that is set in each. Though The Big Mango was written a few years back the rhythm, beauty and odd characters that dwell in each place are rendered in such a manner and without cliché that the descriptions are as accurate and thought-provoking today as when they were written. Needham captures the very pulse of each city.
Perhaps the element I enjoyed the most was the humor. Quite simply this book is at times hilarious. Even in dire circumstances Jake is able to give scenes a touch of levity such as the following passage. "All he had to do was squint slightly and he might have been back in San Francisco wheeling into the Bayshore Freeway from the Van Ness onramp and heading toward San Jose. On the other hand, if he had been in San Francisco, he seriously doubted he would be hanging onto the back of a Suzuki driven by a middle-aged Thai whore who had just used a sawed off shotgun to rescue him from two heavily armed Chinese thugs."
Passages like this kept me chuckling and eager to know what happens next. Another powerful and unique aspect to The Big Mango is the depth Jake gives his characters. Layered between the fast paced action Eddie Dare stops to reflect what his life has meant, has he achieved all he hoped for and is he too old and too washed up to give it another try? The Big Mango answers this question and gives us a pristine and timeless window into Thailand.
on April 26, 2011
Imagine fried grasshoppers for breakfast, eaten at your leisure whilst sitting on a stool at a busy street stall. Imagine oppressive heat and humidity, the sweat pouring down your back; as you look across the street from the stall and can see nothing but car hoods and metal shimmering in the blue smoke heat haze. Imagine the noise,the hustle and bustle all around you; and this is only breakfast!
Welcome to Bangkok! where nothing is as it first appears.
This is where Jake Needham drops you in The Big Mango as the character Eddie Dare, a lawyer from San Francisco whose life is rather droll following a marriage break up; who least expected to be going back to Bangkok; a place he had been once long ago.
You are on the trail of gold bullion and currency once the property of the Bank of Vietnam that was airlifted out of Saigon in those final days of terror back in 1975. The gold however has disappeared, even though it was carefully loaded onto planes by marines that were just doing their job; a job where you also formed part of the guard detail assigned to the evacuation. A slight problem exists however,the airlift bound for Bangkok seems to have been lost in transit; everyone assumes you know where it is; except you don't.
Hooked? I was! A few chapters in and I knew this book was one of the type that needs its own shelf!
Its full of details that allow you to immerse yourself into a good "brain movie" that quickly becomes so engrossing you simply cannot hit the pause button.
Grab some popcorn and a stiff cold drink [tequila works for me] slide into a soft chair and go cover to cover. This is not a book that fits words normally associated with this genre such as 'detective' 'sleuth' or 'crime', rather it requires words like 'stunning', 'evocative', 'real', and my own 'brain movie'.
Just writing this comment brings to mind the heat and chaos, the smells and hustle.
I read and re-read Jake Needham's books as a regular summer escape in the sequence Big Mango/Laundry Man/ Killing Plato and even though these have all been available in asia for many years I now see they are at last being made available to a wider audience in the UK.
For those that worry this might not be the book for you take it from me, these books capture asia at street level, I know as I live here. You will not be disapointed.
on January 8, 2004
Oh my. I see by the review right below that the humorless thought police are around here somewhere and hard at work. Despite what the reviewer below had to say, I've got to tell you that THE BIG MANGO is anything other than a lame example of a genre in which no one has any interest. It is actually a clever, witty, and sophisticated ride through a couple of cultures that most of us will never have the pleasure of exploring other than through books. Dressed up as a search for millions of dollars in currency that went missing during the fall of Saigon in 1975, it is actually the story of a loveable, middle-aged schlep who finds a way to make his life exciting and wonderful again. Needham spins a delightful tale that will have you reading out loud to the guy in the next airplane seat, and what more can you ask of a book than that. Still, if you've got no sense of humor at all, it may not be your cup of tea. As you can easily see right below.
on July 24, 2003
It's been some time since I first read this fantastic novel by Jake Needham in 1999 so now I'm going to review this incredible piece of literary artwork.
The Big Mango immdediately reveals Mr.Needham's massive understanding of Bangkok, how life operates there on a daily basis and Thailand in general.This story is lovable because it combines action-adventure with wit,intelligence and humor. Likewise,the characters are enjoyable to stay with because they are realistic individuals with much-more-than-average characterization.
The story starts with an interesting theory at the end of the Vietnam War and speeds along at light-speed to the present where the main character,Eddie Dare,finds himself sucked from a so-so existance in San Francisco to a return to Southeast Asia where questionable theories, lies and outright danger await him at nearly every step he takes on the traffic-clogged streets and sois of the Big Mango, Bangkok herself.
Jake Needham is typical of the magnificent breed of expat authors in Thailand who have a master's touch in explaining how life flows throughout 21st Century Siam and making you, the reader,want more and more of their writing as you tear from one page to the next.I can't reccomend this book enough times!
on November 30, 2011
THE BIG MANGO: The price I pay for going to Thailand always includes some kind of illness. It's worth it. So I was up in Phatum Thani province with a fever and maybe borderline delirium. In my hand was a precious copy of The Big Mango. I had looked for it for years, and although I felt so awful that I would have to get better to die, I was going to treat myself. I knew the book had to be OK, because The Stickman said it was. I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed it. Could it be that good or was it just the fever? I read it all the way through, interrupting myself only for symptoms that I don't want to describe. Right after I finished reading the book, I began to feel better. (Does The Big Mango have healing powers?) Then I read it again, and it was even better with a clear head.
The Big Mango is a thriller, a mystery, a treasure hunt, and a visit to another planet (Bangkok). It's a wild ride with unforgettable characters and the juiciest dialogue ever. You never know what's coming next. Just read the sample portion of this book here on Amazon. Read through all of it, and you will want the book.
If you have a Kindle, get this book right now. While you are at it, get THE AMBASSADOR'S WIFE too. As you can see, Amazon is offering both of these excellent novels for Kindle at very reasonable prices. In the past it was hard to get Jake Needham's books in the West, but since they will soon be available as eBooks, including Kindle of course, that will no longer be the case.
on December 16, 2015
I've read Needham's other books about Jack Shepherd. I managed to snag a copy of this in the used bookstore market online (Needham's books are hard to get in the USA) as the Jack Shepherd series impressed me. I can say that Needham has not disappointed!
The story revolves around a lawyer and Vietnam veteran named Eddie Dare. He's approached by various parties who want him to track down a huge sum of money taken from the Republic of Vietnam just before its complete collapse in 1975. Joined by the wisecracking Winnebago Jones, he heads to Bangkok, Thailand to pick up the trail of the missing money. What follows is a whirlwind tour of Bangkok, gunplay, deaths, and much intrigue.
Needham isn't long-winded like Robert Jordan or Stephen King; he says what he needs to in his text and doesn't use purple pose. He also writes with an intimate knowledge of Bangkok; he deconstructs notions of it being this exotic destination. My only real complaint about this book is a lack of a proper denouement, but that is probably a whole other book. All in all, you owe it to yourself to read Needham's the Big Mango today!
on September 14, 2013
I picked this book up after reading two of Jake's Sam Tay novels. It is quite a contrast from the urbane, reflective existentialism of Tay to Eddie and Winnebago's adventure in Thailand. But, looking at it as a reader along for the ride, I enjoyed it immensely.
There are quite a few holes in the novel. Eddie's family relationship goes nowhere. His San Francisco backstory isn't very meaningful. Certain sub-plot elements seem to go along a certain path and fizzle. Messy. But, each one of these areas appear ripe for use in future stories. I hope to see Eddie in future adventures as he and his small band of loyalists attempt to spend the money wisely.
There were a few editing errors, but nothing overly disturbing.
I've rated this novel with 5 stars because of it's story and it's potential for future development. I'll probably read the remainder of Jake's novels available on Kindle before I trade off to other authors. The three novels I've read so far are all quite good, with The Big Mango as my favorite to date.
on September 8, 2012
The Big Mango by Jake Needham - an accidental book-purchase, that was one of the best ever for me...
The main character, Eddie Dare, a run-down lawyer from San Francisco, together with his former Vietnam-War buddy Winnebago, is contacted through ominous ways and mysterious characters by sending old photographs from Eddie's and Winnebago's war-time in Vietnam.
Well, what happens further, any reader should discover for himself, the plot is good and interesting and logic in it's build-up.
What I like very much about this book, is the humour of the characters and how they interact. At the same time I had never the thought, that this could only have been fiction - it could be a story from real life...
The description of the locations, where the story takes place, are pretty accurate and even if you don't know some of the places, you still have the feeling, you know them because of the way that Jake Needham is describing them.
Resumeé: If you can grab a copy somewhere, get it and enjoy this book. It really is good reading and even though it is some years ago, that I found this book in a Hong Kong bookshop, it still riddles me, why publishers have refrained from offering this book, for example, in Europe.
Fortunately I now and then come to Hong Kong. That enabled me to build up my collection of books written by Jake Needham, of which "The Big Mango" was the worthy foundation. His other books include "Laundry Man" and "Killing Plato" and later "The Ambassador's Wife". The next book into the shelf will be "World of Trouble" - that's for sure!
Have fun and enjoy it.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
I read Jake Needham's first Jack Shepherd novel, Laundry Man, and was blown away by the fast-paced action mixed with exotic Southeast Asia locale and insider's knowledge of the world of international financial crime. Needham's work is both thought-provoking and entertaining, but before I continued on with the Jack Shepherd series, I wanted to go back and read Needham's first novel, The Big Mango.
It's a great debut, and readers of Needham's fiction will see many of the themes of his later novels explored in this book. The Big Mango is not quite as great as Needham's later works, but it's still damn fine entertainment, and I think if you're a fan of of his work you have to read this.
Now that I've read The Big Mango, I won't be able to resist picking up Needham's later works.
on July 9, 2015
Entertaining, though i thought the day to day struggle of the Thai people was a good story in itself, and found myself reading with more interest, of the lifes ofThailand natives.Still a very good read, with plenty of surprises,where nothing is what it seems.