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Jumpers (Vincent Calvino Crime Novel Book 16) Kindle Edition
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A well known film director, script writer and actor in the Bangkok/Southeast Asia theme once said, “I am hoping that I can be known as a great writer and someday actor, rather than a sex symbol.” I don’t know about Moore’s acting abilities or perceived symbol, but he’s got the “great writer” section covered with this and his other books.
JUMPERS is another cracking good read from a cracking great writer, this one delving into the dark world of suicide. For the newbie to his lead character, Vincent Calvino, and Calvino’s private investigator life in Thailand, there’s enough background included to see the whole picture. For the Mooreoholic, we get our jonesing fed with plenty of new opinions and looks at Southeast Asia, as well as flashbacks to earlier reads.
Retired Thai police General Pratt is back in JUMPERS, quoting Shakespeare while following leads to drug bad guys. Back too is Calvino’s cigarette smoking and hard drinking pal Ed McPhail, who laughingly says, “My mother said I grew up dancing to the wrong music,” and later compliments a lady by saying, “Baby, you’re so beautiful I’d drink your bathwater.”
And then Moore injects his take on life and death through the head of Calvino with wisdoms like, “Avoiding someone else’s death is second only to avoiding one’s own.”
I had one of those “Hey, I know exactly what he is describing” moments when I read the description of two white companions of a heavy, as “…two farang who could have passed as TSA anal-cavity-search-agents.” Wahoo! That simile got my high score for the day, while picturing Chevy Chase in the movie FLETCH, bent over the table in the doctor’s office getting a rectal exam, thinking the TSA guys enjoyed their work as much as the doc in the film seemingly did.
Moore adds a new Calvino Law when describing the bureaucracy in the police department through Pratt, when the retired police officer says, “The only safe solution is not to do your job, let someone else do the work, and if it works, you take the credit."
For a Canadian, writing about life in Bangkok, Thailand and Southeast Asia in the broader presentations, Moore entertains the Yankee reader by inserting enough about America to keep the reading rolling, like when he wrote, “There were alpha males and wannabe males,…who like blacks and whites at an Alabama restaurant knew better than to try to mingle.” I suspect a Brit or Aussie might scratch their head reading that, not knowing that an Alabama restaurant is not a brand name restaurant but an eatery in the deep southern state of Alabama in the United States of America, a state well known for the racial division between the blacks and whites.
JUMPERS – my most entertaining and educational reading recently, money well spent on a book versus a movie, scrolling through social media or trolling the Net.
Educational? I learned that if I am going to be a “jumper,” it should be from the 10th floor or above.
Jumpers features the complex, questionable suicide of Raphael a young and talented artist who likes to paint the working girls of the Bangkok night. Raphael has a voracious appetite for painting and women with a little Muay Thai on the side and his appearance is a mixture of flashbacks and memories. I liked him better alive than dead but as suicides go he went out in style. Jumpers came across to me as a straight mystery with plenty of components, including a freedom portrait series that Calvino is part of, painting forgeries, counterfeit money, the omnipresent secret notebook that contains incriminating info, a great Chinese heavy named Sia Lang and a Hong Kong billionaire who could prove problematic for Calvino.
We learn that, "What an artist looks for is what other people hide." But it turns out the artist is hiding a great deal himself not the least of which is a cool $750,000 which he has left in his will to the suicide hotline group where he used to volunteer. Vincent is more brainy than tough guy these days, more likely to be found cleaning his gun than firing it in junta ruled Bangkok. Pratt, likewise, can't be found playing the saxophone but he gets plenty of apropos Shakespeare quotes in, at one point musing that the Bard must have been a Thai in a former life. There is still plenty of action as Calvino does manage a good head slam in a bar with four sharks swimming in a tank overhead and justice eventually gets carried out noir style, by the other bad guys and there are plenty of them. But as Calvino concludes late in the novel, "Dig deep enough down and you will find some good in everyone." That is certainly true of the philandering Rafael and the many models who drop by to shed their clothes at his busy studio. A line I particularly liked delivered by Ratana during Raphael's Buddhist funeral, "That's what the dead did to the living: left them with a deep abiding sense of failure." Deep stuff and too often true.
There were times where a story board would have been helpful to keep track of the characters and plot points but the author does a good job of tying things up at the end and we find out a recurring question for Vinny that many a Thai expat has asked himself: should he stay or should he go? Moore excels once again in deciphering the culture clash we call Bangkok. While the story ,I think, is the best since Missing in Rangoon it's all the message points that make a Moore novel worth the time for me. As when Calvino goes to visit a psychologist and counselor named Gavin who runs the Bangkok Suicide Hotline. It's like a cerebral shootout at the I'm OK, You're OK corral.
I like the way Vincent thinks nowadays. Whether he has changed or I have changed I am not sure. As is written late in the book, "In the noir landscape of Bangkok, the default was tragedy; things rarely ended well." A possible exception is Charlie, a Golden Retriever. Charlie lost two owners to suicides in Jumpers, but I see a good future for him, and Vincent Calvino too. Jumpers is a dense read full of great messages and those messages, I think, will be different for each reader. That is Moore's strength. Jumpers takes you on a personal and cultural journey. It leaves you with as many questions as answers but that is quite alright with me. Dig deep into Jumpers by Christopher G. Moore and you will find plenty of good messages sitting right alongside the default tragedies that find everyone, whether you live your life as a work of art or not.