PAYING BACK JACK by Christopher G. Moore

Book Quote:

“Colonel Pratt had once told Calvino that he reminded him of the kind of guy who walked into a dynamite warehouse and lit a match to see where he was going. After he lit the first match and looked around at the stacks of dynamite, he’d wait until the match burned down to fingernail-igniting length, and then he’d strike another match.”

Book Review:

Review by Lynn Harnett  (NOV 21, 2010)

Having succeeded so spectacularly in his last case that he’s forced to hightail it out of Bangkok for a spell, PI Vincent Calvino begins his tenth adventure contemplating an expensive case of scotch and the view from his hotel suite in the seaside tourist destination of Pattaya.

Having also saved his satisfied new client from a drive-by assassination, Calvino is anticipating the juicy steak that’s next on his agenda when a beautiful woman falls past his balcony to her death. Calvino is so deeply implicated in her murder that it takes his friend Colonel Pratt to extricate him.

What makes it even more personal is that Calvino was attracted to the woman, though some troubled quality had warned him off: “He reminded himself of Calvino’s law: Act on impulse when betting on a horse, but never with a woman. A horse never drags a man into its life. It either wins or loses the race. A man can spend an afternoon at the track and, eight races later, count his money and know whether he has won or not. With a woman it’s never that simple. With a woman the numbers never add up.”

Intimidating the Pattaya police into freeing Calvino, Pratt warns his friend against returning to Bangkok, where he’s sure the danger remains most acute. But Calvino has cases to solve and bills to pay.

Meanwhile there are a couple of American mercenaries from an outfit similar to Blackwater who’ve come to town on a mission. The American black-ops are following a code of ‘paying back Jack;’ doing a favor for a friend in need. That this favor happens to be the assassination of a Thai politician makes their mission no less noble and manly. That they do, at least at first, fail, is a given or there would be a lot less story.

American ex-pat Moore switches viewpoints among his characters, revealing connections and crossing paths and making the mystery more complex with every revelation. Much of the wit and nuance depends on the difference in thinking between East and West, a difference that often drives the plot:

“No one would ever question the decision to keep Calvino in the room since it’s easier for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a Thai to step forward and reverse a decision.”

Moore’s depiction of Thai life is gritty, colorful and thoughtful. He ranges from the sex trade to politics to the careful and lavish preparations for an upper-class wedding, while never losing track of his fast-paced, hard-boiled story.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 10 readers
PUBLISHER: Grove Press (November 9, 2010)
REVIEWER: Lynn Harnett
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Christopher G. Moore
EXTRAS: Wikipedia on Christopher G. Moore


The Vincent Calvino P.I. Series:

The Land of Smiles series:



November 21, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Sleuths Series, Thailand-Bangkok

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