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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Thai Private Eye

Thai Private Eye (ISBN 978-981-08-1084-9, Monsoon Books, 2009) follows on the success of author Warren Olson’s first book, “Confessions of a Bangkok Private Eye” which came out around three years ago.
In the first book, Warren Olson was assisted by well known author Stephen Leather, but with Olson having left Bangkok and returned to his native New Zealand, he apparently went solo on this one. Well, at least in the first half of the book, where he details all the shoe leather he uses following culprits. The second half were cases covered by his old company, but using newer, scientific methods for sleuthing and surveillance.
The first half follows the fairly standard discussion on Thai women in general and Thai bar girls in particular. Author Olson does show some of the cultural differences and traps that are there to catch unwary clients, just as they are still being caught today. Many are examples of people living double lives, always dangerous, especially when the “other half” is a Thai lady from what Olson calls the “Night Trade”.
He shows how he became a private investigator after being a manager of a somewhat doubtful Thai hotel in Isaan, which was catering to blonde Russian girls making a living on the top floor.
Much of the attraction, or perhaps the slow slide towards being self employed as a PI can be seen where he states “Spending your night in air-conditioned bats surrounded by nubile Thai girls is certainly most enjoyable, the hours sitting around in humid, smoggy Bangkok suburbs, sweating profusely and often waiting in vain for an appearance, does not fall into the same level of enjoyment. However, during my days as a private eye, the latter tended to take up far more hours than the former.”
In the second half of the book, the more scientific side of the work is detailed, such as small sound amplifiers, the size of a packet of cigarettes, which can be used to see (or rather hear) what is going on behind closed, locked doors. Olson also writes about the Thai penchant for gambling. “Playing cards for money, which although it comes in only slightly behind eating and TV watching as favorite Thai pastimes, still happens to be illegal.”
He does examine the status of bar girls and puts forward the concept that once a girl has entered the bar trade, she has ruined “this life”, and only by making large donations to the family can she make the next life better.
At B. 495 on the Bookazine shelves, it is not an expensive read and is an easy pick-up and put-down book. Personally, I much preferred the second half, where the various techniques and the number of operatives made for a more interesting read. The first half, being almost the author’s monologue was a trifle too egocentric, and quite frankly I didn’t care how many girls he slept with from any number of bars. That is not a difficult task when you set your sights in the Soi Nana, Cowboy area. That is, after all, the type of business these girls are in.