August 8, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

A Killing Smile

A Killing Smile
Christopher G. Moore

This strangely-conceived, creepy, and moving story about expatriate life in '90s Bangkok hinges on the meeting of old two college friends: a Los Angeles lawyer whose wife has just died, and the man she left to marry him. They meet in a Bangkok joint. They snarl, scheme, and plot their private revenge against a backdrop of bar girls and Mekong whiskey. The story is (or should be) about those bar girls, from whom Moore's attention rarely strays far, but he is reluctant to focus on them; as soon as his prose brings one girl into focus it retreats in terror, as if Moore's text is deeply afraid of commitment. This is a story of men without women, even though women are literally jumping into their laps.

If (as I suspect) the cover is the author's design, it offers a good lesson on why writers should not choose covers. The title and cover suggest a sexy mystery about a Thai girl; in fact, Moore's story is not a mystery, tries hard not to be sexy, and the girls are as far in the background as the temple dogs and the Bangkok traffic. It's better than the cover promises, but the book is so far from the promise that readers are bound to be distracted.