Bangkok Belle is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill hardboiled detective story. Indeed, what makes this novel fascinating and engaging is its exotic location and colorful characters. The author, Ron McMillan, who has knocked around Asia for a couple decades, offers much more than a “travel guide” story by dropping in a steady flow of Asian references, in this case, Bangkok, to showcase his expat expertise. On the contrary, in the grand literary hardboiled detective tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, McMillan is brilliant in the way that he uses the setting to propel his story along. Of course, the exotic location of Bangkok doesn’t hurt any, either.
As a fan of hardboiled detective stories, I enjoyed this one a lot. McMillan is a brilliant writer with a lion’s share of literary tricks to keep readers turning from one page to the next. I especially liked the way he played the two main characters Mason and Dixie off each other throughout the story as well as their attempts to solve a murder while protecting one of their friends who takes part in a beauty pageant in Bangkok.
McMillan delivers another hit with Bangkok Belle. Hammett and Chandler would be proud.