Chance, Alex - 'Savage Blood'
The natives of Savage Island are legendary. They are said to be cannibals and no-one has survived landing upon their island. Yet American anthropologist, Edward Quinn, hires a Burmese guide and a fishing boat with its crew to take him there. He just wants to sail around its coast, he says, just to observe, not to land. But no-one ever returns from this island and that seems to include the men on this expedition.
Some years on in a motel in Atlanta, Georgia, Charlie Cortez MD has a drunken one-night stand with a beautiful but disturbed young woman. She claims not to have slept for months, she says that she "sees things", and her behaviour takes them both to the edge. Back at work a day or so later, Charlie is on duty in the ER when a man is admitted, vomiting blood and with a bloody but bandaged wound to his thigh. He says that he was with a hooker in a motel and that she told him: "scream as loud as you like, the management here is used to it". Charlie remembers hearing those very words himself.
This is the starting point for Alex Chance's second thriller, SAVAGE BLOOD. Its plot encompasses themes of cannibalism, conspiracy, megalomania, missionaries, tribal peoples' rights, and luxury tourism. We travel from America, via Austria and Dubai, to a complex worthy of a Bond villain on a tropical island in the Bay of Bengal, all points west and east and often in the company of deeply unpleasant characters.
This is not a book for Maigret fans. There is no central crime as such, but there is mayhem, and grisly descriptions of murder and torture start on page 13 and continue throughout. I found the written language oddly variable. If this was in order to "write in character", then it didn't work for me. I also found the wordier passages disconcerting and on at least one occasion they had me reaching for the dictionary: as in the passage which describes a cockroach in a sink "with a hue of brown..." as being able to "...fit through a sinkhole small enough for the Jolly Green Giant to generate besetment".
For me SAVAGE BLOOD is not crime fiction as such. It is a thriller - a kind of horror conspiracy thriller - Denis Wheatley meets Dan Brown. If the idea appeals to you and you don't mind the high gore factor, then this could be one for you. It isn't one for me.
Read another review of SAVAGE BLOOD.
Lynn Harvey, England