Authors: Jo Nesbo
Tags: #Mystery, #Contemporary Fiction, #Contemporary, #Thriller & Suspense, #Crime Fiction, #Literature & Fiction
About the Book
HARRY IS ON A SPECIAL MISSION
Detective Harry Hole arrives in a steaming hot Bangkok. The Norwegian ambassador has been found dead in a seedy motel room, and Harry has been sent to investigate. It’s clear that the ambassador’s family are hiding some secrets of their own, but few people are willing to talk.
HE NEEDS TO SOLVE A CRIME AND AVOID A SCANDAL
When Harry lays his hands on some incriminating CCTV footage, things only get more complicated. The man who gave him the tape goes missing, and Harry realises that failing to solve a murder case is by no means the only danger that faces the unwary.
BUT IN AN UNFAMILIAR CITY, WHO CAN YOU TRUST?
About the Author
is a musician, songwriter, economist and author. His first crime novel featuring Harry Hole was published in Norway in 1997 and was an instant hit, winning the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel (an accolade shared with Peter Høeg, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson). Never before published in English,
is the second novel in the Harry Hole series. Check out
ALSO BY JO NESBO
The Devil’s Star
Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
Among Norwegians living in Thailand there is a rumour circulating that one of their ambassadors, who died as a result of a car accident in Bangkok, was actually murdered under extremely mysterious circumstances. There is no evidence to support this, but it makes for a good story.
No persons or events mentioned in this book should be confused with real persons or events. Reality is far too strange for that.
Bangkok, 23 February 1998
Tuesday 7 January
THE TRAFFIC LIGHTS
changed to green, and the roar from lorries, cars, motorbikes and tuk-tuks rose higher and higher until Dim could see the glass in Robinson’s department store vibrating. Then the queues started moving and the shop window displaying the long, red silk dress was lost behind them in the darkness.
She took a taxi. Not a packed bus or a tuk-tuk riddled with rust but a taxi with air conditioning and a driver who kept his mouth shut. She leaned back against the headrest and tried to enjoy the ride. No problem. A moped shot past and a girl on the pillion clinging to a red T-shirt with a visor helmet gave them a vacant look. Hold on tight, Dim thought.
On Rama IV Road the driver pulled in behind a lorry spewing exhaust fumes so thick and black she couldn’t see the number plate. After passing through the air-conditioning system the exhaust was chilled and almost odourless. Almost. She wafted her hand discreetly to show her reaction, and the driver glanced in his mirror and moved into the outside lane. No problem.
This was how her life had always been. On the farm where she had grown up she had been one of six girls. Six too many, according to her father. She had been seven years old when they stood coughing in the yellow dust and waving as the cart carrying her eldest sister trundled down the country road alongside the brown canal water. Her sister had been given clean clothes, a train ticket to Bangkok and an address in Patpong written on the back of a business card, and she had cried like a waterfall, even though Dim had waved so hard it felt as if her hand would fall off. Her mother had patted her on the head and said it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t that bad, either. At least her sister wouldn’t have to wander from farm to farm as a
, as her mother had done before she got married. Besides, Miss Wong had promised she would take good care of her. Her father had nodded, spat betel juice from between black teeth and added that the
in the bars would pay well for fresh girls.
Dim hadn’t understood what her mother meant by
, but she wasn’t going to ask. She knew, of course, that a
was a bull. Like most people on the farms around them, they couldn’t afford a bull, so they hired one of the ones that circulated the district when the rice paddy had to be ploughed. It was only later she found out that the girl who accompanied the bull was also called a
as her services formed part of the deal. That was the tradition. She hoped she would meet a farmer who would have her before she got too old.
When Dim was fifteen her father had called her name as he waded across the paddy field with the sun behind him and his hat in hand. She hadn’t answered at once; she had straightened up and looked hard at the green ridges around the small farm, closed her eyes and listened to the sound of the trumpeter bird in the leaves and inhaled the smell of eucalyptus and rubber trees. She had realised it was her turn.
For the first year they had lived four girls to a room and shared everything: bed, food and clothes. The last of these was especially important, for without nice clothes you wouldn’t get the best customers. She had taught herself to dance, taught herself to smile, taught herself to see which men only wanted to buy drinks and which wanted to buy sex. Her father had already agreed with Miss Wong that the money was to be sent home, so she didn’t see much of it during the first few years, but Miss Wong was content and as time went by she kept more back for Dim.
Miss Wong had reason to be content. Dim worked hard, and the customers bought drinks. Miss Wong should be pleased she was still there because a couple of times it had been a close-run thing. A Japanese man had wanted to marry Dim, but withdrew his offer when she demanded money for the plane ticket. An American had taken her along to Phuket, postponed his journey home and bought her a diamond ring. She had pawned it the day after he left.
Some paid badly and told her to get lost if she complained; others reported her to Miss Wong if she didn’t comply with everything they wanted her to do. They didn’t understand that once they had bought her time from the bar Miss Wong had her money and Dim was her own boss. Her own boss. She thought about the red dress in the shop window. Her mother had been right: it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t that bad, either.
And she had managed to retain her innocent smile and happy laughter. They liked that. Perhaps that was why she had been offered the job Wang Lee had advertised in
under the heading of GRO, or Guest Relation Officer. Wang Lee was a small, dark-skinned Chinese man, who ran a motel some way out on Sukhumvit Road, and the customers were mainly foreigners with special requests but not so special that she couldn’t meet them. To tell the truth, she liked what she did better than dancing for hours in the bar. Besides, Wang Lee paid well. The sole disadvantage was that it took such a long time to get there from her apartment in Banglamphu.
The damn traffic! It had come to a standstill again, and she told the driver she would get out, even though it meant crossing six lanes of cars to reach the motel on the far side of the road. The air wrapped itself around her like a hot, wet towel as she left the taxi. She searched for a gap, holding her hand in front of her mouth, aware that it made no difference, that there was no other air to breathe in Bangkok, but at least she was spared the smell.
She slipped between vehicles, had to sidestep a pickup with the flatbed full of boys whistling, and she almost had her heel straps taken off by a kamikaze Toyota. Then she was across.
Wang Lee looked up as she entered the deserted reception area.
‘Quiet evening?’ she said.
He nodded his displeasure. There had been a few of them over the last year.
‘Have you eaten?’
‘Yes,’ she lied. He meant well, but she was not in the mood for the watery noodles he boiled up in the back room.
‘You’ll have to wait,’ he said. ‘The
wanted to have a sleep first. He’ll ring when he’s ready.’
She groaned. ‘You know I have to be back in the bar before midnight, Lee.’
He looked at his watch. ‘Give him an hour.’
She shrugged and sat down. If it had been a year ago he would probably have thrown her out for speaking like that, but now he needed all the income he could get. Of course, she could go, but then the long journey would have been wasted. Also, she owed Lee a favour; she had worked for worse pimps.
After stubbing out the third cigarette she rinsed her mouth with Lee’s bitter Chinese tea and rose for a final check of her make-up in the mirror over the counter.
‘I’ll go and wake him,’ she said.
‘Mm. Have you got the skates?’
She lifted her bag.
Her heels crunched on the gravel of the empty drive between the low motel rooms. Room 120 was right at the back, she couldn’t see a car outside, but there was a light in the window. So perhaps he had woken up. A little breeze lifted her short skirt, but failed to cool her. She longed for a monsoon, for rain. Just as after a few weeks of flooding, muddy streets and mildew on her washing she would long for the dry, windless months.
She tapped the door lightly with her knuckles and put on her bashful smile with the question ‘What’s your name?’ already on her lips. No one answered. She tapped again and looked at her watch. She could probably haggle a few hundred baht off the price of the dress, even if it was Robinson’s. She turned the door handle and discovered to her surprise that the door was unlocked.
He was lying prone on the bed, and her first impression was that he was asleep. Then she saw the glint of the knife’s blue glass handle sticking out of the loud yellow jacket. It’s hard to say which of all the thoughts racing through her brain appeared first, but one of them was definitely that the trip to Banglamphu had been wasted anyway. Then she finally gained control of her vocal cords. The scream, however, was drowned out by a resounding blast on a lorry’s horn as it avoided an inattentive tuk-tuk on Sukhumvit Road.