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The Thai Amulet: An Archaeological Mystery    by Lyn Hamilton order for
Thai Amulet
by Lyn Hamilton
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

The Thai Amulet continues the enjoyable adventures of middle-aged Canadian antiques dealer/cum sleuth Lara McClintoch. Hamilton bills these stories as archaeological mysteries, and while they include a small amount of archaeological and historical lore, their real appeal is as travelogues with a bit of mystery thrown in. In her previous travels, Lara has visited Mexico (Yucatan), Malta, Ireland, Morocco, Peru and Italy (Tuscany). Hamilton excels at transporting the readers to evocative settings, as in The Maltese Goddess and The African Quest. Although the middle-aged Lara is still somewhat two dimensional and the plots are not the strongest, Lara grows on you and keeps you coming back to see where she visits next.

This time Lara lands in Bangkok on a dual mission. She needs to buy antiques (or good modern replicas) for her Toronto store, but has also been asked by a friend to find out what happened to her missing husband, antiques dealer William Beauchamp. Beauchamp decamped two years previously to Bangkok abandoning his wife and handicapped child. Recently his wife received a mysterious envelope with news clippings, legal documents, several unusual broken Thai amulets and the indication that Beauchamp has now disappeared in Bangkok. She asks Lara to investigate. If nothing else, she wants him declared dead so she can collect the insurance and salvage her precarious financial situation.

Childless herself, Lara is a mother hen at heart and often becomes involved in mysteries while attempting to help friends in need. So it is not surprising that she throws herself into the search for Beauchamp. She also acts in a motherly role to her unofficial step-daughter Jennifer, child of her romantic partner Rob, who is visiting her Thai fianc9 and his very wealthy and powerful family. As Lara investigates Beauchamp's disappearance all sorts of intriguing characters pop up, and she finds dangerous links between him and Jennifer's fiance's family. Along the way we get a fascinating look at both Bangkok and up-country Chiang Mai, including people from all social levels.

Hamilton has included a parallel story about an unspecified earlier time during one of the previous royal kingdoms. While this tale is mildly interesting, especially as it links with the modern story, it could easily have been omitted. Overall, McClintoch fans will be pleased with this entry. The fascinating blend of exotic settings, cultures and peoples, with a sprinkle of antiques, is hard to resist. New readers can start with The Thai Amulet and then look up earlier episodes in the series, since they can function well as stand-alones.

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