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Pigeon Blood    by Gary Alexander order for
Pigeon Blood
by Gary Alexander
Order:  USA  Can
Walker, 1988 (1988)
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Gary Alexander has created a mythical kingdom, Luong, bordered by Burma, China, Laos, and Thailand. Superintendant Bamsan Kiet is head of police in the capital city of Hickorn. He is a deceptively sleepy man whose calm observations reveal a vast tolerance for the vagaries of his own and western cultures.

In Pigeon Blood, he must solve the murder of an American, an ex-patriot who runs an airline out of Hickorn. At the insistence of his enthusiastic second in command, Binh, Kiet orders an autopsy - an unnecessary indulgence when the victim has so obviously died of multiple stab wounds - and finds that Denny McCloud had swallowed four fabulously valuable gems, pigeon blood rubies, shortly before his death.

McCloud's death is a headache in itself, as the death of a foreigner is certainly a delicate matter. However, the political complications accompanying it are even worse. McCloud was entangled in a smuggling operation with two powerful and corrupt members of the Luongan military. Somehow the Russians are involved too. Kiet must pick a delicate path through a tortuous political maze, with the sometimes unwelcome assistance of over-eager Binhy and McCloud's American lover Susan Dempsy-Mohn. A misstep threatens his country's domestic political stability and the precarious balance that his king has managed to maintain while surrounded by more powerful nations.

Kiet's investigative techniques and unorthodox resolution of a truly Gordian political knot make for a delightful read. The sly humour aimed at follies in all cultures, western or Asian, adds spice to a novel enlivened with entertaining characters and a well-detailed plot. Alexander presents an original addition to the crowded mystery field, while questioning many conventions that the western world accepts as universal truths.

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