Sam Spade Reincarnated
As Bangkok-based PI
Vincent Calvino, with his big heart and his Brooklyn bravado, is the hero of 14 novels in the Vincent Calvino Mystery Books. Vinnie brings the big mysteries of Bangkok to life--how to drive, wai, and die like a Thai--while he hunts murderers among Thailand's endlessly corrupt and entitled power brokers.
Highly recommended to all fans of the hardboiled style
If you like to see the powerful and predatory get a dose of their own medicine (and who doesn't), these books are for you. If you like books with a sense of place, these books are for you. (Calvino's Bangkok is beautifully described.) If you like a tough-guy with a heart of gold, these books are for you. Not surprisingly, this series, which is (relatively) newly available in North America, already has a cult following in Asia and Europe.
Work your way backwards from most recent to older.
Below, the detective novels in this crime series in chronological order:
Calvino steps in when the police beat a confession out of a drug-addled expat. Asia Hand (2010, Vincent Calvino Mystery Books #2) Calvino's Chinese New Year celebration is interrupted when Thai cops fish the body of a farang cameraman out of Lumpini Park Lake. Calvino traces leads on a missing farang from Bangkok to war-torn Phnom Penh, Cambodia where gunfire can be heard nightly. Soon enough, Calvino learns he is not the only one looking for the farang... An ex-special forces vet hires Calvino to find his younger brother, last seen in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam where business is booming and a new generation of foreigners have arrived to make money and not war. A big-time Hollywood screenwriter on a sex vacation in Bangkok hires Calvino to investigate the death of a beautiful American bombshell. Cold Hit (2004, Vincent Calvino Mystery Books #6) A serial killer stalks expats in Bangkok. Minor Wife (2004, Vincent Calvino Mystery Books #7) An ex- hooker turned artist is found dead by an American millionaire's minor wife. Her rich expat husband hires Calvino to investigate. An ordinary murder investigation pulls Calvino deep into the shadowy war on drugs. Calvino, a broke Italian-Jewish PI from Brooklyn, tries to find a murderer and a paying client among the jealous wives, ruthless drug dealers, depressed bar girls, fanatic foodies, down-and-out expats, corrupt cops, and depraved mega-rich of Bangkok. First Vinnie narrowly escapes an attempt on his life, then someone tries to blame him for a double murder...and from there things get really dicey. Hired to do due diligence for a corporate deal, Calvino soon finds himself embroiled in a political conspiracy...and then the bodies start piling up. Calvino's childhood friend comes to Bangkok to run an errand for his Russian gangster client. So who better to finger for the crime when a coin collector and his priceless collection of gold coins go missing? Myanmar is opening its doors to foreigners including Calvino who heads to Rangoon in search of a missing expat and Pratt who is sent by the Thai police force to wrangle with the local drug lords. Haunted by recent deaths in Bangkok and Rangoon, Calvino stumbles into another murder case which leads to an underground network that smuggles Rohingya people--persecuted and abused in their home country--out of Myanmar.
(Read Missing in Rangoon (#13) first.)
Down the Mean Streets with
P.I. Vincent Calvino
P.I. Vincent Calvino takes on all the demons he encounters, whether they arise from his own psyche or from Bangkok's mean streets.
When this series begins, forty-year old disbarred lawyer Calvino is down on his luck: jobs are few and far between. He is spending more time drinking than working and has the epic nightmares and hangovers to prove it.
His cleaner has started telling him she expects him to expire from a heart attack any day now. Bangkok, she believes, kills all farangs (Westerners) before their time: some combination of Thai hot weather, Bangkok air pollution, Mekong whiskey, and non-stop nightlife does them in.
This hardboiled series reveals much about the complex Thai culture and chronicles recent political events.