The Man With The Golden Mind by Tom Vater is the second in the Detective Maier mystery series and my second as well. The Hamburg based, green eyed private detective has shaved his trademark handle-bar mustache and been hired by a young woman to investigate the death of her father, which took place in Laos during 1976. A kidnapping soon occurs and Maier finds himself trekking in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Laotian jungles. Much of the novel takes place around the year 2002.
There is a lot going on, mostly in Laos, sometimes in bordering Thailand and Bangkok: jungle visas, sniper shootings, long tail boat rides, family reunions, values conflicts, private clubs, buried gold, double digit deaths, espionage old and new and the requisite top secret file to keep your interest in between the sex and high quality drugs. Or drugs and high quality sex – you get to use your imagination.
An example of power on an individual basis is the appearance of a former U.S. Secretary of State, which was one of my favorite segments in the novel. The narrative describes his entrance at a posh 5 star hotel: he filled the corridor with the easy aura of a Roman emperor.
This was my second fictional account of the secret war in Laos involving CIA espionage. The other being, The Nature of the Game by James Grady. I learned more about the clandestine USA operation from Vater, which is no doubt due to his production and lengthy research of a documentary on the subject.
The Man With The Golden Mind has all the qualities I like in a good dark spy fiction novel. Exotic settings, interesting characters, mood setting narrative and thoughtful dialogue, with enough surprises to keep you turning the page. Vater nails Laos. The government, the people, the jungle trails and the mighty Mekong. This is not a formula detective novel or a comfortable cozy. Bring your cognitive skills. There is a lot to keep track of in The Man With The Golden Mind but it is well worth the mystery tour. I’ll be following Detective Maier into his next adventure when he returns in The Monsoon Ghost Image.
This book review was previously published at Chiang Mai City News and may be seen by clicking the above banner