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‘The Postmistress of Nongkhai’ leaves us wanting

The topic of smuggling premium drugs from South and Southeast Asia during the latter half of the 20th century has been the basis for several good reads – non-fiction, fiction and a handful of titles that mix a little bit and a whole lot of both.


By Steven Layne

Friday 8 July 2016, 12:00PM


Frank Hurst’s The Postmistress of Nong Khai is a drug-smuggling-suppression title fresh off the press that recently landed on our desk for review. A swift 342 pages later, we can affirm that this title qualifies as an engaging page-turner. Though it is a work of fiction, one might question how much of the story was inspired by actual events or people. Set mostly in Thailand in the late 1980s, with a few brief episodes in the UK, Frank Hurst leaves little for the imagination to fill in, and his level of understanding and research is evident in his writing. 

The story’s protagonist, Mike, is a 40-something UK customs agent who gets his career break and dream when he is assigned to head a newly-opened Bangkok mission, to tap into the heart of the 1980s Southeast Asia dope supply transit lines, from the infamous Golden Triangle through Bangkok’s Don Muang and beyond.
Hurst’s descriptive and scene-setting ability is brilliant, roping the reader right into the page and bringing an otherwise mundane setting to life, be it an awkward meeting with a Thai colonel, an idle Bangkok traffic jam or nursing a cold one in a Bangla bar. He leaves us wanting more in the build-up to a few spirited scenes, but eventually gives us what we yearn for, and elegantly at that. It is evident that the author has actually lived what he has written and his unique writing style is engaging, particularly when formalities are interjected with the protagonist’s informal thoughts, and slurs.
Overall, this read has been a particular treat for us, as more than half of the book is set in Phuket, covering scenes we love and know so well – the airport, Patong, Kamala, Rawai, Phang Nga Bay, and as for the ending, everything goes back to the subject of the title and her relationship with the protagonist. Frank Hurst ends rightfully with a twist, and cleverly at that, leaving us wanting more. We look forward to his next one!

 

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