Robert Grieve is a twenty-eight-year-old teacher from a small English town who saves up enough money to travel during his summer breaks. Robert is clearly dissatisfied with his life. He’s bored and restless and wishes he had the nerve to walk away from it all and stay on permanent holiday. As he wrestles with these thoughts, Robert wonders what his parents and his on again/off again girlfriend would say. He needn’t worry about making the decision for himself, since not long after his arrival in Cambodia, smooth and calculating ne’re-do-well American, Simon Beauchamp, soon spots an easy mark in Robert and cons him out of his gambling winnings and passport.
The author had a confusing habit of abruptly jumping characters (not quite head hopping, but almost). Some passages were devoted solely to one character, while some were a hodgepodge of characters saying, thinking and doing things in a space of just a few sentences. This style of writing might be acceptable in certain genres, but personally I find it distracting and difficult to follow.
I found it difficult to like Robert’s character and had trouble connecting with him. He was so over the top naïve to the point of being moronic. Robert is drugged, robbed of his gambling winnings and passport, then tossed into a boat by a con man/drug addict and what does he do? He assumes the identity of said con man/drug addict who very likely has double crossed others as well. Is anyone that stupid? But, I eventually understood why the author portrayed Robert’s character as he did. It served a purpose in the end. As a whole, everyone seemed depressed, bitter and discouraged about practically everything most of the time. This is not a feel-good story by any means.
The author has a penchant for elaborate, expressive prose. While I understand that descriptive narrative is important to a story, it can also slow down the book unnecessarily and cause you to risk losing your reader. In fact, the first few chapters moved so slowly for my taste that I almost gave up reading. (Apparently there are a lot of frangipani trees in Cambodia and the author had no shortage of ways to describe them.) Yet, on the other hand, the detailed descriptions were effective when creating the dark and brooding atmosphere in this book.
Despite these things, I found my opinion of Hunters in the Dark changing for the better as I continued reading further. I have to say that I honestly liked this book. I enjoyed the karmic mysticism that runs through the story. It speaks to something that I absolutely believe – that we are all connected, we are all responsible for our actions and we will all be either rewarded or punished in the end. I appreciated the conclusion and the way the author wrapped things up. Without giving away any spoilers, I did question how believable Sophal’s demeanor was at the end, after what she’d been through, however. But overall, I was satisfied with the outcome.
I would classify this book a psychological thriller, with a blend of suspense that had me guessing until the last page. I’m glad I didn’t give up on it. I hope other readers will stick with it as well. I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for a hauntingly unique story of human nature set in an exotic land.
4 ½ of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton
eBook Review Gal received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.