Book Review: Saigon Dark by Elka Ray

UPDATE: This book is on an Amazon 99c deal Sunday 19th March and Monday 20th March. 

The premise – that a single mother (Lily) living in Vietnam decides to ‘rescue’ an abused child who wanders out in the night on the same night as her child of the same age drowns, and then deals with the consequences – doesn’t do the story justice. It’s a tale of motherly love and how it effects the most sensible, well educated and grounded of us all as an obsession and compulsion. It’s also an account of the fragility of human relationships in matters of trust and romantic love and how ‘blood’ or in this case motherly love is thicker than water.

Saigon Dark Review

I don’t do stars, but this book is an easy 5. It’s the best new fiction I’ve read this year (okay, it’s February), but it is still an excellent novel. Saigon Dark is best enjoyed if you have no idea what’s coming. So I won’t get too much into the plot. The best I can do is to compare it to some other well-known books to give an idea of the style and quality.

One such would be Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, in which the story starts off as a romance then veers towards the supernatural before becoming a full-on psychological suspense novel. Likewise, Elka Ray’s Saigon Dark starts off as a story of a woman wishing back her ex-husband, then becomes a little spooky, turns into a tale of a woman living under the constant pressure of lies and then explodes into a classic noir romp full of secrets, blackmail, and murder. Elements of Ray’s story also had the feel of Patricia Highsmith’s, The Talented Mr. Ripley, in that occasionally, the pose becomes quick and economic, rushing through Lily’s intensely focused actions of dealing with dead bodies and the fear of being discovered. There’s also the tense but stylish management of lies and the evolution of Lily into a new person, completely at odds with her previous or professional self.

There are many themes here that will appeal to a wide range of readers. Throughout the book, a thread regarding trust is present. Lily can only trust herself, she has to compartmentalize everything she feels in order to protect herself and her children. There are also ideas of rebirth and renewal and the hope of making something better. Ultimately, there is sadness and tragedy to the story, but it is not of the soppy, anti-climatic variety, rather a more sensitive and empathic approach to noir. And all this wrapped up in a fascinating Vietnamese location and culture that reads as genuine and authentic.

There’s no way this book can be easily described – well written and fascinating subject matter is only the beginning. It could easily become a huge hit and also has all the hallmarks of a noir classic. It should be read, simple as that.

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Crime Wave Press

Elka Ray

3 comments

  1. Lissa – I’m 23,000 words into a new novel – just past that “Oooh, I love this story” euphoria & into the “HTF will I ever get through another 60,000 words out of this?” gloom. Your review totally cheered me up. Thank you! Elka

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  2. Lissa – I’m 23k words into a new novel, just past the “ooh, I love this story” euphoria & into the “WTF am I going to say for 60k more words until we find out who did it” gloom. Your review really cheered me up. Thank you! Elka

    Liked by 1 person

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