Hunters in the Dark: Book summary and reviews of Hunters in the Dark by Lawrence Osborne

Hunters in the Dark

by Lawrence Osborne

Hunters in the Dark by Lawrence Osborne X
Hunters in the Dark by Lawrence Osborne
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  • Published Jan 2016
    320 pages
    Genre: Thrillers

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About this book

Book Summary

From the novelist the New York Times compares to Paul Bowles, Evelyn Waugh and Ian McEwan, an evocative new work of literary suspense.

Adrift in Cambodia and eager to side-step a life of quiet desperation as a small-town teacher, 28-year-old Englishman Robert Grieve decides to go missing. As he crosses the border from Thailand, he tests the threshold of a new future.

And on that first night, a small windfall precipitates a chain of events - involving a bag of "jinxed" money, a suave American, a trunk full of heroin, a hustler taxi driver, and a rich doctor's daughter - that changes Robert's life forever.

Hunters in the Dark is a sophisticated game of cat and mouse redolent of the nightmares of Patricia Highsmith, where identities are blurred, greed trumps kindness, and karma is ruthless. Filled with Hitchcockian twists and turns, suffused with the steamy heat and pervasive superstition of the Cambodian jungle, and unafraid to confront difficult questions about the machinations of fate, this is a masterful novel that confirms Lawrence Osborne's reputation as one of our finest contemporary writers.

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Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Within a thriller framework, Osborne successfully demonstrates the inextricably linked relationship between introspection and change. A deeply penetrating meditation on the human experience of belonging." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. Complex in plot yet simple and intense in style, Osborne's narrative takes us into an Asian heart of darkness." - Kirkus

"Many of the characters seem like echoes of one another in various ways, which can take some getting used to on the reader's part, and it isn't always successful. What readers will remember instead is Osborne's lush, vivid descriptions of a land where 'the daily thunder rolled in with a generous laziness and the trees shimmered with lightning.'" - Publishers Weekly

"...Hunters in the Dark is a strange and heady novel sure to engage armchair travelers." - Booklist

"Elegant, stylish and ambiguous …Dramatic irony, used sharply by Osborne, keeps the narrative edgy and gripping…Written with unfailing precision and beauty." - Neel Mukherjee, The Guardian (UK)

"Sumptuous and sinister, languorous and tense, this is a novel that gives Osborne's remarkable talents haunting scope." - The Sunday Times (UK)

"[A] dark, teasing, elegantly written book." - Financial Times (UK)

"Hunters in the Dark is a tip-top thriller. Osborne knows how to keep the pages turning." - The Independent (UK)

"The writing is richly sensuous, and this atmospheric novel is filled with scenes that sear themselves into the memory." - Anita Sethi, The Guardian (UK)

"Osborne's elegant writing, scattered with surprising bursts of violence, takes a satisfyingly firm grip on the reader once the stumbling, naive Grieve has been cast adrift to fend for himself. The ending - after a period of rising tensions - does not disappoint." - The South China Morning Post

"An elaborate and intricately plotted danse macabre." - The Times of London

"Excellent…Grappling with manifold questions about identity and the tragic futility of material aspirations in a ruthless, brittle world, this novel draws you into a sun-struck realm where the survival of the fittest is more predicated by chance and where violence is a sudden, opportunistic enterprise." - New Statesman 

"Dramatic and involving, an exhilarating adventure crafted in crisp, sharp prose...Powerful." - Literary Review 

This information about Hunters in the Dark was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Patricia L. (Seward, AK)

Hunters in the Dark
"The seeds laid by any given karma were not entirely known, the outcomes could not be foretold with any accuracy and it was likely, in any event, that one would remain floating and turning within the circle of eternal suffering." Though this passage is found towards the end of Lawrence Osborne's "Hunters in the Dark" it captures the atmosphere of his intriguing story.
Robert, a thirty something, teacher of English literature "in a little provincial schoolroom" is spending his holiday in Cambodia. "The sweet bird of youth, in his case, had nowhere to perch and had not taken flight to begin with. His youth was a wingless dodo. One could go on and on and that bird would still not sing. You waited for life to begin and yet for some reason it did not begin. It hesitated while you wondered about the risks. You stood in the wing of your own play, afraid to walk onto the boards and begin."
Within the foggy, damp and steamy backdrop of Cambodia, author Osborne nudges Robert onto "…the boards…" and into what predictably becomes an intricate web of con, retribution and confusion. There are beautiful Khmer women, an American con man and the network of taxi drivers and hotel attendants who observe all. Osborne has written a story that is hard to put down as each obvious solution is derailed and the intrigue becomes more so. The author also expertly portrays the complicated relationship of the Anglo-Saxon and the people of Asia as not always as hospitable as may be perceived.
Likened to Graham Greene, Osborne uses excellent prose to weave an exciting story. His experience as an ex-pat in Asia gives the occasional rambles about the countryside and/or those who inhabit it an astute credibility. Recommended for all who enjoy a well written yet spellbinding tale.

Bink W. (Sopchoppy, FL)

Mind of the East
Very enjoyable book that captures the sights, sounds, smells and thoughts of a different culture. One of the very few books I might read again just for the pleasure of the language.

Molly B. (Longmont, CO)

Floating in Cambodia
I enjoyed this mystery, a fascinating look at Cambodia and its mysteries and enigmatic culture that westerners could never fully understand. The book is full of rain, ruins, ghosts, and superstitions. The pacing is sometimes erratic, but there is some gorgeous writing and very cool turns of phrase, with an ending that is full-circle and satisfying, if somewhat rushed. I will search out his previous books.

Barbara C. (Fountain hills, AZ)

Hunters in Dark Cambodia
What a pleasure to find a book so well written, with such terse, unusual language. Lawrence Osbourne has hit the nail on the head as he describes the dark, ominous, conniving Cambodia of today. The steamy atmosphere of the place, the duplicitous nature of the people, and the naivety of the central character, Robert, make for a tense and creepy book reading experience. The author has introduced a melange of characters very well defined and original. The plot is slowly paced and requires a patient reader to progress through it, but the descriptions of the areas and the twists and turns of the story require the reader to concentrate and savor the language. Although throughout, the Cambodian names and phrases are so foreign, the reader quickly adapts and can parse their meanings. I found this book to be addictive, and would recommend it for book clubs.

Sherilyn R. (St George, UT)

A Dark and Gritty Novel
I enjoyed this coming of age book although it is not a type I am normally drawn to.

Osbourne's writing is dark, lush, sumptuous and rich. Atmospheric! It had a gritty, hard edge to it. Osbourne lives in Thailand and this had the sense of reality and place that only someone who truly lives in country could elicit.

Graham Green was described as "the ultimate chronicler of 20th century man's consciousness and anxiety." Osbourne may be on his way to just such a description for the 21st century. Am headed to pick up one of his other books.

Nancy O. (Hobe Sound, FL)

This book seriously blew me away
From the "beautifully ignorant" main character of this novel to the country of Cambodia where ghosts, spirits, omens and signs are as much part of the landscape as are the ruins at Angkor Wat, Hunters in the Dark just frankly blew me away. It is dark, beautiful and haunting but even that doesn't begin to describe how very taken I am with this novel. I won't go over plot here, but I loved being taken to a place where where people believe that "karma swirled around all things, lending them destinies over which mere desire had no control.

It made one's little calculations irrelevant" - a statement that says so very much about what is happening in this book. I could so easily go on and talk about other things, for example, the "devastating spectacle" of the dominance of "Western ideas and moods" in Cambodia and the horrific impact they had on Cambodia's future, but I really think I've said enough at this juncture.

Getting into the story does take some time, but my advice is to relax. There is a great payoff awaiting patient readers -- not so much in terms of plot, but more so it's all about what's happening around the action. I suppose you could read it just for plot but that would be such a waste -- this is an incredibly beautiful, haunting book, and now I am eager to hunt down others by this author.

This book would be great for book groups -- there is so much going on in it to talk about -- the restlessness and drifting tendencies of young adults who aren't very satisfied with their lives; the devastating impact of European ideas on cultures such as Cambodia's, and much more. I have to say that I was quite impressed and I hope others will enjoy it as much as I did.

...17 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Lawrence Osborne Author Biography

Photo: Ine Gundersveen

Lawrence Osborne was born in England and today lives in Bangkok. A widely published and widely traveled journalist, he is the author most recently of Only to Sleep, Beautiful Animals and Hunters in the Dark. He has lived a nomadic life in Mexico, Italy, France, Morocco, Cambodia and Thailand, places that he draws on in his fiction and non-fiction. The Forgiven from 2012 is set in Morocco and his 2014 novel The Ballad of Small Player in the casinos of Macau. His short stories have appeared in magazines such as Tin House, Bidoun and Fiction, and his story "Volcano" was included in Best American Short Stories of 2012. All four of his recent novels are currently in production as feature films.

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Link to Lawrence Osborne's Website

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