Lawrence Osborne’s fiction features culture-shocked Brits abroad, adrift and well out of their depth. Hunters in the Dark, his fourth novel, serves up more of the same – though at one point welcome familiarity gives way to creeping déjà vu. Wasn’t his last offering, The Ballad of a Small Player (2014), also a thriller set in the Far East about an itinerant Englishman passing himself off as someone grand while tempting fate and courting danger with dirty casino cash?
Fortunately, Osborne’s latest peripatetic protagonist quits while he’s ahead and leaves the casino at the end of the first chapter with $2,000 in an envelope. The rest of the novel deals with the consequences, which take Osborne in a new narrative direction. His solitary wanderer, Robert Grieve, attempts to stay afloat in a foreign land but also, after news of his winnings spreads, to stay alive.
Osborne gives us our bearings early on. Robert, an English teacher hacked off with England, crosses the border from Thailand into the ‘tough paradise’ that is Cambodia. While seeing the sights he meets Simon, not so much a quiet American as a suave one. He is also a sly one: