I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve read all the novels in the Time, Blood and Karma series by John Dolan and have enjoyed them enormously. I read many genres, but I am quite partial to mystery/thrillers. And these ones have a very special protagonist, David Braddock, and amateur detective (or rather a not professionally recognised and trained detective, but he is pretty good and gets paid for his efforts) and again a non-professional therapist, a British man but who lives in Thailand, an amateur philosopher who regularly visits an old Buddhist monk (his best friend), who has interesting an complex relationships with many women and a past full of ghosts.
Whilst the third book in the series, A Poison Tree explored and explained David’s back history and his life in the UK, Running on Emptiness continues with the adventures of Hungry Ghosts where we, the readers, were privy to some information that left us hanging and waiting for disaster to strike. We have a gangster determined to avenge his brother’s death (the only meaningful thing he has left to do in life), a dying woman who before ending her life in her own terms (remaining in charge of her meaning) reveals a dangerous secret, another woman who after losing her job realises she’s been living a lie and tries and find meaning by coming clean, an old man who, disappointed by his children, decides to revisit a shady past he thought he’d left behind to do the right thing. Each chapter is told from a different point of view, and that includes the characters whom we might think of as the good guys (but nobody is blameless, honest and truthful in this novel, at least none of the characters whose points of view we follow), but also the gangsters, corrupt policemen and killers. The action takes place in England (we start with a wedding and we end with a funeral) and Thailand, we have political unrest, and there is also a murder case to solve with magic trickery thrown in, where Braddock (and Dolan) follow on Agatha Christie’s footsteps and pull off a brilliant piece of sleight-of-hand engineering.
The story is told at a good pace, the writing is impeccable and lyrical at times (particularly on the parts from David Braddock’s point of view. He is witty and forever quotable), I must confess I cheered at a point towards the end (but I’ll keep my lips sealed as I don’t want to spoil it for anybody), and in the end, although there are some questions and unresolved issues, I felt we’d reached the end of an era. The complex and alternative life Braddock had built for himself, in an attempt at escaping reality, comes crushing down around him, taking no prisoners. By the end, although Braddock might not know everything, he’s lost a lot and learned a fair deal about himself, about the people he cares about, about his friends, and about life itself.
I recommend this book to lovers of thrillers and mystery stories with great main characters, those who have a penchant for philosophy and reflections on the nature of life, particularly if you’re intrigued by Thailand, and in general those who love good and memorable writing. But, do read the whole series in the right order, because the sum of its parts is much greater than the individual novels. Congratulations to John Dolan on his epic series. I won’t forget Time, Blood and Karma any time soon. And I’ll be waiting eagerly for more of novels, in the same or other series.