The Night Trade by Barry Eisler (Crime Fiction, 2018).
This violent and effective revenge book is the latest in a series centered on Livia Lone, a police detective specializing in sex-crime cases in Seattle. A victim of human trafficking and sex abuse herself from age 13, she has a lot of issues (to put it mildly). She’s determined, resouceful and when necessary deadly. In fact, in the previous book of the cycle, she returned to her native Thailand to track down a number of those responsible for her and her long-dead younger sister’s torment. She then exacted vigilante justice, which she seems to have gotten away with.
Back in Seattle a short while later, an anti-trafficking agent with Homeland Security wants her to joing his investigation of the sex-slavery trade. This offers her the excuse she needs to go back to Thailand to find (and eliminate) the last remnants of the international gang.
In a parallel storyline that soon intersects with hers, an ex-CIA agent turned (semi-honorable) soldier of fortune/trained sniper becomes a pawn in an assassination plot against a crusading UN official in nearby Cambodia. Nicknamed Dox (short for Unorthodox), he has his own internal conflicts and is, if anything, an even more ruthlessly efficient killer. He realizes he’s being used for evil just in time and blows away the rogue DIA man who hired him, rather than the admirable one he was supposed to blow away.
Are some US agents actually secret partners with Rithisak Sorm, the murderous ex-Khmer Rouge who masterminds the region’s largest trafficking operation? You bet he is, and Dox has no idea who he can trust. He WANTS to believe his longtime CIA buddy is one of the good guys, but can’t be sure.
Of course Sorm, on the run from a sealed grand jury indictment, proves to be the ultimate target of them both (though neither have met him face-to-face). Along the way, Livia has a series of sobering and deadly encounters with lesser nasties, including the last couple who tortured her and her sister. Going from place to place in Thailand, she follows a methodical and obsessive trail, moving up the criminal outfit’s chain of command. She finally moves to take out Sorm, only to run into Dox, whose investigation has led to the same place, at the same moment.
But things go wrong. Realizing they’re allies (if reluctant ones), she barely escape an ambush and retreat, plot new moves and, of course, in the end kill off their shared enemy (and more henchmen) in an action-packed confrontation heavy in high-tech spy gear, impressive weapontry, explosions, double-crosses and savagely satisfying derring-do. I won’t go into detail beyond that basic overview, since the page-turning quality of the book is in those very details. We know our heroes will win out, somehow–it’s how they do so (and the emotional effect it has on them) that keep you reading.
A personal confession before I close: I think I’ve personally had enough neo-noirish storytelling for the time being. That’s not to say this is a bad novel–it is in fact a fine and riveting example of its kind. I simply find I’ve read quite enough stories of good (if interestingly damaged and/or flawed) people who find it necessary to go rogue and simply slaughter their opponents, putting themselves above the law, because the ‘normal’ methods have failed. I like to vary my reading material and expect the next couple will be less bleak in outlook.
In any case, an internal revelation for the troubled Ms. Lone at the end of The Night Trade makes plain that there will be more in the series to come. After the above mentioned period of emotional decompression hinted at above, I’m sure I’d be up for more of her unending quest.