Pocket, Jan 2002, 23.00, 271 pp.
London electrician Dan Innes is stunned when his estranged wife informs him that the British embassy in Bangkok called about their adult daughter. Neither Innes has heard from Charlie in two years, but now they learn she has been arrested as a drug smuggler in Thailand and languishes in Chiang Mai jail, probably awaiting death.
When Dan and Charlie last talked two years ago, they brawled and left their once close relationship strained and probably over. However, Dan realizes he still loves his rebellious Charlie and decides to go to Asia to free his daughter. Shockingly at least to Dan, his evangelical son Phil and a pub quiz teammate join him on the trek. The safe world of London vanishes almost from the moment the trio arrives at Chiang Mai jail. They begin to fight for their lives as well as that of Charlie along the perilous the Thai-Myanmar border where opium is king and vapid stray westerners are cannon fodder.
Though a non-stop adventure thriller that hammers home the atrocities along the Thai-Myanmar border, SMOKING POPPY stands way above the field because of the deep look at relationships. The story line is loaded with gripping action as the frightened but courageous Londoners fight to remain alive to rescue someone that they believe most likely gone over the mental edge. However, the key that makes this more than another thriller is the insightful look at love especially estranged and what is truly friendship (quiz teammates at a pub or someone willing to risk everything?). Even the title provides a double meaning to readers who will rejoice in award winning Graham Joyce's astounding tale.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner