DEATH OF A GURU by Doug Greenall (Review)

This is the story of two men who could not, at first sight, be more different, but whose lives seem to have become – perhaps always have been? – intertwined.

The protagonist, and narrator for much of the book, is Magnus Larson, an American expatriate living what is generally imagined to be the typical life of an expat in Thailand. He opens the story in “A Brief Word” – a kind of prologue:

I first set eyes on Devon Clarke on May 10, 1992 in Ao Lai,  small town on the Andaman coast of Thailand. Had someone told me then that I would spend two years of my life hunting this man down for the purpose of killing him, I would have found it absurd.

Then we switch straight to the first chapter of the “Book of Devon”, the name given to those sections of the book where Magnus is not the narrator and the Third Person focus is all on Devon Clarke. It begins here with several chapters of Devon’s backstory, and continues in occasional chapters throughout the book, a device for a Point of View other than that of the narrator, Magnus.

Devon Clarke is a brilliant pediatric surgeon and, as it happens, also a billionaire who, following the death of his son and what is viewed by many as some sort of breakdown, reinvents himself as the revered leader of a cult, The Children of a Living God. The guru of the book’s title.

What could these two men possibly have in common? No, Magnus does not join the cult. On the contrary, he is the ultimate cynic. In fact he has never heard of Devon Clarke or the cult when he is commissioned (as one who knows his way around in Thailand) to go to the rescue of two women, members of the cult, who have been arrested and imprisoned in Bangkok.

It is not an easy book to discuss without spoiling it. Let me simply say that although it is very long, and could have doen with some pruning (especially in the final 25%, when Magnus is hunting Devon all over the Far East), it nevertheless held my attention. Both Magnus and Devon, the protagonist and antagonist, are well-drawn and convincing. Devon is an original, and Magnus, though much more a stereotype, is sympathetic and easy to root for. Then there are the two women Magnus rescues, Anna, the guru-worshipping beauty he falls desperately in love with, and her sister, Amy: they have much smaller parts than Magnus and Devon, but they, too, are unforgettable.

And when I say unforgettable I mean just that.   

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher
via Netgalley 
in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you!