The obvious pitfall in locating mystery novel narratives in Southeast Asia is that one can all too easily succumb to the temptations identified in Edward Said’s book ‘Orientalism’ (1978). These revolve around a tendency for Western writers and artists to patronise Eastern cultures by depicting them (expressly or implicitly) as exotic but backward, stagnant and corrupt. Such portrayals often included scenes involving hookah salons, harems, hill tribes, howdahs and other similarly quaint and emblematic Asian paraphernalia, all imbued with a distinct whiff of imperialist condescension.

This distinctly arrogant attitude has only been partly offset by the occidental thirst for oriental spirituality that seems to have begun with Theosophy at the end of the C19 and continued with the foundation of the Buddhist Society in London in 1924.