A Decoding Novel

The Otters and the Jackal is about a quest to decode Dominic's tapestry, which comes from Southeast Asia. His tutor recognises its scenes from an old Buddhist fable, and the immediate meanings of the postures, attitudes and actions of its figures then become clear. But Dominic’s urge to verify the tapestry's authenticity and ascertain whether a regular supply of similar artefacts can help his father's antiques business leads him to explore deeper and more dangerous levels of meaning.

These concern how the tapestry was compiled and whether it really merits antique status. The search for its origins leads to hidden locations on the Thai-Cambodian border. There Dominic and Paul hear a chilling story, discover the tapestry's terrible secret and confront life-threatening perils…

The Otters and the Jackal thus decodes the tapestry in different ways. It interprets its tableaux; it establishes how genuine it is (and whether it's really what it purports to be) and it shows how and why it came to be produced (in circumstances that have little to do with Buddhist teaching). The novel's characters thus come to understand the tapestry's message, its legitimacy, the reasons for its composition and how it found its way to Dominic’s father.

They construe its meaning in different ways. To Paul, an idealistic intellectual, it becomes an admonition against the dangers posed by oppressive political regimes and ideologies. Dominic, a down-to-earth realist, claims it vindicates his cynical views about relationships between political power, smuggled antiques and ready cash. Readers must decide for themselves what manner of meaning the tapestry truly warrants at the the novel's heart-rending conclusion.

A Novel of Discovery

The Otters and the Jackal is about finding things out. Paul's involvement springs from his interest in Thailand, Buddhism and Fon (his undergraduate hearthrthrob, mentor in Bangkok and ultimate impediment). The experience proves disillusioning and painful, snatching him out of his familiar academic milieu and forcing him to make life-and-death decisions while confronting and reappraising former certainties. As his old assumptions crumble, a sudden awareness of how flawed beliefs cause harm and death to others forces a re-evaluation of his entire philosophy.

Dominic's eventual success in ascertaining the tapestry's 'real meaning' proves less than celebratory in the tragic consequences it effects. The subtle but still visible changes which occur in his personality nonetheless transform the lives of others, despite the calamitous effects of his quest on his own life.


How would they get rid of him, the Prime Minister wondered. A bullet in the brain? One of those contrived car accidents at which the Army was reportedly adept? Or would he just disappear?

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