A Tiger in Eden is the debut novel from Melbourne writer Chris Flynn. Originally from Belfast, he’s taken his knowledge of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, combined it with his knowledge of sexy backpacker party times, and created a bit of an Eat Pray Love for men, only with more fisticuffs. Luckily, this isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds.
Our protagonist is Billy – a loyalist hard man who did unspeakable things as part of an Ulster paramilitary group in the 90s. He’s on the run from the Belfast police and lying low in southern Thailand.
He gets drunk, gets tanned, has a whole lot of meaningless sex, dabbles with the idea of getting back into crime, then somehow finds himself in a Buddhist retreat where he learns that no matter how far you travel your past will always catch up with you (this is the point where I started to feel the Eat Pray Love vibes). Billy goes on to meet a special lady who changes the game, and he has a soul wrenching yet life-affirming moment after taking a bunch of pills at a full moon party. Oh, and he also stares down an escaped tiger with his tough guy eyes, saving himself and his lady from a violent demise.
Yeah, a lot of this is full on male fantasy: namely, the barrage of sex scenes with hot young European backpackers and the fight sequences where Billy feels immortal and seems unstoppable. The writing itself is great though. Flynn creates a thick Irish brogue for Billy and uses very little grammar in order to capture the cadences and pace of Irish speech. This takes some getting used to but ultimately lends the book a fantastic energy. The premise itself - a hard man in a tropical paradise - is also compelling. I would have preferred more insight into the Irish situation itself and less insight into the types of muffs Billy encountered on his journey, but hey, that’s just me. You might really get into the muffs.