The Orchid Eater

Sunshine and surfing. Drugs and grenades. Streetwise preachers and serial killers. There’s a reason the words “troubled” and “youth” go together.

Mike James may be young but it would be a stretch to call him troubled. He’s never been laid. He fears he never will be. The only fact of life that seems inevitable is death. Still, it’s summer vacation, a season for optimism, and he’s about to get his very own room for the first time, in a house above glitzy Bohemia Bay. His luck is bound to change!

But very bad choices bring bad luck in their wake, and after a night of juvenile mayhem, Mike finds his summer quickly turning into a nightmare. His old friends are disappearing. His new friends can’t be trusted. The only girl he meets is probably an hallucination. So forget about sex.

Death, on the other hand…his chances of experiencing that are looking better all the time.

First published in 1994, reprinted in France (as part of Gallimard’s classic Série noire line of noir crime novels), this marks the first ebook publication of The Orchid Eater.



“With unusual insights into the cruel extremism and vulnerability of adolescence, this suspenseful thriller of psychosis and serial killing follows the parallel stories of a young murderer and the boy he might have been in the quiet Southern California town of Bohemia Bay. Laidlaw peoples Bohemia Bay with colorful multidimensional characters, both teenaged and adult, and tells their grisly story with evocative prose in a penetrating, convincing voice. Clever plotting and a lively pace fortify an imaginative, offbeat and often unnerving tale.”

—Publishers Weekly

“A kind of Dazed and Confused seasoned with psychotics.  … Harks back to such illustrious predecessors as Jim Thompson and Ross Macdonald. Adding his own patented brand of sometimes hallucinatory prose…Laidlaw has conjured up a multileveled thriller out of our cultural detritus and shared shame.”

—Paul Di Filippo, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine

“An original tale cut from the fabric of the surreal and nightmares. You’ve never encountered anything as bizarre as Laidlaw’s fiction and his cast of unique characters.”

—World of Fandom

“One of the most refreshing things about The Orchid Eater is its lack of an intrusive moral overlay.  [D]eceptively complex and finely structured. On the surface runs an easily followed, suspenseful story, but at times the careful web of resonance and connection Laidlaw has woven can be glimpsed beneath it.”

—Robert K.J. Killheffer, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

“Much about this book reminded me of the small coastal towns and people in John Steinbeck’s fiction. Laidlaw writes with the same flavor, the same attention to the underclass seething with purpose and life beneath the calm exterior of a tourist backwater beach community. It’s rich and wise and the world in it is as real as the one outside our doors.”

—Billie Sue Mosiman

“Excellent suspense, with unpredictable twists and turns … racy sexuality and provoking encounters.”

—The Bookwatch

“Highly recommended.”

—K. Ptacek, Mystery Scene