by John Burdett
Author John Burdett has created an absorbing blend of East and West, compassion and corruption, and the exotic and the mundane.
The book opens with one of the most bizarre and puzzling murders I’ve ever read.
An African-American marine is found in a Mercedes filled with shivering cobras and a python. The doors of the car have been clamped shut from the outside.
Given that Royal Thai Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep and his partner Pichai Apiradee have been tailing him for three hours before they lost sight of the car at a toll booth, it’s a mystery when and how the snakes got in the car. Pichai shoots a python attacking the marine and unclamps the driver’s side door. The marine and the snakes fall out onto Pichai, who dies of snake bite. Sonchai is left to shoot the snakes as they wriggle individually out of the car.
Avenging Pichai’s death is a personal obligation for Sonchai. His investigation puts him into contact with FBI agents at the American embassy. They let him know that the marine may have been involved in things the American government won’t want to hear about. The more Sonchai uncovers about the marine’s life and activities in Bangkok, the more nervous the two agents get.
This is a deep, twisted mystery in an exotic setting. Sonchai is the half-caste son of a successful, high-end sex worker. He and his mother spent a lot of time in Europe and the United States, courtesy of her clients. As a result, Sonchai is multi-lingual and has a sophisticated knowledge of the world.
Burdett’s descriptions of streets, neighborhoods and tourist attractions in Bangkok are vivid. The grittiness of Sonchai’s detective work contrasts with his periodic visions of Buddhist karmic long views of existence. He is an honest cop operating in a world where everything is for sale.
Other books in the series are:
- Bangkok Tattoo
- Bangkok Haunts
- The Godfather of Kathmandu
- Vulture Peak
- The Bangkok Asset
All have been optioned for films, but none have been produced due to the exotic locations and multi-racial characters.
The Author: John Burdett (1951-)
The London-born son of a policeman, Burdett formerly practiced law in Hong Kong. When he found his destiny in writing, he stopped practicing law. He divides his time between southwestern France and Bangkok.
In addition to the Sonchai Jitpleecheep series, Burdett wrote two stand-alone novels.
A Personal History of Thirst deals with a menage a trois involving an ambitious London lawyer, a sexually inventive American woman and a thief named Thirst that ends up in a courtroom confrontation.
The Last Six Million Seconds is set in Hong Kong in April and May 1997 before the British turnover of the territory to mainland China. The book deals with a horrific murder under investigation. The detective investigating the murder is half-Chinese and half-Irish and finds himself threatened by both sides as fears mount that the murders may interfere with the handover.