There is such a delight in discovering (admittedly well after everyone else) a fabulous new detective hero, and after reading “Bangkok Eight” I am a fan, a firm, verging-on-embarrassingly-enthusiastic fan of Sonchai Jitpleecheep.
Sonchai Jitpleecheep is an unusual Bangkok cop.
For one thing he is only half Thai.
For another thing, he is not on the take, which is why he knows he will pretty much always languish at the bottom of the police food chain.
And since he can see people’s past lives, he has a unique take on the people he meets as he works the streets of Bangkok. Hmm…using the word “works” makes him sound rather like the hookers who people his world – hardly surprising, given that his delightful mother, Nong, is a former whore. His father, one of her clients we learn, he has never met, but he is part of Sonchai’s thoughts. Not obsessively so, but he does wonder about his father. And his fabulously practical mother refuses to tell him what he wants to know.
His half and half status (and his excellent lingustic skills, rare in the Bangkok Police force) give this delightful man a totally different perspective on life, on Thailand, on Bangkok, on Buddhism, on morality, on prostitution, on corruption. On any and all of the many strands, in fact, that make this clever beautifully written narrative such a good, entertaining read.
The story opens with a shocking brutal murder, and the death of Sonchai’s closest friend and partner, so within a few seconds we are plunged headlong into a world of death and horror and retribution, and the pace doesn’t let up from that point onwards.
The drawback of reviewing a crime novel is that you don’t want to spoil the plot. So I won’t.
But this much I will say : be prepared for action, humour, drugs, food, sex, and a voyage of discovery into the world of Bangkok prostitution which makes these young women some of the most likeable people you will meet.
Mr. Burdett wears his obvious scholarship and deep knowledge of Thailand lightly, while letting his equally obvious love and affection for the country and her people shine through. As you read, you learn about Thai culture and manners and thought processes, but all done in such a way that it is a natural part of the narrative.
A great read. And I can’t wait to start on the next book in the series…
Published 2003 (so, yes, agreed, it took me a while to discover Sonchai).
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