As spicy as a four-pepper pot of Pad Thai, BANGKOK 8 whetted our
palates for a second course. Author John Burdett serves it up in
BANGKOK TATTOO with asbestos mitts, brim filled with culturally
diverse, eclectic and exciting characters. His Buddhist monk cum
Bangkok police detective, Sonchai Jitpleecheep, is the singularly
most complex and exotic police detective to be found in current
noir detective fiction.
In his first highly acclaimed novel we are introduced to Sonchai, a
troubled young detective under the tutelage of Police Colonel
Vikorn, head of Bangkok's notorious Precinct 8. Sonchai is the
half-breed son of a vanished American GI and one of Bangkok's most
successful concubines. Now retired, she has the connections needed
to allow her son entré to what she hopes will be a life away
from the bitter streets of the Red Light district.
These hopes are upended due to his familiarity with the business
end of Bangkok's seamy sexual underworld. His Buddhist monastic
training has rendered him incorruptible, but his upbringing has
left him unblinkingly aware of the dark hazards that can befall
those who ply the trade.
In BANGKOK TATTOO he becomes inextricably entangled in a plot that
involves the FBI, CIA, Muslim clerics, Al Qaeda operatives, and
ghoulish figures of the Thai underworld. It seems that the love of
his life, the beautiful Chanya, is a chief suspect in the grisly
murder of a CIA agent, found dead in her room. Sonchai follows a
trail of evidence that burrows into a feud between the Thai
military, upper echelon police and international terrorist groups.
Mere suicide bombings pale against the toll of the highly lucrative
drug and sex trade, as always at the root of the strife.
Burdett creates a vivid sense of place and offers a cast of
colorful villains and anti-heroes that favorably compare to the
worlds of James Lee Burke and Michael Connelly. His writing is
literary in style, reflective and philosophical in nature, yet
filled with action and suspense often delivered with tongue planted
firmly in cheek.
Bring on the third course, Mr. Burdett. We're ready with a six-pack
of Singha beer in the cooler.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on December 22, 2010