Bangkok, rich in history and spirituality, crowded with temples, markets and canals, is also a city shrouded in shadows. Polluted, corrupt, infamous as the sex capital of the world, it is a place where wealth, poverty and unimaginable evil walk hand in hand. Inside a locked Mercedes, an African American Marine sergeant is killed by a maddened ...
Bangkok, rich in history and spirituality, crowded with temples, markets and canals, is also a city shrouded in shadows. Polluted, corrupt, infamous as the sex capital of the world, it is a place where wealth, poverty and unimaginable evil walk hand in hand. Inside a locked Mercedes, an African American Marine sergeant is killed by a maddened python and a swarm of cobras. Two cops - the only two in the city not on the take - arrive too late. Minutes later, only one is alive. Sonchai Jitplecheep is a blond fair-skinned Thai; a devout Buddhist who commutes daily between the sacred precepts of his religion and the profane delights the city has to offer as darkness falls. Sworn to avenge the death of his partner and soul brother, Sonchai works his way through District 8, where illicit drugs, prostitution and police corruption are an endemic way of life. His tools are the forensic techniques of the modern police department; no less vital is his profound understanding of the mystical workings of the spirit world. Soon he is in a realm he has never before encountered: the moneyed underbelly of Bangkok, where desire rules and the human body is as custom-designable as a raw hunk of jade. And where Sonchai eventually tracks the killer, a predator of an even more sinister variety. A deeply original story of gripping pace and reality, Bangkok 8 is that rare thing: a darkly atmospheric literary novel that continues to haunt long after you've turned the last page.
This writer was a lucky discovery. A murder in Thailand, investigated by the only member of the police force who is not corrupt because he is a Buddhist and applies Buddhist principles to all the dreadful things he deals with. His mother is a former prostitute and his father an American he knows nothing about. The Buddhist attitude is great, the humor can be wicked.
Publishers Weekly, 2003-05-12 Part mystery, part thriller and part exploration of Thai attitudes toward sex, this accomplished first novel by Burdett (A Personal History of Thirst; The Last Six Million Seconds) delivers both entertainment and depth. The narrator, a Buddhist cop named Sonchai Jitplecheep, finds himself plunged into a dangerous investigation of the deaths by snakebite of his partner Pichai Apiradee and U.S. Embassy Sgt. William Bradley. Sonchai is an unusual character on several levels, from the mysteries of his violent past to his conversations with the ghost of Pichai. His ambiguous feelings toward Kimberley Jones, an American FBI agent brought in to work the case, reflect his upbringing as the child of a Thai mother and an unknown American father. Above all else, however, Sonchai's Buddhism permeates the text. An encounter with an embassy official, for example, leads to this unexpected reverie: "[She] is blithely unaware that she once accompanied me across a courtyard of startlingly similar dimensions, thousands of years ago." As Sonchai's investigation brings him closer to Bradley's companion, a woman known as Fatima, and the rich American jade dealer Sylvester Warren, his quest for revenge becomes muddied by the strangeness of his discoveries. The mix of detective work, Bangkok street life, the Thai sex trade and drug smuggling forms a powerful melange of images and insight. Despite an anti-climactic last chapter, the novel's structure is solid. Sonchai's fatalism, wry humor and dogged determination-his ability to be both vulnerable and strong-make him one of the more memorable characters in recent novel-length fiction. Readers expecting a traditional mystery structure would be advised to look elsewhere, but those who want something new will find Burdett's novel an intriguing, fresh take on noir. (June 10) Forecast: Knopf may be taking a bit of a gamble on this genre-bending effort-a 100,000-copy first printing is planned-but strong reviews and a flashy jacket should help get sales off to a good start. Random House Audio. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly, 2003-08-04 Set in Thailand's capital in the mid-1990s, this ambitious first novel by Burdett (The Last Six Million Seconds) follows the city's only honest police detective, Sonchai Jitplecheep, as he searches for the person responsible for the deaths of his partner (a friend from childhood) and an American Marine sergeant. This thriller abounds with sensational elements-from homicidal vipers on speed to jade smuggling and the Thai sex trade-but listeners would be wise to follow the lead of Buddhist narrator Sonchai, who is more interested in the graceful acceptance of life's puzzles than in their resolution. The policeman's account of his harsh life and what he must do to serve both the Buddha and his teeming, decadent city enriches the novel, but those fond of neatly wrapped tales may find the surreal but shocking finale less than satisfying. The inspired casting of Wong, who's known for his roles in Madame Butterfly and Oz, more than makes up for this small flaw, however. Wong skillfully conveys the secret pain and self-doubt lurking beneath Sonchai's insouciant facade, while underlining the Eastern mood and the dark humor of Burdett's unique noir tale. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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