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Bangkok 8: A Royal Thai Detective Novel (1) [Paperback]

John Burdett
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 13 2004 Vintage
A thriller with attitude to spare, Bangkok 8 is a sexy, razor-edged, often darkly hilarious novel set in one of the world’s most exotic cities.

Witnessed by a throng of gaping spectators, a charismatic Marine sergeant is murdered under a Bangkok bridge inside a bolted-shut Mercedes Benz. Among the witnesses are the only two cops in the city not on the take, but within moments one is murdered and his partner, Sonchai Jitpleecheep—a devout Buddhist and the son of a Thai bar girl and a long-gone Vietnam War G.I.—is hell-bent on wreaking revenge. On a vigilante mission to capture his partner’s murderer, Sonchai is begrudgingly paired with a beautiful FBI agent named Jones and captures her heart in the process. In a city fueled by illicit drugs and infinite corruption, prostitution and priceless art, Sonchai’s quest for vengeance takes him into a world much more sinister than he could have ever imagined.

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From Amazon

When a U.S. Marine is killed in Bangkok, the task of finding the murderer falls to Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, seemingly the only member of the Royal Thai Police Force whose idea of justice precludes his fellow officers' customary system of bribery. This assignment's especially important to the devout detective for during the investigation of the murder scene, the methamphetamine-stoked snakes that bit the marine also kill Sonchai's police partner, best friend, and Buddhist soul-mate Pichai. Sonchai's pursuit of revenge will team him with a sexually frustrated FBI agent and leave them at the mercy of yaa-baa-fueled motorcycle-taxi drivers as they hurtle through neon-lit Bangkok and into the labyrinthine and deadly machinations of the international jade and drug trades in search of the killer.

As Sonchai himself notes at one point, "This isn't a whodunit, is it?" And, no, it isn't, but author John Burdett (A Personal History of Thirst, The Last Six Million Seconds) infuses the plot with enough suspense, detail, and dry Asian insight to keep readers rapt as the story careens about the bars and brothels of Thailand's flesh trade, through its cut-rate plastic surgery parlors, and ends in a climax with a fittingly Buddhist twist. Bangkok 8 is highly recommended for readers in the mood for Thai. --Benjamin Reese --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Your Basic Police Story June 24 2010
By Toni Osborne TOP 100 REVIEWER
Book 1 in Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep series

This is a police story that stands above many mysteries I have read lately. Although at first glace it seems to rehash the basics found in other books, it was a pleasant surprise to find otherwise.

The story revolves around a police detective investigating a murder that claimed his partner's life and which the main suspect is a well-connected US businessman. Bangkok is the location; it is described as an exotic city where sex is sold on the street and where the police are seen more as businessman making money from crimes committed in their district and providing protection to keep order and peace.

The story opens with Sonchai and his partner Pichai on the trail of Bill Bradley an American marine stationed at the US embassy. They eventually found him trapped in his car with deadly snakes. In trying to get to him Pichai is bitten and dies. Partnerless and still in shock, Sonchai learns more about Bradley's shady dealings from an FBI legal attaché. It is soon evident Washington wants things hushed, not a problem for Sonchai...Different country, different rules ...when the guilty party is found; he will be eliminated... problem solved...

Sonchai is joined by FBI Kimberley Jones and the name of Sylvester Warren, a huge player in the jade market and a powerful man in Washington soon becomes the center of their investigation. The investigators soon realise they are on their own, Washington and the Thai police have cut them adrift.... What the detectives will face on the streets of Bangkok will be surprising to the reader......very interesting...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Engaging ... A Great Purchase! June 28 2005
Having been struggling with unreadable and nearly unreadable books, I was beginning to wonder whether the problem was what I was reading or my patience and attention span. John Burdett's pulsating Bangkok 8 is 318 pages long. Devouring it reassured me that I can be grabbed and held by a book.
The "8" of the title refers to a police precinct. The book's narrator Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep and his partner Pichai Apiradee are the only detectives in the City of Angels (the meaning of the Thai name for the capital city, Krung Thep) who do not take bribes. Both are protégés of a Buddhist abbott whose brother is Col. Vikorn, the immensely rich commander of precinct 8's police force.
Col. Vikorn has assigned Sonchai and Pichai to follow William Bradley, a strikingly handsome and very large black U. S. Marine sergeant. The policeman lose him in traffic and then real disaster strikes. There is a killing of diabolical refinement that required considerable organization. "Whodunit?" is a question of interest to Sonchai and there are an array of powers (official and criminal, Thai and American, and very interconnected) seeking to prevent one answer to that question. Plus, there are the more interesting questions of how the killing was organized and why the particular and elaborate method was developed for executing a novice and minor player in the (also interconnected) businesses of jade mining, art fraud, drug-smuggling, Khmer Rouge thuggery, and payoffs of Thai officials.
Sonchai is the son of a bar-girl (prostitute) and a US serviceman who was on R&R from the Vietnam war and, as a child, accompanied his mother on her extended romances in France, German, and the United States.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Hype, but not a good story July 14 2004
By A Customer
I wanted to love this book, but I could recommend 1,000 mysteries/thrillers that are more fun and better written. The Bangkok sex industry is exotic, and the main character might be unusual. But I never believed that he existed because every other character was pasted together with cardboard and cliche: the incorruptible female FBI agent, the psychotic sadist, the corrupt Thai cop. Every character seems to have super powers -- the agent can get endless information, the sadist had endless connections to the US government and gangsters, another character has convinced ruthless Khmer to be enlessly loyal. No one seems motived by normal life like loyalty, fear, greed, etc. In the end, nothing happens on stage. It's just a book where people talk about things that have happened (and where the hero figures things out by just walking up to people who spill the entire truth for no apparent reason). That is boring. In the end, I decided that Burdett spent 90% of his time thinking about cool concepts that he could use to pitch the movie script -- and no time actually putting together a book. Go read Elmore Leonard instead.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Buddhist Sort of Mystery April 29 2004
First the bad: I found the book to be less than gracefully written. At times the language is painfully stilted. I know that I am not used to the "hard-boiled" style that many detective stories employ, but too often the prose caused me to lurch to a standstill while my brain rotated the offensive sentence around in my head, unwilling to go on. On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised by how well Burdett used Thai Buddhism to add fascinating depth and nuance to the story. I have often been wary of Buddhism in general, mostly because my only experience with it is as a trendy religion, the accessory of Beastie Boys fans and cause-hungry hippies for whom the Free Tibet bumper sticker perfectly conceals the country club parking permit on the bumper of the Volvo. Burdett's Thai Buddhism, however, is both unassuming and universal. He presents it as inseparable from Thai culture, and naturally the Buddhist way of thinking, so different from our cold Western logic, becomes integral to solving the mystery (we are investigating the gruesome death by multiple snakes of an American marine, by the way.) It's not so tidy as most detective stories, but then that too, follows the Buddhist way of thinking and is the strongpoint of the book.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Motoring, but runs out of gas
I loved the first 280 pages of this book. But then the most preposterous denouement is tacked on; that left me, like some other reviewers here, scratching my head. Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2008 by Jeffrey H. R. Hemlin
5.0 out of 5 stars The bar is very high (no pun intended)
This is a great book! - stunning plot idea, fascinating prinicpal characters and locale, incredibly well researched, very well written, enough sociological insight to please a... Read more
Published on March 25 2005
2.0 out of 5 stars great idea
I thought the idea of this book was better than the actual read. I loved the idea of a "thriller" acted out in an exotic setting; but I found that the story was just... Read more
Published on June 30 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars A strong city, a weak cast
I picked this up when I saw that the blurbs on the back cover came from my two favorite crimes writers, Carl Hiaasen and James Ellroy. Read more
Published on April 13 2004 by Newton Munnow
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific cultural mystery
Make no mistake: this is a genre book--a mystery. It does not transcend the genre, but it is among the best mysteries I have read. Read more
Published on March 6 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars A spicy, exotic murder mystery
A black marine sergeant is sitting in the back seat of a Mercedes, dead from cobra bites, and his head in the mouth of a crazed python that is trying to swallow him whole. Read more
Published on March 5 2004 by JLind555
2.0 out of 5 stars Long and verbose with a rambling plot
Sonchai Jitpleecheep is a cop in Bangkok. He is of mixed extraction- father was a GI in Vietnam and is now long gone. His mother was a bar girl. Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2004 by Larry
4.0 out of 5 stars Bangkok Gr8 !
This thriller has original characters, colorful settings, lots of action and suspense, hilarious moments, and a little Buddhist philosophy. Read more
Published on Feb. 11 2004 by Mary Esterhammer-Fic
4.0 out of 5 stars Not A Masterpiece, But An Enjoyable Yarn
I recently devoured Bangkok 8 in a couple of days. It is a compelling mystery with excellent use of local culture and customs to add color to the novel. Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2004 by Patrick Mc Coy
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