Book 4 in the Sonchai Jitpleecheep series
The writer's speciality is to take his readers on an exotic and mysterious jaunt exploring the back streets of Bangkok where sex is a marketable commodity. He drags us into a culture unknown to many with his observations of the drug trade and official corruption. He also touches through his protagonist the religious customs of Tibetan Buddhism.
As the book opens, Sonchai is struggling with the loss of his son and is depending more and more on a mixture of drugs and Buddhism to carry on his day to day life. Nevertheless he takes on the case of Frank Charles, a famous film director, murdered in a gruesome manner at a local flophouse.
Meanwhile, Sonchai's boss, Colonel Vikorn, is drawn into an alliance with his arch rival officer Zinna in one of the biggest drug deals to date. He appoints Sonchai as his trusted 'Consigliere' to assist him in his dealings and on various errands. The word on the street between drug mules leads Sonchai to Kathmandu where he falls under the influence of his mantra and is smitten by Tara, a beautiful Tibetan Buddhist refugee. Eventually he returns to Bangkok and retargets his efforts to the Frank Charles investigation, finding the cause of death and the true culprit becomes a priority.'.
Sonchai narrates many of his thoughts in the first person and shares them with his 'farang' (western reader) as though the reader was his guardian angel. He also purveys a rather cynical tone and switches between the present and the past tense. His character is well-crafted, a rather unique, unusual and bizarre detective. The story is written with the intricacies of crime and the culture and seasoned with a vivid description of food, sights and the sounds of a vibrant city. The plot is meaty although I found the style to be challenging with its many surprises that continually jockey for the readers' attention.
To enjoy this series depends strongly on personal taste; I find I am slowly losing interest.
Here are ten reasons why I would recommend this novel as a great casual read:
1. It highlights current issues involving crime in Thailand such as drug deals, police corruption, child prostitution, murder and the slave trade;
2. It describes how crime is viewed in Oriental culture, i.e. everyone stepping over the next person for a piece of the big action;
3. It introduces the reader to a number of devious and shady characters who actions interact at critical points in the story to provide moments of shocking truth;
4. True understanding or enlightenment comes in this story as Sonchai, the story's hero and police detective, struggles to overcome the numerous obstacles plaguing his investigation. He is so much more than just another cop, trying to enforce the letter of the law in an unruly society;
5. The price one pays to be at peace with oneself in a world full of unexpected change, confusion and misadventure, is the need to forego life's immediate successes in search of one's Buddhist soul;
6. There are some very interesting paradoxes in this storyline that should challenge the reader's sense of perspective: death-life, pragmatic-idealistic, universal-provincial, and civil-rude;
7. The culture of this ancient land is seen through the prism of urban politics, ancient religions, local customs and the economics of the drug trade;
8. Lots of key moments of suspense in this story as Sonchai, the main protagonist, navigates his way through a minefield of conflicting values and competing rivalries;
9. The lure and guile of the Orient is there as only Burdett can describe it in all its elegance, dissonance and squalor. All the primary events and their secondary moments seem to form a part of a much larger web of mysterious truth;
10. Burdett has written a fast-paced novel that moves unhaltingly towards an ultimate moment(NIRVANA)where varying circumstances seem to converge to make unified sense, or do they? Enjoy reading this story as only Burdett can write it: full of endless twists and turns as some people strive to dominate each other by any means possible, criminal included. For Sonchai, the only way to survive in this chaotic world of evil motives is to detach oneself from all that has been important until now. As a result, he becomes an untouchable survivor in a society piled high with victims and their troubles.
le 19 décembre 2010
my dear sonchai.why do you torment me so? i think of you as such a good friend & yet you enter my life for a brief moment and then as quickly leave,not to return for a year or so.do you not know how much i enjoy your visits?your exploits leave me giddy with excitement.i follow your adventures with a benign,buddha-smile on my face.your life has taken twists,turns & plunges of tragic,personal grief that would make even the most devout buddhist question and weep.and you're no exception.and yet through it all you walk the path of the buddha with the grace,humility & equanimity that i expect from you and which gives me such comfort.as you tell me your story,i smile,feel deep sadness and crave the thai food you so wonderfully and deliciously describe.as a student of the buddha,i understand the first of the four noble truths reveals that all componded things are impermanent.and that includes this first-rate story you have allowed me to read.i understand and i await your return,my dear friend.i am yours in dharma.