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Showing 1-7 of 7 reviews(3 star). Show all reviews
on April 13, 2004
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. I suppose I was hoping for great things, either Hiaasen's light hand, or Ellroy's dark tales of intrigue. However, when a character takes a deep breath and delivers a one to three page sermon on, amongst other things, jade, prostitution or buddhist beliefs, you discover that you are not in the hands of an expert. It seems as if Burdett had almost too much that he wanted to impart to the reader and rather than work pieces skilfully into the plot, he opted for dense exposition. It is a shame, because Burdett can write well. Sochai Jitpleecheep comes across as a well developed character and would have held the book together had he not been surrounded by a paper thin supporting cast. Take your pick, the [attractive] FBI agent with a crush on our hero, the [prostitute] with a heart of gold, the evil millionaire sexual sadist. Most of Burdett's secondary characters are little more than B-movie types given the odd line of amusing dialogue. It's a shame, because Burdett does a fine job bringing the city and the culture to life. If only he had found the right characters to populate his streets.
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on September 24, 2003
One becomes suspicious upon discovering an Apology at the beginning of a work of popular fiction. In this case, the author reminds the reader that the work their about to embark on is a work of fiction, and that his criticisms are merely poetic licence, tools to carry the story along. Burdett borders on obsequiousness in his efforts to justify his portrayal of the Royal Thai Police Force. Strangely, most people with knowledge of world affaires are aware of corruption in these sectors, and warnings from travel agencies and home governments before travelling to South East Asia, is common practice. However, after reading this entertaining novel, to my surprise, Burdett's apologies were misplaced. He certainly presents the Thai police force as corrupt, but in a light that justifies this system as somehow workable and much less hypocritical than our Western system. In fact, for all his criticisms of America, his Apology should have been directed at Western society in general, as he presents American's as consumerist, puritan, insensitive, greedy and inept. To make an apology before presenting your creative endeavours, really show's that the artist is extremely insecure about their creation. Art should stand on its own without pre-emptive explanations and apologies regarding its subject matter.
These criticisms aside, ~Bangkok 8~ is a crime thriller from an Eastern perspective. For this genre, telling a crime story from Buddhist eyes, including and using the tenets from this religion to solve the mystery, is indeed a fresh approach. Our narrator, Detective Sonchai Jiteecheap, is an 'arhat', a Buddhist who is a '...fully realized (person), who voluntarily pauses on the shore of nirvana, postponing their total release in order to teach wisdom.' In other words, a holy man, who must workout his remaining karmic lessons, before their final step into the abyss. Jiteecheap is a likable character, despite his arrogance and evident sense of superiority over Westerner's, particularly his FBI assigned partner, Kimberly Jones. Unfortunately, the Jones character is presented as a cardboard cutout, representing the modern American woman as ambitious, exclusively right-brained, Anglo-centred and crass. I found Burdett's conscious perpetuation of Western and Eastern stereotypes extremely annoying. As a reader of this novel, if you can somehow ignore the stereotypes and sociological biases, concentrating on the mystery itself, the book is an entertaining read.
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on September 11, 2003
I found myself thoroughly enjoying this book about 10 pages in, when I was jarred out of a captivating read by the first bitter rant about the futility of the western mindset compared with enlightened, relaxed Thai attitudes towards life. I dismissed it and read on, only to have the same sensation again and again. I disliked this book for the same reason I disliked Ayn Rand's novels: if I wanted to be periodically force-fed doctrine about the Eight-fold Path (or the virtues of Objectivism), I would have went to a different section of the library. This book comes off as a bitter, culture-centric indictment of Western thinking by an angry Eastern writer, until one realises that the writer is not Eastern, merely another Westerner enthralled with Eastern culture and inspired to take pot shots at the futility of his own native culture. Witness Madonna, Sting, et. al... This ruined an otherwise entertaining read for me, and ended up being a chore to finish the book. Frustrating. I'm giving it 3 stars because the parts of the book that actually furthered the story were fascinating, as was the in-depth look into Bangkok life.
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on June 26, 2003
Bangkok 8 is indeed a well written, fast paced, page-turner of a mystery. The characters are fascinating, none less so than our protagonist, Sonchai Jitpleecheep.
The novel starts with the murder of a US Marine in the most bizarre of manners - drug crazed poisonous snakes. Unfortunately, Sonchai and his partner were ordered to follow this Marine and were at the scene of his death where Sonchai's partner is bitten and killed by a snake. Sonchai is determined to seek out the killer and revenge.
As a mystery Burdett has done a good job of unfolding the layers of the Sonchai's search for the truth behind events and the characters are truly fascinating. So too is the locale and culture that is the backdrop of the novel. Thailand's sex trade, drug dealing, psychotic powerful Westerners, and Buddhism are blended into the tapestry.
The end, however, is very weak and disappointing and really a downer after an otherwise very enjoyable story.
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on November 14, 2003
...I did not hate this book. The first few chapters - which are short and manageable throughout the book - had me hooked. Burdett establishes Sonchai as an understandable protagonist, even for those unfamiliar with Bangkok and Thai culture. Over the first half of the book, Burdett builds an excellent storyline - albeit a bit too close to Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park (quite possibly the best of this genre) - in one of the most stylistic narrative styles I have encountered. Unfortunately, the book becomes rather convoluted. Burdett establishes too many subplots, and seems intent on mashing them all together. The end product is a conclusion that makes about as much sense as a David Lynch film or Doors lyrics.
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on September 19, 2003
Intrigued by the premise of a Buddhist detective solving a murder in the lurid red light district of decadent Bangkok, my interest was initially rewarded. Burkett paints a fascinating portrait of an international city filled with culture and contradiction. His depiction of crime, corruption and society in Thailand are worth the read. The background is great, but as a action/mystery the plot and story fail to keep pace. The author overreached and tried for spiritual depth, social commentary, cultural analysis and lost sight of suspense, tension and credibility essential to a mystery novel. The ending was like some tacked on silly Hollywood resolution.
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on July 25, 2003
Actually, there are worlds within worlds in this mystery-thriller: Thailand, and inside that Bangkok, and inside that the skin trade, and then there is the Royal Thai Police Force and the Buddhist philosophy. All this is brought to bear on a killing that is over-the-top unbelievable. The Thai Buddhist take on the American psyche is the most memorable thing. The characters are intriguing and well fleshed out. Overall, it is fascinating and a good ride. But the writing is clunky and the syntax strained at times. And the ending is way too convoluted and very unsatisfying. A near miss. Almost a great thriller. Worth a look, though.
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