What a shame that all ye half-wit natives read little besides the gin-soaked ramblings on these pages.
If you did, you’d realize what an exhilarating Yaa Baa ride John Burdett’s Bangkok 8 turns out to be. (Yaa Baa, or Bhul Bhuliya for the uninformed desi dummkopfs, is the ‘mad drug,’ the potent methamphetamine favored by the high-trip seekers in Thailand and other parts of Asia.)
From the horribly weird murder of Sergeant Bradley in the opening pages to the endearing actions of our arhat, non-corrupt police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, Bangkok 8 is a fast-paced crime thriller that brings Thailand and its exuberant capital Bangkok to life as few novels perhaps do.
The ubiquitous hookers (any surprise then that folks call Bangkok Bang Cock in Thigh Land), the sleazy night life in the city, the priapic Western sex tourists, the endemic police corruption, the unremitting violence, the mind-changing drugs, the strange, contradictory attachment to Buddhist beliefs, all of it and more jump out of this well-written novel to hold you hostage.
Above all is our fearless, karmaically-inclined, incorruptible policeman Sonchai bent on revenge for the death of his friend.
Besides Sonchai, Burdett has etched fine characters in the crooked police chief Colonel Vikorn, the exquisitely sculpted Fatima, Sonchai’s former-hooker mother Nong, the vexed FBI agent Kimberley Jones and of course the oddball Sylvester Warren.
Hey, even Sonchai’s dead partner Pichai leaps to life now and then, talking to us and his grieving buddy.
Reading this gripping book, tis’ clear that Burdett wore out many a pair of shoes as he escorts us into the gritty, enticing underbelly of Bangkok.
A city where hookers shoot darts through their pussies, policemen are engaged in a bewildering array of crimes and survival amidst the chaotic jumble is a fine art.
A city not unlike our own Mumbai with corruption and crime and filth and poverty and hovels and the foul pus oozing out of its pores.
The author has a solid pulse of the vibrant, gritty city that draws migrants from Burma and Laos in the North, Cambodia in the south, Vietnam in the East and hordes of people from across the oceans in search of sexual nirvana.
Like India, Thailand is a country dripping in crime, drenched in sex and deep in poverty.
Still, the country possesses a mystique, a magic unexplainable to outsiders unless they’ve breathed the air and taken a deep puff of the local ganja.
Adding to the allure of the book, Burdett frequently livens up proceedings with sociological, comical and frequently sarcastic insights and asides that comes from having lived in and ‘experienced’ life, both in the West and East.
Bangkok 8 makes you want to drop all your mundane activities and catch the next flight to Bangkok. Such is the spell that Burdett cast on us in this unputdownable book.
Bangkok 8 should be available at your local county/city library or Amazon if you live in the U.S.
By the way, we’ve already gotten hold of Bangkok Tattoo, the second volume in the Bangkok trilogy from our library.