Bangkok 8 Review – Wild Yaa Baa Ride

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.

5 Responses to "Bangkok 8 Review – Wild Yaa Baa Ride"

  1. guruprasad.s   February 10, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    The book certainly looks enticing.
    Have you read Suketu Mehta’s ‘Maximum City’, about Mumbai ?
    It received rave reviews a few years back.

    Are you partial to crime/thrillers, or do you read fiction of other types too ?
    You must have read all the works of Alistair Maclean by now.
    If not, then it is highly recommended that you do.
    He is a bit technical on details, due to his own background in navy. Responds:

    1. You write: Have you read Suketu Mehta’s ‘Maximum City’, about Mumbai ?

    No, we haven’t read Maximum City but we’ve read two other attractive books set in Mumbai – Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram (with Mumbai as the backdrop for the most part except for some interludes in the village and Afghanistan) and Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games.

    2. You write: You must have read all the works of Alistair Maclean by now.

    Yes, we’ve read every single Alistair MacLean (Where Eagles Dare, Guns of Navarone, Golden Gate, Circus, Puppet on a Chain at al) except perhaps Santorini.

    3. You write: Are you partial to crime/thrillers, or do you read fiction of other types too?

    Not partial to any one genre, we have an omnivorous appetite and crunch our teeth into anything.

  2. ameritamil   February 10, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Offtopic: gonna watch my sister’s keeper? Responds:


    Have you seen it?

  3. logu   February 11, 2010 at 7:54 am

    I recommend you to watch “Hitler-the Rise of Evil”. It’s actually a made for TV film. Robert Carlyle’s characterization of Hitler is excellent — he avoided most of the stereotypes I have seen in previous films about Hitler — and that the supporting cast, almost without exception, helped to make an interesting film. The atmosphere, and some of the mass scenes depicting the birth of the Nazi movement, are among the best of the genre. I think it’s probably the best portrayal of Hitler by Robert Carlyle may be after Sir Anthony Hopkin’s The Bunker…
    Try to watch these two movie if it’s available…. Responds:

    Just checked…Netflix has both Hitler – The Rise of Evil and The Bunker.

    Since we love Anthony Hopkins we’ll watch The Bunker first.

    • vjcool   February 11, 2010 at 8:25 am

      and ‘Der Untergang’ if you please..
      I’v not watched the two movies but ‘Der Untergang’ is my ultimate hitler movie Responds:

      Added Der Untergang (Downfall) to our Netflix queue.

  4. vjcool   February 11, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    you can contrast it with ‘Life Is Beautiful’ .

    I thought a long time to write about it but watching ‘Life Is Beautiful’ is like.. Can a film make one smile at tragedy?…. or fill one with sadness when smiling understandingly… hard to classify. Responds:

    Life is Beautiful looks like a must watch film.

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