“I love the collision of spirituality and worldly corruption in this series featuring Buddhist detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep in the sinful world of modern Bangkok. This 5th in the series is a satisfying addition to the saga. It widens the gyre by getting Sonchai involved in a murder case linked...”see full review » see other reviews »
“I love the collision of spirituality and worldly corruption in this series featuring Buddhist detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep in the sinful world of modern Bangkok. This 5th in the series is a satisfying addition to the saga. It widens the gyre by getting Sonchai involved in a murder case linked to the global illegal organ trade, with Thailand somehow in the middle between factions in China marketing body parts from executed prisoners and Western customers.
Sonchai tries hard to advance justice while working inside a corrupt police force led by the infamous Colonel Vikhorn. His honest skills are useful to Vikhorn in his perpetual competition with General Zinna of the Thai Army. When three bodies stripped of organs and faces show up in a mansion in the resort town of Phuket, Vikhorn hopes some link to Zinna’s schemes can be found which can help consolidate his power and help generate good PR in his campaign for provincial governor.
Sonchai’s investigations lead him to focus on a pair of wealthy twin femme-fatales from Hong Kong, who quickly see through his attempt to pose as undercover organ dealer. They are over-the-top twisted and colorful adversaries. One the way to Lourdes to fish for customers, one of them does a rant against Western values she exploits:
Of the world’s three universal religions, one is based on a profound insight into human psychology and one is based on a profound insight into the kind of social structure that is necessary for people to live in peace and harmony. The former is Buddhism, and the latter is Islam. The other world religion is an insane collection of primitive magic and mumbo jumbo, with cadavers resurrecting and walking around with holes in them, and lepers suddenly healing and the blind suddenly seeing, virgins giving birth, and snakes that talk. Since it’s a blatant lie, something has to be done to keep the faithful dropping coins onto the plate, or the economic model on which the whole pious edifice is based will collapse in less than a generation. It needs miracle machines.
Sonchai’s work also leads him into the prostitution industry for leads into life at the mansion. Sonchai knows a lot about the latter because his mother manages a bar/brothel and his common law wife, Chanya, is a former prostitute. Burdette has a lot of fun with Chanya working on her PhD thesis on the subject. Together they gossip a lot about her Western advisor, whose feminist orientation leads her to view the industry as founded on slavery. Chanya’s Buddhist outlook gives it another spin (the term “farang” means Western foreigner and “DFR” is Burdette’s coy way of addressing the “Dear Farang Reader”) :
It seemed to her that there was something seriously wrong with farang logic: it only dealt with measurable things and had no way of incorporating the Unnameable—or even basic nuance—in its calculations. … when she started to work on her thesis …she began to discover she had been right all along: farang social science was mostly propaganda for farang dominance. In former times, DFR, you used exactly the same double-talk to justify the opium and slave trades. She went back to Buddhism and challenged the Western world from there. Starting from Emptiness, it is not so difficult to see clearly: one has less of a stake in fantasy.
At one point on his dangerous forays, Sonchai touches base at a Buddhist shrine where he draws out a monk his views on Western sex tourists taking time out for spiritual solace:
“For farang I despair. Hardly one of them I meet has a hope of being reborn into the human form. I see sheep and dogs of the future in designer T-shirts climbing up and down the mountains, getting in and out of the tourist buses.”
“They’re stuck in Aristotlean logic: ‘A cannot be not-A’ “
“Tell me about it! The discovery of Nirvana is the psychological equivalent of the invention of zero but vastly more important. Think of where mathematics was before zero, and you have the level of mental development of the West: good/bad, right/left, profit/loss, heaven/hell, us/them, me/you. It’s like counting with Roman numerals.”
This playful intellectual fun on the contrasts of East and West is obviously a thread I like in this series. But we still get enough of a thriller and police procedural to satisfy those seeking escapist fare, with an exotic setting and sexual themes to spice things up . Along the way, I can’t help but root for a favorable evolution of lovable Sonchai. In this one, he and Chanya must negotiate the challenges of a “seven year itch” in their relationship. And Sochai’s delightful, faithful subordinate Lek moves closer to completing his transgender transformation.
“Another good Burdett crime novel. ”Thomas Dale wrote this review Monday, January 21, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Burdett is one of my favorite authors who writes about Thailand - the dirt and dredge. He takes our favorite detective to Phuket, Hong Kong and Dubai in search of answers – who is harvesting all of these body parts? As usual, we find a very cinematic story with lots of cross-cultural musing. Burdett’s books are mostly about character, the plot plays second fiddle.”dbsovereign wrote this review Saturday, January 12, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Although I am not necessarily a fan of this series I'm surprised to find that this is the third (out of five) that I've read. It appears that Detective Jitpleecheep has advanced a bit from the early days and here he is armed with a black Amex and jetting around the world investigating an international ring of organ traffickers who, of course, murder the donors to get the organs; and as usual the novel features a lot of prostitutes and a lot of the arrogant narrator's observations about politics, sociology, sexuality, and criticisms of "farang" tourists.
Honestly, though, Burdett's novels don't make me want to visit Thailand - these novels show the seedy side of life - filled with corrupt cops, ubiquitous prostitutes, and clueless, drunken farang (white) sex tourists. At one point in this novel, however, he does acknowledge that there are farang tourists who come to Thailand with their wives and families (in other words we're not all drunk, drugged out sex tourists) - but even these farangs are not innocent - they are looking at the prostitutes (the men) or imagining what it would be like to be one of the prostitutes (the wives). Well, okay!”
“This is a great, gritty series and this is one of the best.”patricia g wrote this review Thursday, September 13, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Book 5 in the Sonchai Jitpleeecheep series
I have read all the novels in this series and this one has to be one of the best so far. Just like the previous novels this one takes you through the seedier side of Bangkok, the streets where you meet fascinating people who compete aggressively to run and to work their trade and please the demands of foreigners.
Burdett’s fifth Bangkok novel opens with a very descriptive setting, the bizarre triple murder at a pleasure palace where Sonchai and his detective partner Lek happen to be knee deep in the gruesome details and scratching their head looking for answers. The three victims are found in a bed with their vital organs and all traces of identification removed, including face and fingers. Sonchai and Lek quickly come to the conclusion that this case may have links to their superior, the very corrupt Police Colonel Vikhorn, a powerful man with a long reach and a dark cloud hanging over him.
The trail leads them to an international organ trafficking business run by the ruthless identical twins, Lilly and Polly Yip. Sonchai’s only hope of catching them is to set in motion a massive sting operation that involves players that work out of Phuket, Hong Kong, Dubai, Shanghai, and Monte Carlo. He soon discovers the criminal ring’s main source of organs is from executed Chinese prisoners however the demand of wealthy Westerners whose organs have worn out exceeds that supply, forcing the gang to expand into new territories.
On the home front all work and no play for Sonchai creates another crisis. He suspects his long absence has left an opening for his wife to fall back on her previous life as an active prostitute.
The plot comes across as being believable, is tense, engaging and fast-paced, although its main theme may be the trafficking of human organs the story often veers into other territories, drugs, prostitution and gender reassignment create interesting sub-plots. The first person narrative is fresh and has a humorous touch to it. Mr. Burdett often addresses his audience as DFR (dear farang reader) and loves to stimulate their thoughts about the shenanigans the western tourists get involved in when visiting a country with an open, in your face way of life. The strong characterisation depicts the good, the bad and the ugly sides of a country that is also known for its beauty and its deep spiritual beliefs.
This is another gripping tale with a style of its own that I enjoyed reading.”
“Yet another brilliant book in the series about detective Jitpleecheep who this time is trying to solve the latest fashion wave of crimes, black market organ trade. ”Hasse's Books wrote this review Sunday, June 10, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchoi Jitpleecheep is an unusual character... a Buddihst who's married to an ex-prostitute. The plot has to do with trafficking in human organs. A good read and a new series for me.”Christine H wrote this review Sunday, May 13, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“It had been awhile since I had read any of the previous books in this series so it took several chapters before I could place the cast of charactors. As always I enjoy the misadventures of Sonchai - love the local - storyline is always good. An entertaining read.”Marsha C wrote this review Monday, March 5, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Sonchai imparts so much wonderful philosophy during his misadventures and wildly entertaining attempts to solve crime that I anxiously look forward to Burdett's next novel. I absolutely love this series!”Soar4more wrote this review Wednesday, February 29, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No