Friday, May 27, 2022

Bangkok 8: John Burdett

This is the first book in a series of six books set in Thailand. The main character is a Thai policeman, Sonchai Jitpleecheep. In the opening scene, his partner (and life-long friend) is killed on the job, and Sonchai has vowed revenge. He narrates the story and I really like the voice it is told in. The story covers some challenging topics: transsexualism, prostitution, drugs and alcoholism. 

The book was told from the point of view of a Buddhist Thai policeman, and I wasn't sure how much the writer actually knew about that and how much was his own invention. He does comment on that in an Author's note at the beginning. I also enjoyed the look at a very different culture. This story was published in 2003, so I don't know how much things have changed in nearly 20 years. 

Sonchai's mother was a prostitute and Sonchai's father was an American soldier who was in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Occasionally Sonchai recounts his and his mother's experiences with some of her long-time lovers. They spent time with one of them in Germany and another in France. I enjoyed those segments especially. His relationship with his mother was also well done.

The book is written in present tense. I used to strongly dislike the use of present tense in a novel, but this one did not bother me at all. The book also has very short chapters, 52 chapters in a book with 315 pages. I love short chapters. Much easier to read a book with short chapters than one with 30 - 50 page chapters.

I was immersed in the book while reading it, and liked the style of writing. And that is what I look for in a book. For a book with such a downer beginning and the coverage of very serious topics, it had a surprisingly upbeat ending.

For other information I will point you to two articles at Crimereads

Far-flung Thrillers for World Travelers and 

Bangkok's Expat Crime Fiction Scene is Booming


Publisher:   Alfred A. Knopf, 2003 
Length:       315 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Series:        Sonchai Jitpleecheep
Setting:       Bangkok, Thailand
Genre:        Mystery
Source:       On my TBR for at least 15 years.


Cath said...

Not many crime books set in Thailand and it wouldn't be my usual choice, but this one is intriguing me.

Margot Kinberg said...

I liked this one very much, Tracy. I loved the insight into Bangkok and Buddhism, and I thought Sonchai was an interesting character. They main plot, too - the crime itself - kept my interest. It's a different sort of series, and I mean that in a good way. Glad you enjoyed this.

TracyK said...

Cath, I haven't read much set in Thailand. I have read Behind the Night Bazaar by Angela Savage, an Australian author. The books are very different though.

TracyK said...

Yes, Margot, the Buddhist traditions and Sonchai's beliefs were a very interesting part of the story. And the interaction with the FBI was another aspect I liked. Such an interesting story.

Lark said...

Short chapters are great, and I do love that setting! sounds like a fun read, despite being written in present tense.

TracyK said...

Lark, I only realized in the last two or three years how much I like a book with short chapters. The only explanation I can think of is that it allows the reader to take a break without losing focus.

It was a fun read although there were some surprising scenes with some graphic violence, but not dwelt upon. I was immersed in the story, so the present tense was not taking me out of the story, like it sometimes does.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I remember this coming out. Could that many years have passed. Wow!

TracyK said...

I know, Patti, it amazes me too. Also I am sorry it took me so long to read it since I enjoyed it so much. But who knows, at that point maybe I wouldn't have appreciated it in the same way.

CLM said...

This is very different! How did you happen to come across it? At first, I hated the cover but then I thought it does convey the setting well.

I don't always like short chapters (or short books!) but, of course, a good author and compelling story distract us from our preconceptions (like my dislike of the present tense).

TracyK said...

Constance, my husband bought this book when it first came out. He is often interested in books set in Asian countries, usually Japan though. After he read it he passed it on to me. What I don't know know is why I resisted reading the book for so long... but I am glad I finally did.

I have been interested in Buddhism for years, so that aspect added to the story for me. This was one of those books where it took me a good while to even notice that it was in present tense.

col2910 said...

I've had this and maybe one possibly two others on the TBR pile forever. I had good intentions of reading and keeping pace with the series and we know how that went. Oh well. Glad you enjoyed it though.

TracyK said...

Well, Col, now I want to read more of them and I am way behind in the series. It should not be too hard to find the second in the series, though.