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Bangkok Haunts Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 5, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. At the start of Burdett's superb third mystery-thriller to feature Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep (after Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo), Jitpleecheep shows old friend Kimberley Jones, an American FBI agent, a vicious snuff film he's received depicting the murder of an ex-lover of his named Damrong. Jitpleecheep and Jones maintain their complex platonic relationship as, helped by Jitpleecheep's assistant Lek, they pursue Damrong's killers. The trail leads them to an important banker, an American teacher, a Buddhist and an exclusive men's club called the Parthenon. Jitpleecheep, who now lives with Chanya, a former prostitute pregnant with his child, is visited in an erotic way by Damrong's ghost, while his corrupt superior, police colonel Vikorn, orders Jitpleecheep to help start a porn film business. Expertly juggling elements that in lesser hands would become confused or hackneyed, Burdett has created a haunting, powerful story that transcends genre. 75,000 first printing; 6-city author tour. (June)
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From The New Yorker

Sonchai Jitpleecheep, the hero of Burdett’s Bangkok-based thrillers, is a unique police detective. A Buddhist as closely attuned to karma as to crime, Sonchai is profoundly aware that the latter is only an expression of the former, and, accordingly, he finds answers in places that logic-hampered Westerners would never know to look. In his third adventure to date, a murdered prostitute proves to be—even more in death than she was in life—a femme fatale of special magnitude. As in previous episodes, the pleasures derive less from Burdett’s baroque plotting (in this case including former Khmer Rouge hired killers, a pornography ring debased even by Bangkok standards, and a death by torture involving elephants) than from the vivid portrait he paints of contemporary Thai life and mores.
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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (June 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307263185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307263186
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #732,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Burdett is the author of A Personal History of Thirst, The Last Six Million Seconds, Bangkok 8, and Bangkok Tattoo.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on June 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a member of the Royal Thai Police force, is perhaps the only Bangkok cop not on the take in one of the most corrupt police departments in Southeast Asia. The Buddhist monk son of an infamous Thai madam and a Vietnam-era American soldier is detective fiction's most complex cop, as enigmatic and exotic as his nearly unpronounceable name. We john met the multicultural Sonchai in BANGKOK 8 and BANGKOK TATTOO, John Burdett's two bestselling novels that so vibrantly bring to life one of the world's oldest and most fascinating cultures.

In this third installment, Sonchai has settled down in domestic happiness with his pregnant girlfriend in his modest Bangkok apartment. He finds on his doorstep a hand-addressed package. In it is a snuff porn film starring Damrong, a well-known prostitute who once worked in his mother's Cowboy District brothel, with whom he had carried on a brief dalliance. When he checks on her whereabouts, he discovers she is missing and comes to the realization that the killing was not an act --- the murder portrayed in the film was genuine and performed live in front of the cameras.

Damrong's ghost begins to haunt Sonchai's dreams as he launches an investigation into the identity of the film's producers. Over the objections of his superior, General Vikorn, he calls on his FBI colleague, American Kimberley Jones, for help after he learns that she is in Thailand following a lead on the growing number of snuff films being produced in the increasingly lucrative Southeast Asian sex trade. Together they hunt down the highly placed officials and businessmen at the top of a billion-dollar porn industry.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Mary Lins TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved John Burdett's "Bangkok 8" and "Bangkok Tattoo" thus was anxiously awaiting, "Bangkok Haunts", and I was not disappointed. In many ways, these novels get better and better. In Sonchai Jitpleecheep, Burdett has cast a character like no other in literature. When I rhapsodize about Burdett's Bangkok novels to friends and explain that the protagonist is a Buddhist detective who co-owns a whorehouse in Thailand with his mother...they DO look incredulous! But I was hooked from the first pages of the first book.

"Bangkok Haunts" is rich with all the things I loved about the other novels; descriptions of Thai culture, cuisines, religion, history...traffic...the sex trade...ghosts...foreigners...Burdett makes fascinating the not-so-subtle differences between the "Western" and the "Thai" mind-set. This is the kind of stuff that both entertains and enlightens. I don't often agree with Burdett's/Jitpleecheep's opinions on the efficacy prostitution and corruption, but I am always intrigued, interested and better informed for having thought things through. My only quibble with the plot is the frustrating and incomprehensible relationship between Kimberly (the FBI) and Sonchai's trans-gender partner, Lek. I'll suspend my irritation for now, though; maybe that's the next book!
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Rob Clarke on June 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The third is the best, as John Burdett returns us to Bangkok and inside the mind of Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep in this followup to two previous journeys of the extraordinary kind.

The same circle of characters is here, his mother who runs the prostitute pick-up bar; his boss, Col. Vikorn of the Royal Thai Police, also a part owner of the bar, and his female FBI friend who arrives from the US to help solve the crime. They are merely props this time to the story of Sonchai's love affair with Damrong and her demise. Sonchai's continuing erotic experiences with her spirit after death drives him all over Bangkok and to Cambodia a couple of times in pursuit of the killers.

Burdett weaves another story of incredible breadth and depth, a mystery based on sex, enlightenment, some Buddhist thoughts, and pure shock to the conventional Western mind. It is so alien, most times, to American thought and Judaic-Christian morality, that this becomes a fantasy travelling in an eroticized fun house.

Although this is best of the series, you might enjoy it better after starting at the beginning, as the character development builds in several directions, especially with regards to his former assistant and his new one, a transsexual soon to undergo the knife.

The Western morality tale is fairly conventional, as the good guys win; but the Eastern morality is not so certain, did the good guys really win?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on July 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In his third stellar appearance Bangkok's only incorruptible cop, the devout Buddhist Sonchai Jitpleecheep, who makes ends meet by helping out in his mother's brothel, tracks a depraved but powerful murderer over his canny and corrupt boss' objections.

The story opens: "Few crimes make us fear for the evolution of our species. I am watching one right now." Jitpleecheep has received an anonymous snuff video, which he knows is real, having found the body. The victim is Damrong, a prostitute Jitpleecheep was once madly obsessed with, and who still has the power to invade his dreams in ways that irritate his pregnant wife (also an ex-prostitute) and leave him physically exhausted.

Colonel Vikorn, Jitpleecheep's formidable boss, is mostly impressed with the vast sums porn generates now that it's dispensed by respectable media conglomerates like TimeWarner and AT&T. With his sex industry connections Vikorn sees no reason not to cash in and diverts Jitpleecheep from murder investigator to porn producer.

Undaunted, Jitpleecheep continues to dig, aided by his trans-gender assistant, Lek, and his FBI friend, Kimberley Jones, who becomes obsessed with Lek. But as Jitpleecheep's leads reach into the echelons of the powerful, Vikorn, ever mindful of his own bottom line, takes a personal interest, derailing his subordinate.

The mystery, while shaping the plot, takes a backseat to the roiling stew of Bangkok culture, particularly Buddhism and the human face of the sex trade. Jitpleecheep easily voices seemingly contradictory concepts, most often reconciled by the requirements of third-world survival. Steeped in Buddhist principles, Jitpleecheep beguiles the Western reader even as he playfully exposes the hypocrisy of righteous Western morality. Burdett continues to impress with this unique, atmospheric series.
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