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Bangkok Tattoo: A Royal Thai Detective Novel (2) Paperback – July 11, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (July 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400032911
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400032914
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In Burdett's brilliantly cynical mystery thriller, the follow-up to Bangkok 8 (2004), Royal Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep is called in by his supervisor, hard-bitten Captain Vikorn, to investigate the murder of a CIA operative, Mitch Turner, found disemboweled and mutilated. The prime suspect is a beautiful bar girl, Chanya, with whom Sonchai believes himself to be in love. When Turner's murder turns out to be far more complicated than originally thought, Sonchai must deal with his boss's rages and Chanya's gradually revealed secrets, along with CIA agents who have come to investigate the crime, a Thai army general with whom Vikorn has been feuding for years, Yakuza gangsters, Japanese tattooists, Muslim fundamentalists and more. Thoroughly familiar with Thailand, Burdett does an impressive job of depicting an often romanticized society from the inside out. His characters are unforgettable, his dialogue fast-paced and perfectly pitched, his numerous asides and observations generally as cutting as they are funny. Agent, Jane Gelfman. 9-city author tour. (May 16)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From The New Yorker

Bangkok's red-light districts, perhaps the most infamous in the world, have inspired their share of breathless prose. Here, however, the tone is mordant, thanks to the serene narration of Sonchai Jitpleecheep, the Thai police detective who steered readers through Burdett's previous novel, "Bangkok 8." A devout Buddhist, Sonchai makes complex karmic calculations to justify his roles as law-bending cop and part-time papasan at his mother's go-go bar. When the bar's biggest moneymaker is suspected of killing her john, who turns out to be C.I.A., Sonchai initiates a coverup that eventually involves Muslim separatists in southern Thailand and American operatives eager to exploit post-9/11 paranoia for career advancement. The plot showcases Burdett's sly riffs on Third World stereotypes, Buddhism, and the gustatory pleasures of fried grasshoppers. It's a giddy, occasionally over-the-top performance, but mesmerizing: a comic tour of the underbelly of Bangkok in pursuit of both a murderer and the sublime.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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

A very good story with life like characters.
Richard David Williams
Reasons for various characters' behaviors help one understand their choices, in a world steeped in corruption and poverty.
Kit van Cleave
The development of the story line seemed a little strained and the plot a tad less convincing than those of Bangkok 8.
Maja Danon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Chanya, the most profitable lady at the Old Man's Club, is holed up with an opium pipe, her blood-soaked clothes decorating the stairs to her room. A couple of streets away lies is the mutilated corpse of a farang (foreigner) and a single rose in a plastic mug of water. The Thai Royal Police Colonel Vikorn dictates Chanya's statement, phrasing it in such a way as to cover all possibilities when blame is cast. Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep artfully transcribes Vikorn's report, because that is how things are done here in District 8. Unfortunately, the mutilated corpse is CIA and the victim's ID carries inherent problems. The murder could be blamed on Al Qaeda, but how do you justify a terrorist/castration murder?

In Bangkok, where pragmatism rules the day, the Colonel is also a gangster and the police often supplement their salaries by working in brothels. Such is Sonchai's case, policeman by day, dedicated papasan by night. Sonchai is following the path of the Buddha, but constantly challenged by Vikorn's manner of doing business. A Muslim shows up at the club where Sonchai is overseeing the girls as they attach themselves to customers. Disdainful, the Muslim, Mustafa, unfolds a picture of the dead man, then leaves his card. Mustafa's father is an imam, who welcomes the detective, explaining that his network has been tracking the CIA agent. Now the imam is worried about being blamed for the murder, a convenient answer to everyone's problems.

What is so fascinating about this novel is the total immersion in Thai culture, from Buddhist practices to ancient rituals, alongside the very practical approach to the vagaries of human sexuality.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By C. Middleton on June 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In John Burdett's first novel, Bangkok 8, he introduces his protagonist, Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep of The Royal Thai Police District 8, a Buddhist with a strange sense of humour when it comes to "farang", the white westerner, and an uncanny ability to see peoples past lives when he first meets them, and a sixth sense, usually dreaming about the case in question, communicated through his dead partner. Sonchai is certainly a bizarre character, a part time pimp for his ex prostitute mother, working their highly successful brothel in the seamy red light district of Bangkok, "The Old Man's Club", and partners in the business with his boss, Colonel Vikorn, the cunning Thai gangster and head of the city's police force. It's business as usual until one of their top working girls, Chayna, comes stumbling back into the club drenched in blood, to discover her "john" back at the hotel room, castrated and skinned. When questioned, the poor girl is stoned on opium, forcing Vikorn and Sonchai to write the confession for her, and quickly get her out of town, because the victim, unfortunately, is CIA.

Bangkok Tattoo is a very entertaining read because the cast of characters, prostitutes, pimps, transvestites, drug dealers, Japanese gangsters, Chinese diplomats, are all written extremely well and highly unusual, making the story out of the ordinary, down right strange at times, and enormously interesting.

Sonchai Jitpleecheep does not care much for "farang", using this word countless times throughout the narrative. (A bit too much) In a word, he believes all westerner's are schizophrenic, media drenched, materialistic, lacking any spirituality, puritanical and hypocritical, and exceedingly stupid.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By David B. Erickson on May 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Cynical" seems a wan description of the world of Sonchai Jitpleecheep. Many readers will have a hard time with Sonchai, who advocates prostitution as a worthwhile way for poor Thai girls to get rich quick, and who doesn't bother to conceal his utter contempt for post-911 America and Americans. If you hold your Western morality dearly, better skip this one.

On the other hand, if you're up for a stylish, sexy, rollicking good read with oodles and oodles of plot, dripping with exotica of every description, then welcome to Sonchai's world. Sonchai's mom, an ex-hooker turned clubowner, and the ever-inventive Colonel Vikorn (with his limo blasting "Ride of the Valkyries" through its sound system at all times) are characters who will make you laugh out loud--that is, when you're not squirming over the moral dilemmas they pose (and then leap past, with the greatest of ease). You may think you've read it all on the moral ambiguity front, but Burdett takes all those wised-up detective stories and raises the stakes to another level entirely. When you find yourself rooting for a young male cop to be successful in his sex-change operation, you'll know Burdett has gotten into your head. It's a great ride! Enjoy!
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Paul D. Cross on August 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like a lot of other reviewers, I read and loved Bangkok 8. What a great read. I was surprised to find- after I finished it, that it wasn't written by a Thai. Sonchai was a real person to me.

Now I read Bangkok Tattoo and I wonder what happened to Sonchai? What comes through is a Brit slamming the U.S. and the west in general through the voice of Sonchai.

What's the purpose of having the CIA being the fools in the story? The female boss of the CIA officers is a lesbian? Why's that? Why isn't MI6 the object of ridicule? Why is the word "farang" in every other sentence? I get it- I get it...it's a derogatory word for westerners, right?

I hope Burdett keeps writing in the series. I also hopes he lets Sonchai act like a Thai Buddhist and not like some political commentator on the Chris Matthews show.
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