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Serpentine Paperback – February 17, 2000

4.7 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

"A book of remarkable sweep with a plausible underlying theme: coincidence, if traced back far enough, becomes something like destiny" is how LJ's reviewer adroitly summed up this book. The story follows Charles Sobhraj, a charismatic criminal who lured many unsuspecting victims to their deaths throughout Asia. This minutely detailed work remains "a true crime tale of epic proportions" (LJ 10/15/79).
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"* 'Right up there with Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, the greatest true-crime book ever written.' - Amazon customer review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf (February 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786707496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786707492
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #546,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By BeatleBangs1964 VINE VOICE on September 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
Charles Sobraj was clearly a gifted man. Fluent in several languages and able to navigate his way throughout Europe and Asia, he remained an enigmatic figure and certainly one of the most interesting. He has been regarded as the worst serial killer in Asian history.
Sobraj was an out of wedlock child born to a young Vietnamese mother and Indian father. Rejected by his natural father and only minimally accepted by his natural mother, Charles showed problems at a very early age. A sleep wetter until his early teens, Charles showed a calculated, vicious side almost from an infant. He would cut his mother's dresses to shreds so she could not go out at night; he learned early to fend for himself with a group of street children; he had no respect for authority figures and used foul language. When Sobraj's mother remarries, she takes Charles' younger sister (they were full siblings) and leaves Charles with his reluctant father. Sobraj, Sr., now remarried and well stocked with mistresses has provided Charles with a passel of Indian and Indio-Asian half siblings. His stepmother has no use for him, so once again Charles is turned out and left to fend for himself on the mean streets of the city.
Charles' mother and stepfather return to claim Charles and it takes them all but an act of congress to get the boy to leave for France with them. Feeling displaced, Charles is left to try to sort out his sibling relationships. As the oldest of his French half-siblings, he exudes an aura of mystery and the younger children adore him. He would, years later, repay their adoration by stealing from them and in one memorable instance, framing a younger brother for a crime that he, Charles had committed.
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Format: Paperback
I'm not a big fan of the "true crime" genre. I did love Vincent Bugliosi's Helter Skelter, but don't care for Ann Rule's books or their ilk. Serpentine is an exception. Like other reviewers here, I came across this book about 20 years ago and I still have vivid recollections of it. Sobhraj is a kind of Ted Bundy with a bit more style and class. Thompson does a fine job in conveying Sobhraj's seductive qualities. He also is adept in his description of settings. Sobhraj may be thought of as the only jet-setter mass-murderer. I didn't realize until reading over these reviews that he had been released from prison already. That really is diconcerting, for he is about as amoral as Hannibal Lecter. I can't believe he was allowed back into society. I would recommend this book to those who like true crime stories and to those who just like an engaging, easy read. The book moves along at great pace. If you bring it along on a vacation to Sri Lanka or Thailand or Paris, etc., you may want to keep an eye out for Sobhraj. I wouldn't get too chummy if I were you.
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"Even as the Air France jet travels towards the Istanbul terminal, Andrea Darreau saw his half brother through the window. There was no mistaking Charles, dressed as he was in the sleekest navy blazer, a celebrity's dark glass; he looked like a Greek tycoon."

This book captured me. It actually got under my skin allowing me to do or think nothing else but Serpentine. The character Charles Sobhraj is a man who comes up in a world that does not welcome him. As a child he remains unloved and unwanted, due to his illigetimacy, and his mother Song's marriage to another man. Charles' paternal father on the other hand wants nothing to do with him and marries again starting a new family. Poor Charles refuses to accept his father's dismissal, and keeps forever after him, baggering him, pleading his attention and love, all to no avail. His mother Song on the other hand is more concerned with her new life, and could not care less.
Without any support coming from either of his parents Charles embarks on a life on his own, educating himself, and familiarizing himself with crime and how it works. He starts out with small crimes and then everything swells out in enormous proportions to the point where he is hiring staff to work with him. He gets incarcerated more times than he can count, as his criminal activity reaches across two continents; parts of Turkey, Iran, Paris, Delhi, Pakistan, and all the way to Hong Kong. Words cannot sufficiently describe the dangerous man Charles has become, but with his good looks, fine clothes, quick charisma and easy manner bit by bit, strangers who do not know him trust him and are lured into his web of dark murky waters.
This is a true story and one can learn a lot from it, in protection oneself when traveling alone and otherwise.
I highly recommended this work of non-fiction.
Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar ( SUGAR-CANE 08/05/07)
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Format: Paperback
I read this book about 25 years ago and have never forgotten it. As others have described, I could hardly put the book down or believe how this man escaped capture and punishment for so long. I just finished watching a National Geographic special entitled "The Serpent" and discovered that it was about this same man. An Update to the story of Charles Sobrahj, after being jailed in India long enough to escape extradition on murder charges (In Nepal I think) due to the statute of limitations , (He escaped once and got an extention of 10 years on his original 7 year sentence to prevent extradition before the statute ran out in Nepal) he was released and eventually slipped back into the country where he was being sought for the murders of a Dutch couple (Thailand?). He was spotted, arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2004. His former partner in crime, Marie LeClerc died of cancer while he was in jail in India) As wily as this man has been his entire life, I doubt that this will be the end of his torturous career. It is a cautionary tale, one that prompts anyone who reads it to exercise caution when traveling, particularly abroad.
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