John Burdett on Vulture Peak
The inimitable hero of Vulture Peak is Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep. He’s not your everyday police detective. In his own words, here’s how he came to be where he is today.
Call me Sonchai, you probably won't be able to pronounce the rest of my name (Jitpleecheep), farang (Westerners) never can. You won't find me in any official histories of the Vietnam War (we just call it The War over here), but it produced me and quite a few thousand like me. They tell me that in those days a drafted man was entitled to about one week's R&R during his tour of one year. Add in flight time from Saigon to Bangkok, and you're left with a window of about five days for Dad (whoever you are, wherever you are) to impregnate a bargirl called Nong and disappear again forever. Mum tells me it was real love, even if she did make Dad pay for it. She's very tough. I imagine when she realised he wasn't going to show up to cop the full bill of child support, she just shrugged and got on with the business of survival, at which she proved to be a kind of genius. She owns her own bar now, where I moonlight; my daytime job is detective in the Royal Thai Police Force, under the world-famous Police Colonel Vikorn. He's the one loaned mum the money to start her bar called The Old Man's Club. Sure, I went through that rebellious streak that illegitimate half-casts are famous for (stole cars and smoked dope during my wild days, before mum took me in hand and made me ordain as a monk for a year in a strict forest monastery in the far north), but I'm very well adjusted now. I live with my wife Chanya, who used to work at The Old Man's Club, and I get my dope from the cops, so I don't need to break the law--ha, ha.
Farang, I am yours in dharma,
Burdett’s fifth Sonchai Jitplecheep novel finds the Bangkok police detective hip-deep in the world of illegal organ harvesting. Naturally, corruption drives the organ trade, as Sonchai’s bent boss, Colonel Vikorn, now running for governor, seeks to turn the tables on his archrival in the underworld, General Zinna, who has a corner on the organ-trafficking business. The trail leads to a set of beautiful but nutso Chinese twins, who operate a fully staffed hospital for “extracting” body parts. As Sonchai runs an elaborate sting operation aimed at snaring both the twins and Zinna, he finds himself facing a vision of evil beyond comprehension, a future in which humanity descends to “a state of functional barbarism in which we are all eating each other.” And, on top of all that, Sonchai’s wife may be having an affair. As always, Burdett manages his multilevel plot with great dexterity, and, with Sonchai as our guide, he explores the lower depths of depravity with a bravura mix of horror and black humor. This series is not to be missed by anyone unafraid of crime fiction’s edgiest neighborhoods. --Bill Ott