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Vulture Peak (Sonchai Jitpleecheep) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 10, 2012

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Editorial Reviews Review

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.

Hi Farang,

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,

Sonchai Jitpleecheep

From Booklist

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

Product Details

  • Series: Sonchai Jitpleecheep (Book 5)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (January 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307272676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307272676
  • ASIN: 0307272672
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #593,568 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Peter G. Keen on January 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For me, John Burdett's Bangkok novels are a guilty pleasure comparable to being a chocoholic. Amazon reviewers of Vulture Peak seem to me to be very judicious in their assessments of the weaknesses and off-putting, over-the-top, bizarre, lubricious and ghoulish elements of the plot and style. But... Just one more caramel-loaded candy and I promise to stop.

So, while admitting the flaws, I review why you may want to try out Burdett if you are unfamiliar with his sagas. They are narrated by Sonchai, a young Buddhist cop in Bangkok with a mix of attitude, fatalism and cynicism as he navigates through a swamp of vice and sado-anything violence. He is the son of a good natured and respectable prostitute now turned bar/brothel owner and sort of married to an ex-prostitute who is finishing off her Phd thesis. His transgender deputy is awaiting the operation and his boss is a police chief who runs most of the drug trade and protection rackets in a rivalry with a General who has his own clandestine operations -- and troops.

In Vulture Peak, the emerging racket is kidnapping for body part transfers. The shady figures behind the business and the murders by disembowelment plus face removal that X is assigned to solve include twin sisters, ladies of a decidedly psychotic nature that would attract the admiration of Hannibal Lechter. There's a Shanghai cop who is bipolar to the nth degree of manic and a cagey Hong Kong cop plus Dorothy and Om and Manu, none of whom would be described as normal.

What makes the books work for me is that they never fall into campiness, caricature or cartoon exaggeration. They have a sense of realism, no matter how unreal the situation.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This series has a surreal setting and an intriguing detective. Sonchai Jitpleechee is honest and pure of heart, a Thai Buddhist on the Path. At the same time, he smokes dope when reality gets overwhelming, and he loves (but does not hire) prostitutes (his mother was one). His wife is an ex-prostitute turned academic. And his boss is thoroughly corrupt, a master criminal who makes use of Sonchai's drive to fight crime.

I read some earlier Sonchai mysteries, but drifted away from them recently. The author's graphic scenes and bitter ironies are not for the faint of heart, of which I may be one.

Vulture Peak is full of body parts. While the beautiful women and boys of Thailand are selling their bodies to tourists in every bar, a fabulous mansion on a hill overlooking Phuket becomes the scene of a gruesome triple-homicide involving missing body parts. Sonchai's boss, Colonel Vikam, puts him on the case - which quickly expands to an all-out campaign against international organ trafficking.

I liked the author's flashes of sympathy for the outré behavior of transvestites and their psychological struggles surrounding "the operation."

I liked the scenes involved cynical American consultants crafting a political campaign for Colonel Vikam, who is suddenly and inexplicably running for mayor of Bangkok.

And I have to admit John Burdett has a gift for creating bizarre characters: the sadistic twin female organ traders, the crazed ex-soldier with a missing face, the bipolar cop bent on martyrdom...

Burdett has invented his own unique mix of warped humor, brutal satire, manic plotting and unorthodox social and spiritual lessons. The roller coaster ride left me queasy. But hardcore fans of detective Sonchai know the drill, and should enjoy Vulture Peak.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert M. Baird VINE VOICE on January 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have read John Burdett's series set in Thailand and featuring a very different policeman, Sonchai Jitplecheep. He is half Thai, half GI. His mother is a former prostitute and bar owner, and he is supervised by a very corrupt Colonel, Vikorn. The last novel dealt with large scale drug traffic, and expanded the settings to Tibet and China. In addition to Timothy Halloran, I would recommend the similar books by Christopher Moore. Burdett strains the reader's credulity, with identical twin sociopathic but beautiful Chinese women who enjoy unusual uses for body parts and high stakes gambling. But, unlike some reviewers,I enjoyed the occasional digressions into a rather elevated discussion of the significance of prostitution in an economy which is funded by farang (foreign) middle aged men who engage in various sexual practices not approved in their home land. Sonchai is a devout Buddhist who struggles with his demons, but is a persistent and sympathetic observer. If you like mysteries with an exotic setting, this may be your cup of tea. It is not necessary to have read the prior books in the series but the last one, Godfather of Katmandu, gives a different slant on Tibet.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Angie Boyter VINE VOICE on December 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
International crime thrillers involving corruption at high levels are a staple of the fiction shelves.Many of them offer suspenseful plots and good entertainment, but how many leave you with a smile on your face and a good feeling about people? Vulture Peak was a pleasure on several counts.
A triple murder occurs in an opulent seaside mansion overlooking the Andaman Sea, the victims found cleanly shot in the head but minus all their transplantable body parts. It doesn't take much thinking for Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep to conclude that these murders are connected to his new assignment to close down an international operation trafficking in human organs, many of which appear not to have been provided voluntarily. Thus opens Vulture Peak. Before it closes, Sonchai, accompanied by beautiful but evil Chinese twins and armed with a black American Express card that opens doors to luxuries not normally part of a police detective's lifestyle, ventures as far as Dubai and Monte Carlo to get to the source of the criminal activity. Complicating matters is the fact that Sonchai's boss, Police Colonel Vikorn, who assigned him to the case, is a drug dealer himself. Vikorn is embarking on a political campaign to be elected governor of Bangkok. General Zinna of the Royal Thai Army, his longtime rival in organized crime, is apparently involved in the organ-trafficking, and, in addition to the blow to an enemy, it would certainly enhance Vikorn's political reputation to be perceived as the spearhead of an effort to rid Thailand of this heinous activity. Burdett delivers a tangled and satisfactory plot full of twists and betrayals that keep the reader guessing where it all is going to lead.
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