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Bangkok 8: A Royal Thai Detective Novel (1) [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

John Burdett
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (217 customer reviews)

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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Book Description

June 3, 2003
Electrifying, darkly comic, razor-edged—a thriller unlike any other.

Under a Bangkok bridge, inside a bolted-shut Mercedes: a murder by snake—a charismatic African American Marine sergeant killed by a methamphetamine-stoked python and a swarm of stoned cobras.

Two cops—the only two in the city not on the take—arrive too late. Minutes later, only one is alive: Sonchai Jitpleecheep—a devout Buddhist, equally versed in the sacred and the profane—son of a long-gone Vietnam War G.I. and a Thai bar girl whose subsequent international clientele contributed richly to Sonchai’s sophistication.

Now, his partner dead, Sonchai is doubly compelled to find the murderer, to maneuver through the world he knows all to well—illicit drugs, prostitution, infinite corruption—and into a realm he has never before encountered: the moneyed underbelly of the city, where desire rules and the human body is no less custom-designable than a raw hunk of jade. And where Sonchai tracks the killer—and a predator of an even more sinister variety.

Thick with the authentic—and hallucinogenic—atmosphere of Bangkok, crowded with astonishing characters, uniquely smart and skeptical, literary and wildly readable, Bangkok 8 is one of a kind.

Editorial Reviews Review

When a U.S. Marine is killed in Bangkok, the task of finding the murderer falls to Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, seemingly the only member of the Royal Thai Police Force whose idea of justice precludes his fellow officers' customary system of bribery. This assignment's especially important to the devout detective for during the investigation of the murder scene, the methamphetamine-stoked snakes that bit the marine also kill Sonchai's police partner, best friend, and Buddhist soul-mate Pichai. Sonchai's pursuit of revenge will team him with a sexually frustrated FBI agent and leave them at the mercy of yaa-baa-fueled motorcycle-taxi drivers as they hurtle through neon-lit Bangkok and into the labyrinthine and deadly machinations of the international jade and drug trades in search of the killer.

As Sonchai himself notes at one point, "This isn't a whodunit, is it?" And, no, it isn't, but author John Burdett (A Personal History of Thirst, The Last Six Million Seconds) infuses the plot with enough suspense, detail, and dry Asian insight to keep readers rapt as the story careens about the bars and brothels of Thailand's flesh trade, through its cut-rate plastic surgery parlors, and ends in a climax with a fittingly Buddhist twist. Bangkok 8 is highly recommended for readers in the mood for Thai. --Benjamin Reese

From Publishers Weekly

Part mystery, part thriller and part exploration of Thai attitudes toward sex, this accomplished first novel by Burdett (A Personal History of Thirst; The Last Six Million Seconds) delivers both entertainment and depth. The narrator, a Buddhist cop named Sonchai Jitplecheep, finds himself plunged into a dangerous investigation of the deaths by snakebite of his partner Pichai Apiradee and U.S. Embassy Sgt. William Bradley. Sonchai is an unusual character on several levels, from the mysteries of his violent past to his conversations with the ghost of Pichai. His ambiguous feelings toward Kimberley Jones, an American FBI agent brought in to work the case, reflect his upbringing as the child of a Thai mother and an unknown American father. Above all else, however, Sonchai's Buddhism permeates the text. An encounter with an embassy official, for example, leads to this unexpected reverie: "[She] is blithely unaware that she once accompanied me across a courtyard of startlingly similar dimensions, thousands of years ago." As Sonchai's investigation brings him closer to Bradley's companion, a woman known as Fatima, and the rich American jade dealer Sylvester Warren, his quest for revenge becomes muddied by the strangeness of his discoveries. The mix of detective work, Bangkok street life, the Thai sex trade and drug smuggling forms a powerful melange of images and insight. Despite an anti-climactic last chapter, the novel's structure is solid. Sonchai's fatalism, wry humor and dogged determination-his ability to be both vulnerable and strong-make him one of the more memorable characters in recent novel-length fiction. Readers expecting a traditional mystery structure would be advised to look elsewhere, but those who want something new will find Burdett's novel an intriguing, fresh take on noir.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (June 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400040442
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400040445
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (217 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #623,500 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
57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Common Thriller in Uncommon Setting July 14, 2005
A Thai detective and his partner in Bangkok are assigned to follow around an American marine sergeant for reasons unknown to them. They lose him in traffic, then catch up to him in time to see him being devoured by a python which somehow made it into his car. His partner runs to help, and in turn is attacked by a dozen or so cobras, which, needless to say, kill him. Don't worry, no plot giveaways here, all of this happens in the first chapter.

This kind of thing is pretty typical of the thriller genre. Start off with a bizarre, grisly murder, then sit back and watch as the smart-aleck/wise-cracking/clever/anti-establishment/unscrupulous/alcoholic (take your pick) detective unravels the diabolical murder and reveals corruption at the highest levels of society/government/police/CIA/FBI/business/clergy (take your pick). Terrible and unusual things happen along the way, the hero detective is almost killed a few times, a sexy agent he is ambivalent about is assigned to help him, and the ending is shocking, just shocking.

That's how it usually works and that's how it works here, but the novel rises a little bit above the genre due to its locale, which is Bangkok, and the author's thorough knowledge of it. The plot is sprinkled liberally with discussions about the differences between the east and west and Buddhism and Christianity. It's pretty interesting, occasionally humorous, and only rarely condescending, unlike a lot of other novels with subject matter of this type, which gleefully and spitefully describe how pathetic and meaningless our empty little lives are here in the west.

The scene description is excellent. We get the full load of Bangkok and its denizens and the way they live. It all rings true.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far more than a thriller November 1, 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The thing I enjoyed most about this unusual novel is that it works on multiple levels, certainly as a thriller, but also as a modern morality tale and, more subtly, as a spoof of American noir detective stories a la Dashiel Hammet and Raymond Chandler. The hero is a Thai policeman who is, not incidentally, a devout Buddhist and who finds himself in the thick of a tangled plot by a debauched American mogul who is hung up on jade and a lethal --at least for the women involved --sexual fetish.

While the overall subject matter of the plot is most definitely not funny, John Burdett somehow manages to weave some very comic asides and angles into the plot, most of them revolving around the cultural and religious differences between the Thai police hero and several American FBI agents. The agents, as one might expect, are so very Western in their thinking that half of the time they haven't a clue as to what the Thais are saying to them outright, let alone the motivations of the Thai characters.

Yet the Thai characters are not portrayed simplistically as superior to the Westerners. Indeed, some of them -- notably the mother of the policeman hero -- are quite decadent, although practically so. Burnett seems to want us to understand that the mother comes from a place, both geographically and intellectually, which requires certain utilitarian attitudes if one is to survive. She accepts that reality and works within it, rather than gnash her teeth over things she cannot change, as the Western characters are wont to do. This holds true for her detective son as well, a meditator and serious believer who nevertheless manages to avoid throwing up his hands and surrendering to fatalism.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surreal, Magical, Gritty November 13, 2003
Great Surreal, yet gritty Portrait of Bangkok, a "why'd-they-do-it", magical, Spicey, with a fresh, funky ending. Does not follow dogmatic, petrified-wood thriller formula.
Ignore the folks complaining this is anti-American or whatever....I think most people can tell by the book title that it's about Bangkok. If you want a really, really patriotic American story....I don't know, maybe look for a book that doesn't have Bangkok in the title.
You have 2 childhood friends, Sonchai and Pinchai, troublemakers sent to the Bhuddist Monastery for a year by their prostitute mothers, then placed on the police force. They are so spiritual, devout, they could ascend to heaven now, but resist to pay for their sins. Being in the monastery apparently rewired their delinquent brains, as they seem to be more sensitive to the environment, people, and possibly, the nonvisible universe.
Yet, for all his straining for spiritual ideals, he is accidentally always around westerners, drawn to top-of-the-line clothing and perfumes. He has a yearning for connection to his mysterious caucasian father, and that the only males to spend quality time with him were westerners.
They are sent to tail a US Marine, only to find him murdered in a freaky revenge killing, and our lead's pal is accidentally killed. For all his buddist values, he vows deadly revenge.
There's a lot of atmosphere building, lots of background which is fascinating, especially the lifestyle and treatment of prostitutes, and their children, especially the half-asian ones.
He and the FBI team to work on this case, only it starts to get sticky politically, starts reaching far up the American foodchain. He is paired up with some americans but eventually ends up with MS.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
I just finished Bangkok 8 by John Burdett, the first in a series of novels about a Buddhist detective in Bangkok, and I’m hooked. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Gino Cox
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good characters.
Very enjoyable, entertaining and enlightening.
Very good characters.
Published 7 days ago by Peter Grindley
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
just so so for me
Published 27 days ago by Quiller
5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpectedly delightful read
I'm not a fan of police procedurals, I don't tend to read thrillers or murder mysteries much anymore, and I'm not necessarily fascinated by southeastern Asia. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Editing_Gal
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me
I ordered this book on the recommendation of a friend and gave up halfway through. I learned some interesting things about Thailand, and enjoyed the reflections on East/West... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Bookworm
3.0 out of 5 stars Some interesting writing, but badly paced and fizzles out long before...
A thriller by name, but far too fragmented to hold together as such. There is some very good, entertaining writing in the first half of the novel, with excellent conflict between... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Andy Smailes
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, not great, but not bad-need better authors in this genre
Okay stuff, not the best written book in the world but there are much worse out there-especially in this genre. Worth a few bucks.
Published 4 months ago by johnac1981
4.0 out of 5 stars Sort of Buddhist Detective
This is a fun light read. I policeman trying to be a cop and a Buddhist at the same time. Entertaining but not great literature.
Published 4 months ago by Mary Aldridge Dean
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining read
A friend suggested I read this as an avid lover of Thailand. Glad I did. A captivating story with no rubbishy romance. Read more
Published 5 months ago by kimbo
5.0 out of 5 stars Exotic Mystery, Luminous and Masterful
Bangkok 8 and this entire series are more than just good. Burdett sets the bar way high and does chin-ups on it. Highly recommend.
-Gary Tigerman
Published 5 months ago by Gary Tigerman
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