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The Godfather of Kathmandu (Sonchai Jitpleecheep, Book 4) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 12, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
The vivid portrait of 21st-century Thailand in part redeems the meandering plot of Burdett's fourth thriller to feature corrupt Bangkok police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep (after Bangkok Haunts). Jitpleecheep, a marijuana-smoking Buddhist whose marriage collapsed after his young son's death, investigates the peculiar murder of Frank Charles, a Hollywood director who regularly visited Thailand to sample the sexual delights offered by its young women. Someone disemboweled Charles, then cut his skull open and dined on his brains. Among the victim's books at the crime scene are The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. Too much musing on spiritual awakenings and Tibetan philosophy as well as commentary on mundane details of daily life distract from the search for Charles's killer and a related subplot involving the heroin-smuggling operation controlled by Jitpleecheep's boss, Colonel Vikorn. Hopefully, Burdett will regain his usual narrative snap next time. (Oct.)
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“Pick up The Godfather of Kathmandu the day it hits the stands, and block out several hours to read it in one sitting. Once you start, you won’t get anything else done until you finish it . . . I pity any Mystery of the Month contender who has to go up against John Burdett; it is almost as if they should consider releasing their books in a different month . . . Burdett has both the chops and the history to be a strong contender every time he turns out a new book, and The Godfather of Kathmandu is no exception.”
—Bookpage (Mystery of the Month)
“Sonchai Jitlpleecheep has leapfrogged the field, vaulting from cult favorite to just possibly the most compelling crime-fiction hero in the genre. His fourth adventure, even more than its predecessors, is overstuffed with a dizzying array of multifaceted storylines, all of which exude both the moral ambiguity and the cognitive dissonance that have become this series’s hallmarks . . . Burdett juggles the various plots with great dexterity . . . A whirlwind of a novel.”
“A blissfully nutty caper that brings back fond memories of the late lamented Ross Thomas’s crazy-quilt crime fiction . . . Distinguishing crooks from good guys is only one of the pleasures [here] . . . Sonchai’s wry narrative voice (think: exotic Philip Marlowe) keeps us hooked.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
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Those not well versed in Buddhism may miss the profundity of the Tibetan monk's new version in which the Buddha only cares that we get to the far shore and does not care how. If the Noble Eightfold Path does not suit you, you can ignore it. And there is no point in going to the far shore unless you can come back. This seems to mean that after enlightenment one returns to the world, though not as a Bodhisattva. Nirvana as the ending of everything does not figure.
The monk teaches what seems to be an antinomiam version of Buddhism, one that is implicit in some of the teachings but usually glossed over. He sells drugs to help Tibet and tells the narrator that one must accept the world as it is, with all its evil and corruption, yet try to accomplish some benefit. This is also implicit in Buddhism which, though it has had millennarian movements, basically says solve your own suffering because it cannot be extirpated from existence. Whether the monk is rationalizing his own immorality or is right is left ambiguous.
This is a stay-up-all-night thriller but also some of the most profound reflections on Buddhist ideas that I have ever read. In the Zen tradition everything is questions and unpleasant truths must be faced. Truth is never easy with the Dharma (or Dhamma).
You should start with the first book, Bangkok 8
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he's also got some sense of humor (all his books or I'd not bother.) well written.