26 February 2008

John Burdett, Bangkok Eight, 2003

Serious novels about modern Bangkok are always worth discovering, and this becomes a must-read given the glowing quotes (Deaver, Ellroy, Hiaasen...) that line all four sides of its front and back covers. John Burdett has gone so far under the skin of the city – and into the Thai mindset – that the rather straightforward whodunnit of a US Marine killed in a car full of snakes ends up playing a definite second string to the Buddhist prerogatives that give this book a unique direction. It is particularly well researched from the bizarre opening murder scene to the strange karmic resolution, and Burdett’s writing throughout is genuinely grown-up, multi-faceted and often darkly comic with an almost science fictional sensibility. There’s also a distinct avoidance of the more predictable clichés when dealing with Bangkok’s sex industry which forms a large part of this story’s background, giving it a level of authenticity than one might not reasonably expect from a farang author. Excellent.  PY


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