I discovered John Burdett’s novels at a time when I was suffering from hard-boiled mystery burnout. I’d pick up a book, read a few pages and think ‘been there whodunthat.’ But here was a breath of fresh air in the form of a series unlike any I’d encountered. All set in lush, looney Bangkok and featuring Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a devout Buddhist cop with a witty, Zen-like approach to life and crime. A cop rooted in an inner life that breaks to the surface and shines in Thai style—conjuring emotions that defy understanding by us craven farangs.
How he manages to solve the ornate and insideously complex crime in, for example, the novel Bangkok 8 is beyond my ability to describe. How does one turn death by snake bites into a sound bite for the blogosphere? Besides, trying to do so is beside the point since “getting there is half the fun” in Burdett’s exotic world. Once inside, you discover getting out is nearly impossible.
Did I yearn to read a book about a Thai cop with a name worthy of Mark Twain? No way. But now like a tourist blitzed on Yaa baa, I’m hooked. Hell, you get used to the heat and the thumping beat of eros. You begin to relish the traffic jams and sweaty crowds jostling in the hooker bars. The jungle dreams that bring fever to the city. The danger that arrives unexpectedly in the form of a indecipherable smile or a bow.
But, trust me, it’s okay. Long as Sonchai is with you.
Man, what a trip.
Burdett’s latest is The Godfather of Kathmandu and you can order it here from Amazon.