Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep of the Royal Thai Police returns in his riveting and smokily atmospheric new thriller.A farang–a foreigner–has been murdered, his body horribly mutilated, at the Bangkok brothel co-owned by Sonchai’s mother and his boss. The dead man was a CIA agent. To make matters worse, the apparent culprit is sweet-natured Chanya, the brothel’s top earner and a woman whom the devoutly Buddhist sleuth has loved for several lifetimes. How can Sonchai solve this crime without sending Chanya to prison? How can he engage in a cover-up without endangering his karma? And how will he ever get to the bottom of a case whose interested parties include American spooks, Muslim fundamentalists, and gangsters from three countries? As addictive as opium, as hot as Sriracha chili sauce, and bursting with surprises, Bangkok Tattoo will leave its mark on you.
In Burdett's brilliantly cynical mystery thriller, the follow-up to Bangkok 8 (2004), Royal Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep is called in by his supervisor, hard-bitten Captain Vikorn, to investigate the murder of a CIA operative, Mitch Turner, found disemboweled and mutilated. The prime suspect is a beautiful bar girl, Chanya, with whom Sonchai believes himself to be in love. When Turner's murder turns out to be far more complicated than originally thought, Sonchai must deal with his boss's rages and Chanya's gradually revealed secrets, along with CIA agents who have come to investigate the crime, a Thai army general with whom Vikorn has been feuding for years, Yakuza gangsters, Japanese tattooists, Muslim fundamentalists and more. Thoroughly familiar with Thailand, Burdett does an impressive job of depicting an often romanticized society from the inside out. His characters are unforgettable, his dialogue fast-paced and perfectly pitched, his numerous asides and observations generally as cutting as they are funny.
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What happened between ONE and TWO?
I'd forgotten how funny these books are. Just the rundown of the girls working for Sonchai and his mom is worth the price. And the great east/west comparison, talking about how murder is normal, but dissecting the act of, say, flaying, psychologically, as only being capable of coming from a Western mind. Morbid, dark, and hilarious.
The trouble with a sequel, especially a sequel to this book is maintaining great things from the first that people would then come to expect. So, the humor--check! I did hope there would be more revelations of self, but, so many of the characters were repeats, that you can't ask for everything.
I hope that these books don't misrepresent a slice of Thai culture, but I really enjoy how it is all presented. John Burdett again lays it all out without preamble, letting things simply transpire, and doesn't forcefeed you any leads, red herring or hooks. You are left to simply enjoy the story instead of putting down the book, thinking too hard, and going back to pages to hunt and peck for the most recent clue. To me a mystery novel is that--a novel to be read, and not a 300-page word search looking for the answers before the end. That's what a re-read is for.
It's easy, as an American, to accept the original reason behind the murder at the center of the book, but, towards the end, when it is revealed why the man was murdered , and the "matter-of-fact"ness of it, is something more tragic and petty than even the most paranoid FARANG mind can conjure.
When all is revealed, the importance of, not good evil, but balance and karma is again emphasized as in the first book, and the plot is satisfyingly concluded. My biggest criticism is that, someone, the voice of this novel wasn't the same fun-loving and spiritual tone as the first book. This one was more bitter, cynical, and critical of others, in comparison to Sonchai's former acceptance. His keen analysis turned more into judgments, and, while a good book in and of itself, will leave readers wondering what happened in between one and two.