The Godfather of Kathmandu
A Royal Thai Detective Novel (4)
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Sonchai Jitpleecheep—John Burdett’s inimitable Royal Thai Police detective with the hard-bitten demeanor and the Buddhist soul—is summoned to the most shocking and intriguing crime scene of his career. Solving the murder could mean a promotion, but Sonchai, reeling from a personal tragedy, is more interested in Tietsin, an exiled Tibetan lama based in Kathmandu who has become his guru.
There are, however, obstacles in Sonchai’s path to nirvana. Police Colonel Vikorn has just named Sonchai his consigliere (he’s been studying The Godfather on DVD): to troubleshoot, babysit, defuse, procure, reconnoiter—do whatever needs to be done in Vikorn’s ongoing battle with Army General Zinna for control of Bangkok’s network of illegal enterprises. And though Tietsin is enlightened and (eerily) charismatic, he also has forty million dollars’ worth of heroin for sale. If Sonchai truly wants to be an initiate into Tietsin’s “apocalyptic Buddhism,” he has to pull off a deal that will bring Vikorn and Zinna to the same side of the table. Further complicating the challenge is Tara: a Tantric practitioner who captivates Sonchai with her remarkable otherworldly techniques.
Here is Sonchai put to the extreme test—as a cop, as a Buddhist, as an impossibly earthbound man—in John Burdett’s most wildly inventive, darkly comic, and wickedly entertaining novel yet.
From the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
© Publishers Weekly
Not as cohesive, a little scattered
While this latest Sonchai detective story was not as cohesive as the first three, and a little scattered in terms of its multiple storylines, it was still a satisfying whodunit. The dark humor of the series was just as plentiful as before, and there many chuckles to be had. Especially: Vikorn's ecological rationale for selling smack to Americans, how intuition reduces paperwork, comments on the British empire, and Sukun trying to be inconspicuous. It was also fun to see Sonchai bested spiritually by some Tibetans, although, when it comes to women, he is usually as capable as the three boys from the WoT series.
There were a couple of things that brought down my esteem of this latest mystery. One was the repetition of certain details that always crop up throughout the series: the mentioning of the special food stalls that open up when the girls get off work, the commentary of seeing all the abandoned building while riding the elevated tramway, the kid with the broken windshield wiper, "there was a ship in the way," Zegna/Givenchy/Baker-Benjes ensemble, reptilian incarnations trapping one in sexual jealousy, etc.
Also, annoying was the handling of exposition/recap of the previous books, such as Sonchai's explanation of his beliefs to Vikorn, Sonchai's incorruptible aspirations, "I surprised him with my total recall of the event", his "father" Traffaut, etc. I can understand needing some sort of perspective for a series, if you've picked up in the middle, but I've never understood why anyone would want to read only part of a series. Also, I like to re-read books, or read a web synopsis to refresh my memory. That's why I've never understood why it's in books. At least, the author is not recapping things from the actual novel that's being read, like Ken Follett likes to do. My co-worker tells me that I am abnormal, in reading books back-to-back, as frequently as I do, and other people need the refresher. So, I guess you can disregard this whole paragraph.
Anyhoo, if you like the series, then you will like this book. Sonchai is admittedly more of a consigliore than a detective, but he still likes to solve the crime, even if he can't do anything about it. When Sonchai admits this, it's a reminder of the underlying reason to read the series. Behind the wicked humor, and the dark mysteries from book to book, lies Sonchai's spiritual journey to become a good Buddhist.