Burdett, John - 'Bangkok Haunts'
Sonchai Jitpleecheep is a detective in Bangkok's district 8. His mother, an ex-prostitute, runs a hostess bar in the Thai red light district. Sonchai has an American father whom he has never met and he is married to the pregnant Chanya who was once a bar girl herself.
Sonchai receives a dvd showing the murder of an ex-girlfriend, Damrong, who also once worked for his mother's bar. This dvd is a "snuff" movie designed to provide large sums of money for its producers.
Drawn into investigating, Sonchai soon realizes that wealthy and corrupt but influential people are involved. He is aided by his assistant Lek who is a transsexual and a female American FBI agent who has hang-ups of her own, and not helped by his police superior Colonel Vikorn, who wants to use any knowledge of the murder for blackmail purposes and also wants to make a pornographic movie so that he can cash in!
Two westerners are involved, one the American ex-husband of Damrong, the other a sophisticated lawyer who keeps appearing. But who is the young monk who frequents an internet cafe and makes himself known to Sonchai?
More murders follow and the book becomes influenced heavily by the supernatural.
This is the third Sonchai novel by the author, who has evidently researched his subject well. The Thai character and religion comes across well as does the third world poverty that forms the background to the sex industry, the belief in reincarnation and the desire to be beyond reproach in this life which enables you to be reborn a person rather than an insect.
BANGKOK HAUNTS demonstrates the corruption that runs as a thread through all Thai society and describes some interesting sounding local dishes as well as some that don't sound appetizing to European tastes. This is an unusual series given the above background, so unlike the usual European crime novel, but nonetheless is fascinating and appealing in its own right, and will undoubtedly develop as the series continues. Will Sonchai ever meet his father, who promises a visit that never happens? Is it wise to name his unborn child after his murdered police partner? Very different and a good thrilling read.
Read another review of BANGKOK HAUNTS.
Geoff Jones, England