Burdett, John - 'Bangkok Haunts'
BANGKOK HAUNTS is the third in a series of thrillers set in Bangkok featuring half Thai, half American cop Sonchai Jitpleecheep. As the book opens, Sonchai is reeling after seeing a snuff movie where a former lover of his, Thai prostitute Damrong, is murdered. He is determined to investigate and find some justice for his former girlfriend, despite a distinct lack of enthusiasm from his superiors, including his boss, the corrupt Colonel Vikorn.
Aided by his FBI agent friend, Kimberley, his pre-op transsexual police partner Lek, and a Buddhist monk with obscure motives, Sonchai first speaks to the most obvious suspect, Damrong's American ex-husband, now living in Bangkok, and a British former client, posh lawyer Smith. He then travels through the Bangkok demi-monde, and through a hellish Phnom Penh and the Cambodian Jungle as he investigates, tormented by night-time visitations from Damrong, who continues to entice even after her demise.
BANGKOK HAUNTS gives an unusual exotic and erotic twist to the traditional noir novel. Sonchai, the one honest cop who doesn't take bribes, is forced to operate in a corrupt world with a boss whose priorities are money making rather than murder investigation, and where getting on the wrong side of a member of HighSo (the local oligarchy) can be literally lethal. Several of those who give him useful information in his investigation are subsequently murdered.
Characterisation in BANGKOK HAUNTS is fascinating; John Burdett gives an interesting insight into the culture clash between Eastern and Western values of spirituality and sexuality. The depiction of the victim, Damrong, is multi-faceted, the events of her past having a surprising influence on the crime and the ultimate outcome of the novel. The tight plotting and psychological intensity of the book are quite remarkable, given this is one of a series of novels. BANGKOK HAUNTS is a skilful sophisticated thriller which I would highly recommend for an unusual twist on the noir thriller.
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Laura Root, England