The Godfather of Kathmandu
English | MP3 | 9 hrs | 326 Mb
The vivid portrait of 21st-century Thailand in part redeems the meandering plot of Burdett's fourth thriller to feature corrupt Bangkok police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep (after Bangkok Haunts). Jitpleecheep, a marijuana-smoking Buddhist whose marriage collapsed after his young son's death, investigates the peculiar murder of Frank Charles, a Hollywood director who regularly visited Thailand to sample the sexual delights offered by its young women. Someone disemboweled Charles, then cut his skull open and dined on his brains. Among the victim's books at the crime scene are The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. Too much musing on spiritual awakenings and Tibetan philosophy as well as commentary on mundane details of daily life distract from the search for Charles's killer and a related subplot involving the heroin-smuggling operation controlled by Jitpleecheep's boss, Colonel Vikorn.
Below the whimsical and irreverent surface of John Burdett's new novel lies the very lifelike real world of a Thai cop. We have met his protagonist, Sonchai, before and if you liked him in his last incarnations, you will love him in this one. We see Sonchai at street level, bereaved over the death of his son, whacked out on pot, and trying to get his boss, Colonel Vikorn, to make this last huge heroin shipment the last one so his spirit can find peace. Sonchai sees himself as his boss' consigliore, the counterpart to Hagen in the Godfather films. But where Don Corleone stopped short of dealing drugs on principle, Colonel Vikorn sees it as a competitive necessity. For womenfolk we have the usual slutty detritus of Soi Nana, to which Burdett adds Rosie, the Australian mule. We might as well add Sonchai's transsexual partner, Lek, to the female dramatis personae. This latest version of the Sonchai chronicles veers slightly off the path of the earlier versions with the addition of the Tibetian freedom-fighting, drug kingpin Tietsin.
Burdett's depiction of the seamy Thai underworld is spot on, as is his description of the street scene in Kathmandu. He has Norman Mailer's knack of understanding what's truly happening amidst the bustle of normal daily life, and he has Joseph Wambaugh's capacity to capture the humor amidst the violence. Some armchair Buddhists will find Burdett's irreverence grating, but the life of a cop in a freak show like Bangkok is not about achieving higher levels of understanding. It's about finding out who cut the fat Hollywood mogul's stomach open, leaving his guts spilling out over his hotel sheets. And you must be patient, Farang, to give the story time to unfold.