four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
30-Sept-Oct-2007
By: 
John Burdett
user_rating: 
0

A-Bangkok HauntsJohn Burdett introduced readers to Thai Buddhist police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep and Bangkok’s seedy red light district in Bangkok 8 ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2003) and Bangkok Tattoo ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Sept/Oct 2005). In the third of the series, Sonchai, now married to an ex-prostitute and soon to be a father, once again finds himself investigating an unsavory crime. This time, he must work with FBI agent Kimberley Jones to uncover the murder of one of his former lovers, a prostitute named Damrong who still haunts his dreams. In the process, he becomes embroiled with a Buddhist monk, an exclusive men’s club, and his scheming police captain. It’s all part of a Bangkok underworld where sex, Buddhism, moral ambiguity, and violence reign.
Knopf. 305 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0307263185

Oregonian 4.5 of 5 Stars
"The real treat here is the rare reading experience of a story told by a narrator who is orders of magnitude sharper and more human than not just those around him, but almost anyone who dares to read the book." Larry Brooks

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Bangkok Haunts, while celebrating an Asian sensuality at odds with some Western notions of morality, is an angry, purgative book. Its characters are scintillating; even more powerful is Burdett’s depiction of an economy with prostitution as a fundament." Carlo Wolff

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"It’s what the writer does with [clichés] that counts, and Mr. Burdett doles his out with a witty, idiosyncratic flair, indulging readers’ taste for the exotic, even as he lets them smile knowingly at others’ less-enlightened tastes. … My deepest affections are reserved for Vikorn, with his larcenous schemes and his smirks ‘of undiluted triumphalism,’ and Lek, the transsexual in process." Claudia La Rocco

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Burdett’s big finish this time features a deus-ex-machina rescue that’s less plausible than his ghostly visitations and their shrewd psycho-cultural underpinnings. What never falter are Sonchai’s captivating, sometimes teasing voice—he often addresses the reader as ‘farang’ (the Thai word for Westerner) and Burdett’s affectionate take on everything visiting farangs find fascinatingly upside down and backward in Thailand." Richard Lipez

Cleveland Plain Dealer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"As in his other Bangkok books, Burdett deploys Jitpleecheep to lecture readers on the West’s immorality and the joined sins of consumerism and capitalism. Scolding aside, Bangkok Haunts is a worthy entry in a series that invites readers to adjust their ideas of justice and sin." James F. Sweeney

Critical Summary

John Burdett, a British writer living in Asia, adds another intriguing mystery/noir novel to the genre with Bangkok Haunts. Like its two predecessors, the novel melds Eastern and Western culture while taking readers on a wild ride through Bangkok’s seamy underworld, where morality takes on shades of gray. "Imagine a Conrad novel transformed into a video game," notes the Boston Globe, replete with all of the successful clichés of the genre, including fast-paced action and heart-turning plots. Sonchai becomes deeper and more intelligent with each novel, as do Burdett’s portrayals of a city where ambiguity reigns. A less-than-convincing ending and some stock characters bothered a few critics, but overall, Bangkok Haunts is a compelling, worthwhile read.