four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
58-May-June-2012
By: 
John Burdett
user_rating: 
0

737147.pngIn John Burdett’s Vulture Peak, Buddhist detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep returns for the fifth time, thrust into a case that takes him across borders and brings him face to face with the scourge of black-market organ sales. Recently reviewed: The Godfather of Kathmandu (3.5 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2010).

The Story: In an exclusive enclave of Phuket, Thailand, known as Vulture Peak, three bodies are found stripped of their useful parts. At the behest of his supervisor Vikorn, a ruthless, politically ambitious colonel in the Royal Thai Police, Bangkok detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep takes the case. Traveling to Dubai, Monte Carlo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong to crack the widening organs-for-profit ring, his efforts are thwarted and his life endangered by the usual panoply (in author John Burdett’s world) of eccentric (read: sociopathic) characters, including ravishing, sadistic identical twin sisters from China who play Russian roulette and keep their own collection of body parts.
Knopf. 304 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9780307272676

NY Journal of Books 4 of 5 Stars
"For the virgin John Burdett reader, discovering the characters that populate his Bangkok is an unrivaled pleasure. … Vulture Peak is a modern morality tale with all the requisite bells and whistles and much more: a salutary warning for the Internet age." A. J. Kirby

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"John Burdett’s hallucinatory novels set in Thailand tend to open on surpassingly gruesome crime scenes. … Though not for the faint of heart, the ‘surreal, exotic, rich’—and quite crazy—world Sonchai inhabits is a classic head trip." Marilyn Stasio

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Vulture Peak upholds the high standards set by its predecessors. Readers who know the first four novels will be delighted to have a fifth, and others coming to Burdett’s Bangkok for the first time will quickly find themselves in a place that may seem mysteriously alien but positively teems with humanity." Jonathan Yardley

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Even when the Sonchai novels flag—this one isn’t quite up to Bangkok 8 or Bangkok Haunts—the reader can depend on Mr. Burdett for color, atmosphere and provocative political insight. … Sonchai’s latest adventure is fine entertainment, with bite, from an author at home in many different worlds." Carlo Wolff

New Jersey Star-Ledger 3.5 of 5 Stars
"As he tells this intricate and surprisingly engaging story, [Jitpleecheep] tosses in riffs about prostitution, the pervasive corruption among political, military and law enforcement personnel, drugs, capitalism and tourists. (Worthy observations, but they delay the unraveling of the mystery)." Kathleen Daley

Critical Summary

Readers familiar with John Burdett’s detective know that Sonchai Jitpleecheep’s world is a messy stew of violence, cynicism, and karma seasoned with a dose of well-intentioned morality. For five installments, the Bangkok books have made for hearty fare. On one level, the novels are straightforward crime stories; on another, their popularity stems from the convoluted social code that Jitpleecheep navigates in order to survive. The author revels in keeping readers on their toes, and he’s never failed to create villains even Ian Fleming would envy. Burdett’s a narrative risk taker with a worldview 10 degrees skewed from the norm—and that makes all the difference.

First in the Series

738921.pngBangkok 8 (2003): The incorruptible Detective Jitpleecheep, son of a Thai prostitute and a long-gone American G.I., sets out to avenge his partner and Buddhist soul mate’s death. ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2003)