The Godfather of Kathmandu by John Burdett
|The Godfather of Kathmandu by John Burdett|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: The fourth book in the Sonchai Jitpleecheep series is fresh, inventive and makes compelling reading. It's cult fiction. It's black comedy and it comes recommended by Bookbag.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: January 2010|
|Publisher: Bantam Press|
Sonchai Jitpleecheep is half farang the son of a brothel madam and an American GI, but it's the latter rather than the former which is likely to hold up his promotion in the Thai police force, where he's a detective. He's also the part owner of a brothel where his mother, Nong, is the madam in charge. It's no problem for his boss, Colonel Vikorn, who has a few illegal interests of his own. He's currently in competition with the head of the army, General Zinna, to see who can raise the finance for a forty million dollar shipment of heroin which Sonchai's Kathmandu-based guru has for sale.
So far, so normal it seems in this exploration of the differences between easterners and westerners in the seedier parts (well, I hope they are) of Bangkok. Burdett paints a picture of the corruption which is endemic at all levels of society and where drugs and prostitution are more than tolerated. Sonchai's wife and mother negotiate with Colonel Vikorn to obtain a considerable boost to his salary on the basis that he will act as Vikorn's consiglieri. Someone has been watching 'The Godfather'.
As if this wasn't enough to keep Sonchai off the streets, metaphorically speaking, he has to investigate the murder of a famous Hollywood film director whose body is found in a Bangkok flop-house, he suffers a personal tragedy, becomes involved with a guru – and a girl- in Kathmandu and his wife decides to become a nun.
It's excellent genre fiction with the investigation into the gruesome murder the constant thread which runs through the book. It's neat, it's clever and it's gory. The investigation will take you into the murky waters of Thai politics and commerce. It's ingenious.
It's Sonchai's work as a consiglieri which supplies the black comedy which runs through the book. He has to bring the warring heads of the army and the police force to the same side of the table if he's to secure the shipment of heroin from Kathmandu. You'll laugh, you might cry, you'll scowl and it might well affect whether or not you wish to visit Bangkok. Ever.
When I first saw this book with the picture of the young woman whose shoulder is adorned with a dragon tattoo I did wonder if it was an attempt to benefit from the success of another series, but rest assured – this is totally original. It's the fourth book in the series but it's completely fresh and there's no problem with reading it as a stand alone novel.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
For more crime set in South East Asia we can recommend anything by Colin Cotterill.
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