: Bangkok 8: A Royal Thai Detective Novel (1) (): John Burdett: Books. A thriller with attitude to spare, Bangkok 8 is a sexy, razor-edged, often darkly hilarious novel set in one of the world’s most exotic cities. A thriller with attitude to spare, Bangkok 8 is a sexy, razor-edged, often darkly hilarious novel set in one of the world’s most exotic cities. Witnessed by a throng of.

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BANGKOK 8 by John Burdett | Kirkus Reviews

There is an author’s note at the start of John Burdett’s first novel, the much-lauded Bangkok 8, which introduced us to his hard-living Buddhist detective, Sonchai Jitpleecheep.

In the note, Burdett explains that “Bangkok is one of the world’s great cities, all of which own red-light districts that find their way into the pages of novels bangok time to time.

The sex industry in Thailand is smaller per capita than in Taiwan, the Philippines or the United States.

That it is more famous is probably because Thais are less bangklk about it. Bar-girls, brothels and sex are very much a part of both that first book and the new one, Bangkok Tattoo, not least because Sonchai’s own mother, Nong, was a bar-girl and our hero is the result of a brief union with one of her American clients. Bangkok 8 contains a number of defences of the bar-girl life, concluding with this from Nong: In the sex trade we see a true redistribution of global wealth from west to east.


That’s what’s got them so hung up.

Stating the obvious

The issue of banhkok bar-girl in Thai literature” cropped up at a dinner party in Bangkok earlier this budett. When, asked our hostess, is someone going to write about Thailand without having a bar-girl in the story? She was referring, of course, to Thailand as seen through western eyes. Certainly the bar-girl is now a very familiar figure in the English language paperbacks for sale at Phuket and Bangkok airports, and Burdett, an English former lawyer who now lives in the Far East, has returned to the theme in his new book.


Once again, there is an author’s note about the sex industry, informing us that “most visitors to the kingdom enjoy wonderful vacations without coming across any evidence of sleaze at all”, presumably just as most visitors to Britain enjoy wonderful vacations here without coming across any evidence of rain at all. Visitors to Bangkok Tattoo only have to wait until the second paragraph to come across a bar-girl and a murder scene. Burdetf page 25, readers are being disabused by Sonchai of any preconceptions they might have on the subject.

Abngkok are all country girls, tough as water buffalo, wild as swans, who can’t believe how much they can make by providing to polite, benevolent, guilt-ridden, rich, condom-conscious farangs exactly the same service they would otherwise have to provide free without protection to rough drunken whoremongering husbands in their home villages. As it happens, in the May issue of Prospect magazine, another ex-pat Englishman, journalist Alex Renton, who has lived in Bangkok for the last four years, addresses the subject of the Thai sex trade.


Renton suggests that the burdeyt generates two sets of fantasies: I find the only aspect that can get me really heated There are, however, other issues of much greater current concern to the Thai government than western attitudes to the sex trade. Down in the deep south, just across the border from Malaysia, there has been, for the past 15 months, a simmering revolt by Muslim militants against the government, a rebellion which has led to more than deaths and sent ripples through the region.

In Bangkok Tattoo, Burdett uses the mood behind this uprising and the attendant paranoias of the post-September 11 world to drive his plot. It is here that the book works best.

So when Sonchai returns, as he doubtless will in a third book, perhaps he can do so without an author’s pre-emptive note and without feeling the need to deliver lectures on the sex trade which slow burdeht the plot for those readers in the west who may or may not be suffering from post-industrial despair. In the meantime, anyone seeking another English language perspective on Thailand can turn to Rattawut Lapcharoensap, the young Johj writer whose collection of short stories, Sightseeing, has just been published to justified acclaim.

He proves Burdett’s thesis that Thais are, indeed, less coy than most of us.