The bad guys in John Burdett's mysteries are relatively easy to
spot - despite
many a twist and turn, the reader will probably identify the culprit before Sonchai
does, but the mystery is not the reason you'd want to be reading Bangkok 8
Bangkok Tattoo anyway. The reason to read them is to encounter a
whole new culture and an entirely different way of thinking - a culture so
different to what most of us know that it might as well be a parallel universe -
a place where things run smoothly because of, not despite of, the corruption;
and old-timers look back on the Vietnam War as the good old days.
The strength of the series comes not only from the setting but Burdett's chief protagonist - Sonchai, probably the only policeman in town who doesn't take bribes, is a Buddhist whose investigative methods include dream messages from a former (now dead) partner and glimpses into his suspects' lives. To understand Sonchai and the country he works in we have to recalibrate our moral compass and put away our Westernized belief that we can to a greater or lesser extent control fate and instead accept the more philosophical Buddhist outlook - a religion that brings new meaning to the expression "better luck next time".
Although the two Bangkok books having everything you might expect in a thriller they are not classic "page-turners" and should not be rushed. In the words of Jonathan Yardley writing for the Washington Post, "John Burdett is purely and simply a wonderful writer, a genuine grown-up at work in a genre mostly populated by arrested adolescents."
This review is from the August 2, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.
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