Bangkok 8, by John Burdett

4 stars 4/5

Discovering Bangkok 8 is the perfect example of why I love blogging. Without Nomadreader’s recommendation I wouldn’t have come across this book which really was the perfect holiday read for my Thailand trip.

Corgi, 2004 paperback edition, 432 pages - personal library

Bangkok 8 is a detective novel with a whole different flavor, thanks to the unique outlook and philosophy of it’s main character. Half Thai, half farang, and the son of an upwardly-mobile prostitute, Detective Jitpleecheep is the quirkiest detective I’ve come across before. If I were to try to describe his sometimes contradictory and spiritual mentality it would sound almost comedic, and yet Bangkok 8 is a very dark novel with a deeply sincere protagonist.

The detective gets in embroiled in a case involving a well connected American jeweler, an imposing black marine-turned jade carver, a stunning mixed-race femme fatale and a bunch of gun-toting Khmers. He becomes involved when his partner is killed as a by-product of what looks like a revenge-killing. Sound far-fetched? Well Burdett makes believable and pieces the story together in a way that is compelling and entertaining.

My favorite thing about Bangkok 8 is the way that Burdett personifies the city so that it feels like a living, breathing entity. I was impressed at how the atmosphere of Krung Thep (Bangkok) is captured and enjoyed the little details about the city’s development. The Bangkok described, was recognisable to me, but I also started to notice things that I hadn’t before as I looked at this extraordinary metropolis with a different perspective. I wouldn’t want to assume everything Burdett writes is a perfect representation of the city or of the Thai way of life but he certainly seems to have something of a love-affair with Bangkok which is demonstrated through the intimate details he describes.

Bangkok 8 is a smart thriller, which explores complex ideas about the sex industry and Thai society without getting too heavy. A great escape from normality, with an oddly charming central character. I’ll leave you with this snippet where Detective Jitleecheep ponders what it means to face death to give you a taste of his unique philosophy:

“We do not look on death the way you do, farang. My closest colleagues grasp my arm and one or two embrace me. No-one says sorry. Would you be sorry about a sunset? No-one doubts that I have sworn to avenge Pichai’s death. There are limits to Buddhism when honour is at stake.”

8 responses to “Bangkok 8, by John Burdett

  1. Pingback: Sunny Snaps from Thailand | Novel Insights

  2. I hadn’t heard of this book until Sakura posted about finding a second hand copy recently. Now I have seen it mentioned twice in a few days!

    I like the sound of it being a “smart thriller” – I’ll look out for a copy 🙂

  3. I’ve actually been looking for a secondhand copy for years and only found it a few weeks ago after reading that you were taking it on holiday! Funny how things work. So I’m really looking forward to reading it, now that I know it’s really good:) (Plus when I was picking it up in Oxfam this random guy kept going on about how brilliant it was and how I had to buy it…)

  4. So glad you loved this one!

  5. This sounds brilliant, and you are so spot on – books like this highlight why blogging is so brilliant.

    I would like to read this, only I think a Detective with the surname Jitleecheep would make me giggle a bit. Its a really cute sounding surname, but one that rises a smile and less a serious detective reading face – for me personally.

    • Haha, I know and he’s definitely a quirky character. Quite intense though too so less comic and more odd!

  6. Pingback: May & June Review | Novel Insights

  7. Pingback: A love letter to Bangkok: Bangkok Eight and Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett « chasing bawa

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