A new book from John Burdett this week. Burdett is remembered for his previous Bangkok books, Bangkok 8, Bangkok Tattoo, Bangkok Haunts plus the Godfather of Kathmandu. Vulture Peak is his latest book (ISBN978-1-47210-517-2, Corsair, 2012) and is now available on the Bookazine shelves.
This book again features his Royal Thai Police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a ‘luk krueng’ son of a bar owner, who is a rather introspective detective with a transsexual assistant, married to an ex-prostitute who is now studying Sociology and her PhD thesis. His superior in the RTPF, called Vikorn, is a multi-millionaire, accumulated through graft and corruption. His main rival in the corruption stakes is an Army General called Zinna. While all that may sound a little far-fetched, people like this do exist in Thailand. Especially the latter.
The theme of Vulture Peak is the international trade in body parts for transplantation. Many impoverished people have realized that their kidney, for example, is worth real money. Detective Sonchai thinking of “…all the other Asian women and men who had tried to help their families by selling body parts after the tsunami. It’s a beautiful global world, so long as you keep your eyes shut.” A thought that can be applied to much in Thailand.
All the way through the book, Author Burdett adds a personal touch by addressing DFR, which is his acronym for Dear Farang Reader. A good way to hold the interest.
The book involves Buddhist spirituality, parapsychology, meditation and extreme introspection. It pays dividends to keep your mind open as you go through the book. Detective Sonchai wrestles with his own demons when confronted with human eyes, telling his boss that he can hear them speak. A delusion not accepted by his boss, but very ‘real’ to Sinchai.
Sonchai is joined in the search for the body parts syndicate by a detective from Hong Kong who is a certified crazy with bipolar problems, looking to become a martyr. The third policeman comes from China, making this body parts smugglers truly international. The Hong Kong policeman has a rather telling opinion of our local RTPF saying, “We study Thai police as an example of how not to do things.”
England comes in for its fair share of derision as the HK policeman appraised Detective Sonchai of Britain’s part in the smuggling of opium, before smuggling in body parts became fashionable, possible and very lucrative.
All the way through the book there is the common thread of adultery both with Sonchai and his wife Chanya. Both wondering if the other has been faithful, which they discuss honestly at the very end of the book, Sonchai having heard of a junior policeman and Chanya having heard of a Phuket bar girl.
The denouement happens at great speed, and leaves the reader somewhat gasping to take in so much at one time. This book can readily be considered as a thriller in the true meaning of the word.
At B. 385 a very cheap read. The book will keep your attention for a weekend. Just don’t be squeamish, there’s quite a few corpses between the covers.