Book Reviews

Bangkok 8

  • Author: John Burdett
  • Review by Stick
Book cover Bangkok 8 by John Burdett

Some authors tell a story. Some authors tell a good story. Some authors tell a good story and delved into the insight of the Thais' way of thinking. The final group of authors, and probably the best, tell a good story, explain what is happening with the locals, and perhaps most importantly of all, explain not just what is happening but WHY it is happening too. John Burdett is one of the few authors writing Bangkok novels that does this. Ever wondered why a corrupt Thai policeman would openly spend all of his money in Thailand rather than pump it into a Swiss bank account? You'll find the answer, and many other interesting things about Thailand in this novel.

The story is written in the first person with the main character a luk kreung (half Thai / half farang) from a relationship between a Thai prostitute and a customer who now finds himself as an honest cop in one of Bangkok's police districts. Boy oh boy, we're going for the really far fetched here! While there could well be such a copper out there, I have never seen nor heard of one. Thai coppers are a fairly homogenous group. And while this cop is luk kreung, he is not the biggest fan of Westerners and the West although he is honest to a fault, putting honesty ahead of honour and face.

The star follows the death of his partner and the unravelling of a peculiar case that is weird, even by Bangkok standards.

Needless to say, this book comes highly recommended and my favourite Bangkok novelist, Jake Needham, now has some real competition

What I liked: The author writes well, though his writing is not quite to my taste as say, Needham is. Purely subjective you must note! Great insight into the way the local police operate and such things as police funding.

What I didn't like: Any reference to ghosts in Thailand bores us silly and while it truly is a big thing for Thais, us farangs don't always warm to such stories. It is a running joke amongst expats about the way Thais are scared of ghosts and spirits.

Overall: Well worth reading and in my opinion one of the better Bangkok novels released in a while. My guess is that most people will enjoy it, but there will be a few who really do not like it because it is just that little bit different. Read the first chapter in the bookshop to see if it is for you. I'm looking forward to his next novel set here, though I didn't like it quite enough to buy one of his books set elsewhere, of which there are at least a couple.