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Bangkok Haunts (Sonchai Jitpleecheep Series #3)

Bangkok Haunts (Sonchai Jitpleecheep Series #3)

4.2 27
by John Burdett

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Sonchai Jitpleecheep, the devout Buddhist Royal Thai Police detective who led us through the best sellers Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo, returns in this blistering novel.

Sonchai has seen virtually everything on his beat in Bangkok's District 8, but nothing like the snuff film he's just been sent anonymously. Furiously fast-paced and laced through


Sonchai Jitpleecheep, the devout Buddhist Royal Thai Police detective who led us through the best sellers Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo, returns in this blistering novel.

Sonchai has seen virtually everything on his beat in Bangkok's District 8, but nothing like the snuff film he's just been sent anonymously. Furiously fast-paced and laced through with an erotic ghost story that gives a new dark twist to the life of our hero, Bangkok Haunts more than lives up to the smart and darkly funny originality of its predecessors.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Richard Lipez
The famous Southeast Asian land of smiles and guiltless hedonism, as well as the most exquisite green curry on Earth, is truly enchanting for most of the 14 million-plus tourists who visit there each year. But too bad for the visitors who are unlucky enough -- or reckless enough -- to come in contact with the Thai criminal justice system. It is rotten to the core, as it's convincingly portrayed in a wonderful mystery series that is at once sprightly and densely layered, like the Thais themselves.
— The Washington Post
Marilyn Stasio
Who knew that Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo were just the warm-up acts? As vibrantly as those sizzling thrillers captured the exotic flavor of crime and corruption in Thailand’s capital city, John Burdett’s Bangkok Haunts opens up new avenues of awe.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

At the start of Burdett's superb third mystery-thriller to feature Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep (after Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo), Jitpleecheep shows old friend Kimberley Jones, an American FBI agent, a vicious snuff film he's received depicting the murder of an ex-lover of his named Damrong. Jitpleecheep and Jones maintain their complex platonic relationship as, helped by Jitpleecheep's assistant Lek, they pursue Damrong's killers. The trail leads them to an important banker, an American teacher, a Buddhist and an exclusive men's club called the Parthenon. Jitpleecheep, who now lives with Chanya, a former prostitute pregnant with his child, is visited in an erotic way by Damrong's ghost, while his corrupt superior, police colonel Vikorn, orders Jitpleecheep to help start a porn film business. Expertly juggling elements that in lesser hands would become confused or hackneyed, Burdett has created a haunting, powerful story that transcends genre. 75,000 first printing; 6-city author tour. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
Royal Thai Police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep is shocked by a video he receives. It depicts a murder, and the victim is a woman he still loves. With a six-city tour. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Vice spins the wheels of this third gritty procedural following Bangkok 8 (2003) and Bangkok Tattoo (2005) and featuring Buddhist Thai policeman Sonchai Jitpleecheep. It begins with bangs and whimpers as Sonchai and his sometime associate, FBI agent Kimberley Jones, react emotionally as they view a snuff film that appears to record a notorious prostitute's murder. The dead woman (Damrong) was Sonchai's former lover-a fact that compromises and energizes the investigation that permits Burdett to conduct another mordant whirlwind tour of Bangkok's darkest places as well as the even seamier environs of the Internet. The story, narrated in Sonchai's urbane weary voice, is filled with intriguing nuggets of Buddhist wisdom and custom (e.g., "color-coding" for dress appropriate to specific days of the week) and graced by brief but telling appearances of such recurring characters as Sonchai's Myrna Loy-like wife Chanya, his amoral entrepreneur mother Nong and his superior officer Colonel Vikorn (a meth addict whose ratiocinative powers remain blessedly unclouded). Assisted by his transsexual partner Lek, and a convicted cinematographer ("Yammy") whose price for providing inside blue-movie info is the right to make "artistic" porn films (i.e., with plots), Sonchai labors to ignore the ghosts of his own self-indulgent past while pursuing a comic-operatic gallery of suspects: Damrong's former husband (and pimp?) Daniel Baker; low-life-loving prosperous businessman Khun Tanakan; tireless porn stud Stanislaus Kowlovski; and Damrong's brother Gamon, a priest whose path to righteousness may have been financed by his big sister's illicit earnings. The trail leads to Cambodia, the history of Damrong'swretched family and a savage exercise in investigative technique known as "the elephant game." The plot sputters, but Burdett holds our attention throughout a breezy tale reminiscent of the late, great Ross Thomas's byzantine Asian-inflected capers. Not for your Agatha Christie-loving maiden aunt, but good grisly fun for those who like their noir rated NC-17. First printing of 75,000
From the Publisher
“Who knew that . . . those sizzling thrillers . . . Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo were just the warm-up acts? Bangkok Haunts opens up new avenues of awe.” —The New York Times Book Review"Bangkok Haunts is a book to be gobbled up at top speed, preferably while wearing sunglasses and drinking through a twisty straw."—The New York Times"Captivating. . . . A wonderful mystery series." —The Washington Post"Spellbinding. . . . [These] characters are scintillating." —The Boston Globe

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sonchai Jitpleecheep Series , #3
Sold by:
Random House
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File size:
320 KB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter OneFew crimes make us fear for the evolution of our species. I am watching one right now.In a darkened room in the District 8 Police Station with my good friend FBI agent Kimberley Jones, a forty-two-inch Toshiba LCD monitor hangs high up on a wall, out of the reach of villains.The video I’m sharing with the FBI uses two industrial-quality cameras that between them seamlessly provide all the tricks of zoom, angle, pan, et cetera, and I am told that at least two technicians must have been involved in its production. The color is excellent, thanks to however many millions of pixels that contribute to their subtle shading; we are looking at a product of high civilization unknown to our forefathers. At the end of the movie, though, tough-guy Kimberley bursts into tears, as I’d rather hoped she would. I did. She turns her head to stare at me wild-eyed.“Tell me it isn’t real.”“We have the body,” I say.“Oh, god,” Kimberley says. “Oh, sweet Jesus, I’ve seen things bloodier, but never anything this demonic. I thought I’d seen everything.” She stands up. “I need air.”I think, In Bangkok? But I lead her through a couple of corridors, then out into the public area, where brown men and women not much more than half her size wait to tell a cop of their homely grievances. It’s not exactly a festive atmosphere, but it’s human. An American extrovert, Kimberley doesn’t mind dabbing her red eyes with a tissue in front of an audience, who naturally assume I’ve just busted this female farang on some minor drug charge—cannabis, perhaps. Like my own, her eyes naturally seek out any attractive young women sitting in the plastic seats. There are three, all of them prostitutes. (No respectable Thai woman dresses like that.) They resent the attention and glare back. I think Kimberley would like to hug them in gratitude that they’re still alive. I take her out into the street: not quite what the words fresh air normally invoke, but she fills her lungs anyway. “My god, Sonchai. The world. What monsters are we creating?”We have achieved that rare thing, Kimberley and I: a sexless but intimate rapport between a man and a woman of the same age who are mutually attracted to each other but, for reasons beyond analysis, have decided to do nothing about it. Even so, I was surprised when she simply got on a plane in response to a frantic telephone call from me. I had no idea she was specializing in snuff movies these days; nor did I realize they were flavor of the month in international law enforcement. Anyway, it’s great to have a top-notch pro familiar with the latest technology on my side. She’s not intuitive, as I am, but owns a mind like a steel trap. So do I treat her like a woman or a man? Are there any rules about that where she comes from? I give her a comradely embrace and squeeze her hand, which seems to cover most points. “It’s great to have you here, Kimberley,” I say. “Thanks again for coming.”She smiles with that innocence that can follow an emotional catastrophe. “Sorry to be a girl.”“I was a girl too, the first time I saw it.”She nods, unsurprised. “Where did you get it, in a raid?”I shake my head. “No, it was sent to me anonymously, to my home.” She gives me a knowing look: a personal angle here.“And the body, where was it found? At the crime scene?”“No. It had been returned to her apartment, laid neatly on the bed. Forensics says she must have been killed somewhere else.”Now the American Hero emerges. “We’re gonna get them, Sonchai. Tell me what you need, and I’ll find a way of getting it to you.”“Don’t make promises,” I say. “This isn’t Iraq.”She frowns. I guess a lot of Americans are tired of hearing those kinds of jibes. “No, but that movie had a certain style, a certain professionalism about it, and if that alpha male isn’t North American, I’ll turn in my badge.”“A Hollywood production?”“For something like that, frankly the U.S. is the first place I would start looking. Specifically California, but not Hollywood. San Fernando Valley, maybe, with international connections. This could tie in with what I’m doing stateside.”“What would you look for? He was wearing a gimp mask.”“The eyeholes are quite large—light had to get in. You have isometric surveillance at all points of entry to this country. Give me a copy of the DVD—I’ll get our nerds on the case. If they can make a good still of his eyes and enlarge it, it’s as good as a fingerprint. Better. Are you going to let me see the body?”“If you want. But how deeply involved do you want to get?”“Look, I don’t know much, but Chanya told me you’re very upset. That touches me too. If I can help, then that’s what I want to do.”“Chanya spilled her guts?”“She loves you. She hinted that you need a little moral support from a fellow professional. I said okay, I’ll do what I can, so long as he lets me in.”The FBI has no idea how many points she’s accumulated with me for treating a pregnant third-world ex-prostitute as a friend and equal. That kind of heroism leaves us slack-jawed in these parts. Chanya loves her too, of course, and when a Thai girl loves, she tells all.A tuk-tuk passes, spilling black pollution from its two-stroke engine. They used to be a symbol of Thailand: three wheels, a steel roof on vertical struts, and a happy smiling driver. Now they’re a tourist gimmick catering to a diminishing number of tourists. So far the new millennium has not delivered much in the way of new; instead we have a certain foreboding that a return to old-fashioned grinding poverty might be our share of globalism. Kimberley hasn’t noticed this yet—she’s been here only two days, and already the work ethic has gripped her. She’s not seeing the tuk-tuk or even its pollution.“I’m not going to use our guys to copy the DVD,” I say. She looks at me. “That kind of thing is produced in very limited numbers, sold to a specialized international market.” She is still looking at me. I feel blood rising up my neck, into facial blood vessels. “This is a poor country.” Still the look: I have to come clean. “They would sell it.”She turns away to save me from her contempt. A couple of beats pass, then briskly: “I’m okay now. How are you going to copy it?”“I’m not. I’ll put it in my pocket. You can use the business center at the Grand Britannia to e-mail it straight from the disk.”She waits in the public area while I go back to retrieve the disk: five point seven megabytes of distilled evil. Out on the street she pauses to stare at a young monk in his early to mid-twenties. He is tall, and there is an exotic elegance about him incongruous with the Internet café he is about to enter.“Using the Net is frowned on by the Sangha, especially in public areas, but it’s not a serious offense. Often monks use it to check Buddhist websites,” I explain, glad to talk about something lighter than a snuff movie.“Is he a regular around here? Somehow this doesn’t seem like the kind of place a monk would want to hang out.” Kimberley feels the need for small talk too.“I saw him for the first time yesterday. I don’t know which wat he’s attached to.”

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

John Burdett is a nonpracticing lawyer who worked in Hong Kong for a British firm until he found his true vocation as a writer. He has also lived in France, Spain, and Thailand. He is the author of A Personal History of Thirst, The Last Six Million Seconds, Bangkok 8, and Bangkok Tattoo.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Bangkok Haunts (Sonchai Jitpleecheep Series #3) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
RavenQueen More than 1 year ago
about Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep of the Royal Thai Police Force and the corruption and the wheeling and dealing involved in the everyday lives of the citizens of not just Bangkok, but all of Thailand. His writing style incorporates so much of the inner workings and religious aspects of Thailand, not too mention the main case (usually horrible murder or murders) keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering whodunit. He also has a wonderful way of interjecting the personal lives of the main characters, so you can really get wrapped up with everything that is being written. Have read the entire series and wait impatiently for more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A little light on action and sometimes a bit matter of fact with the details or descriptions. But, still has me looking forward to the next book in the series.
beachpolly More than 1 year ago
Interesting descriptions of the porno industry, but a better dectitive story and less porno would improve Mr. Burdett books.
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Tigerpaw70 More than 1 year ago
Book 3 in the Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep series This series brings a totally different perspective into the art of writing murder mysteries. It not only combines wit and humour, it also exposes us to a world choreographed by deviant players. The tale is told from Detective Sonchai Jitpleechhep's point of view as he guides us through Bangkok's dark side. This fast-paced and captivating story has Sonchai and FBI agent Kimberley Jones reviewing a DVD that has surfaced from an anonymous source. It is a snuff movie featuring Damrong, Sonchai's ex-lover and high-class prostitute at "The Old Men's Club". Damrong was a crafty and cunning beauty who skilfully used her assets to obtain money and favours from her high profile clientele, leaving in her wake a string of men, some heartbroken and bitter. Deep into the investigation, Sonchai, his (transsexual) assistant Lek and the FBI realize there is big money in this type of movie and this undoubtedly attracts corrupt and sometimes influential people. When Colonel Vokorn, the opportunistic and shrewd superior of Sonchai, learns of the details he sees his chance to supplement his personal wealth leaving Sonchai caught between his conscience and his boss's wishes..... The intensity of the story is magnified with an erotic ghost story. Sonchai not only works the case by day but he is haunted by the ghost of Damrong who visits him in so real erotic dreams by night. Ghosts, reincarnation and superstition is a wide spread belief, part of the Thai culture and an important facet of the story and Sonchai's psyche. The supernatural vibe that emanates from Bangkok is witness through Sonchai's exploits in a narration that is entertaining, straightforward and streamlined. The storyline has an abundance of humour and it particularly shines when Sonchai possessed by the ghost of Damrong needs help to erase her hold on him. The final act brings him to Isaan and Cambodia where he will learn unnerving details about her life and learn to deal with her death..... This novel has great characterization, heavy on passion, lust and sex that are treated in an exciting but tasteful manner. "Bangkok Haunts" is on many levels a far more mesmerizing and tantalizing novel than the previous. I enjoyed this one much more than the last and I am looking forward to the sequel.
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jrcrawdad More than 1 year ago
I would rate this on par with Bangkok 8, original, fascinating and a compelling good read. I was slightly disappointed by Bangkok Tatoo but that was not a problem with this latest tale of the most honest detective in Thailand. I was totally absorbed by the detail and background of life and culture that infused this story. Burdett has a way making you feel like you are there experiencing Bangkok for yourself. Jitplecheep is one of the most interesting characters ever. I find myself constantly rooting for him, not only to solve his case but to successfully deal with his inevitable moral dilemmas.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
Bangkok District 8 police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep shows his FBI friend Kimberley Jones a nasty snuff film that stars the killing of his former lover Damrong, whom he never stopped loving. The Thai cop and the American agent agree to investigate the homicide. ------------- They start with the victim¿s residence and should continue with her family, but Jitpleecheep delays that for personal reasons. Instead they visit Damrong¿s former husband Baker, an English teacher living in Thailand he is hostile by the mention of his ex-wife who he insist caused him all sorts of problems when they lived in Florida. The investigation takes the two sleuths to the Parthenon¿s exclusive men's club, but seems to be going nowhere in spite of nocturnal visits by Damrong¿s lusty ghost to Jitpleecheep. He struggles with his feelings while he lives with Chanya, who is carrying his child, and with his interfering dishonest boss Colonel Vikorn, who orders Jitpleecheep not to let a homicide investigation get in the way of his prime assignment, establishing a pornographic movie business. -------------- The third Bangkok police procedural (see BANGKOK 8 AND BANGKOK TATTOO) is an excellent mystery that also provides insight into Buddhism, the Thai culture, and its bureaucracy. Obviously the entertaining story line is owned by Jitpleecheep, but the support cast brings him and his surroundings to life. He struggles with his desire for Damong¿s ghost and his feelings for Kim while living with Chanya he struggles at work with a boss who has recently become a big supporter of globalization especially the capitalist¿s creed of easily making money regardless of legality and ethics. Even his assistant serves more as a chaperone than a cop. John Burdett provides his audience with a great Thai whodunit.---------- Harriet Klausner