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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.”