Bangkok Tattoo (Sonchai Jitpleecheep Series #2)

( 31 )

Overview

Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep of the Royal Thai Police returns in his riveting and smokily atmospheric new thriller.A farang–a foreigner–has been murdered, his body horribly mutilated, at the Bangkok brothel co-owned by Sonchai's mother and his boss. The dead man was a CIA agent. To make matters worse, the apparent culprit is sweet-natured Chanya, the brothel's top earner and a woman whom the devoutly Buddhist sleuth has loved for several lifetimes. How can Sonchai solve this crime without sending Chanya to ...

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Overview

Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep of the Royal Thai Police returns in his riveting and smokily atmospheric new thriller.A farang–a foreigner–has been murdered, his body horribly mutilated, at the Bangkok brothel co-owned by Sonchai's mother and his boss. The dead man was a CIA agent. To make matters worse, the apparent culprit is sweet-natured Chanya, the brothel's top earner and a woman whom the devoutly Buddhist sleuth has loved for several lifetimes. How can Sonchai solve this crime without sending Chanya to prison? How can he engage in a cover-up without endangering his karma? And how will he ever get to the bottom of a case whose interested parties include American spooks, Muslim fundamentalists, and gangsters from three countries? As addictive as opium, as hot as Sriracha chili sauce, and bursting with surprises, Bangkok Tattoo will leave its mark on you.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Lawyer-turned-novelist John Burdett revisits the seedy red light district of Thailand's capital in Bangkok Tattoo, the follow-up to 2003's critically acclaimed Bangkok 8.

Royal Thai police detective and devout Buddhist Sonchai Jitpleecheep is stuck between a proverbial rock and a hard place when a CIA agent is found brutally murdered in a brothel owned in part by the detective's mother and his corrupt boss, Colonel Vikorn. The only witness -- and suspect -- is a seductively beautiful prostitute named Chanya, "a tantric master in a G-string, a topless sorceress" and the Old Man's Club's biggest breadwinner. If Jitpleecheep arrests Chanya, his mother's struggling business could go belly up; but if he agrees to follow Colonel Vikorn's lead and blame the murder on a terrorist connected to al-Qaeda, he could very well be bringing all-out war to Thailand. As the CIA brings in more manpower to ineptly investigate the operative's horrific murder (he was castrated and partially skinned), Jitpleecheep slowly gets the real -- and jaw-dropping -- story out of Chanya, whose account includes an extended trip across pre-9/11 America, opium addiction, Homer Simpson, and a tattoo-obsessed john.

Featuring all kinds of corruption and vices (from twisted sexual propensities to military and political subversion to drug and weapons trafficking), the exotic setting of Bangkok -- and especially the striking difference between Southeast Asian culture and Western philosophy -- makes Burdett's mystery a simply unforgettable read. Paul Goat Allen
Charles Taylor
Burdett's singular contribution to the contemporary mystery novel may be the way he breaks with the genre's judgmental puritanism when it comes to the sex trade. Is it simply the adolescent strain in American hard-boiled fiction that makes it impossible for the genre's practitioners to give us a stripper or prostitute who is aware of what she's doing, who has chosen to do it and who is putting together a good life thanks to her profession? This novel's explorations of the quid pro quo at work in the intersection of the Eastern sex trade and Western sex tourists doesn't go as deep as the critically ridiculed examination of the same transactions in Michel Houellebecq's Platform. But Burdett scorns the convenient fetish of victimhood so often present in writing about women like the ones who populate his book.
— The New York Times
Michael Dirda
By turns sordid, disorienting and, at its heart, accepting and good-natured about our flawed human condition, Bangkok Tattoo is as seductive as Chanya, Nat, Marly, Lalita or any of the other girls at The Old Man's Club. And that's saying something. If you're looking for a good time, look no further.
— The Washington Post
The New Yorker
Bangkok’s red-light districts, perhaps the most infamous in the world, have inspired their share of breathless prose. Here, however, the tone is mordant, thanks to the serene narration of Sonchai Jitpleecheep, the Thai police detective who steered readers through Burdett’s previous novel, “Bangkok 8.” A devout Buddhist, Sonchai makes complex karmic calculations to justify his roles as law-bending cop and part-time papasan at his mother’s go-go bar. When the bar’s biggest moneymaker is suspected of killing her john, who turns out to be C.I.A., Sonchai initiates a coverup that eventually involves Muslim separatists in southern Thailand and American operatives eager to exploit post-9/11 paranoia for career advancement. The plot showcases Burdett’s sly riffs on Third World stereotypes, Buddhism, and the gustatory pleasures of fried grasshoppers. It’s a giddy, occasionally over-the-top performance, but mesmerizing: a comic tour of the underbelly of Bangkok in pursuit of both a murderer and the sublime.
Publishers Weekly
In Burdett's brilliantly cynical mystery thriller, the follow-up to Bangkok 8 (2004), Royal Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep is called in by his supervisor, hard-bitten Captain Vikorn, to investigate the murder of a CIA operative, Mitch Turner, found disemboweled and mutilated. The prime suspect is a beautiful bar girl, Chanya, with whom Sonchai believes himself to be in love. When Turner's murder turns out to be far more complicated than originally thought, Sonchai must deal with his boss's rages and Chanya's gradually revealed secrets, along with CIA agents who have come to investigate the crime, a Thai army general with whom Vikorn has been feuding for years, Yakuza gangsters, Japanese tattooists, Muslim fundamentalists and more. Thoroughly familiar with Thailand, Burdett does an impressive job of depicting an often romanticized society from the inside out. His characters are unforgettable, his dialogue fast-paced and perfectly pitched, his numerous asides and observations generally as cutting as they are funny. Agent, Jane Gelfman. 9-city author tour. (May 16) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In his second case (after Bangkok 8), Royal Thai Police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep stumbles over a murdered CIA agent; what's worse, he's sweet on the main suspect. With a nine-city tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another wacky, wild-side traipse through Thailand's fleshpots, eateries and spiritual havens, with the marvelously peculiar half-American, half-Thai Buddhist police detective. Burdett's sequel to Bangkok 8 (2003) begins with a wonderful opening line, "Killing customers just isn't good for business." The speaker is Det. Sonchai Jitpleecheep's mother Nong, who is disappointed that the Chanya, the irresistibly beautiful top-wage earner in the popular brothel, the Old Man's Club, seems to have castrated, flayed and murdered an opium-addled American, CIA Agent Mitch Turner. Sonchai's superior (and co-owner of the brothel), Colonel Vikorn, has a plan: blame it on al-Qaida. This doesn't sit well with a bunch of moderate Muslims, whose imam may have converted Turner to Islam. A pair of clueless CIA agents sent to investigate are more concerned with finding Turner's missing laptop, until one falls in love with Sonchai's mother and another, after a fling with a different Old Man's Club prostitute, is murdered in an identical fashion. Then there's Colonel Vikorn's rival, the dope-smuggling Army General Zinna, who doesn't want additional CIA spies to interfere with his plan to remove peasants from ancestral farmlands, all in order to make way for a Japanese eucalyptus plantation and disposable-chopsticks manufacturing plant. Stepping lightly between so many comically conflicted interests, Sonchai must also cope with a new partner, Lek, who can't quite decide if he should continue with police work or get a sex-change operation to become a "katoey" dancer. Burdett is gleefully entertaining as he uses Sonchai's Buddhist pragmatism to explore his exotically varied setting-the murders have something to dowith a diabolically ingenious tattoo artist hiding in Bangkok from spiritual and criminal demons. But he lets Sonchai's infatuation for the infinitely talented Chanya turn the story into a clever but tiring post-9/11 analysis of how American moralists like the bright, brawny but doomed Mitch Turner (and, by implication, his counterparts among the Muslim fundamentalists) can be so wrong when they're sure they're right. Baroquely complicated, and a bit too preachy but, otherwise, a wry, wise and wonderful romp. Author tour
From the Publisher
“An original, imaginative thriller. . . . Burdett writes like a dark angel.” –Chicago Tribune

“You will read on and on, with wide-eyed fascination, some horror. . . and considerable delight. . . . If you’re looking for a good time, look no further.” –The Washington Post Book World

“Mesmerizing: a comic tour of the underbelly of Bangkok in pursuit of both a murderer and the sublime.”–The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781415925560
  • Publisher: Books on Tape, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/27/2007
  • Series: Sonchai Jitpleecheep Series, #2
  • Format: MP3
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Sales rank: 1,205,100
  • Ships to U.S.and APO/FPO addresses only.

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. Since then, he has lived in France and Spain and is now back in Hong Kong.
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Read an Excerpt

Killing customers just isn't good for business."

My mother Nong's tone reflects the disappointment we all feel when a star employee starts to go wrong. Is there nothing to be done? Will we have to let dear Chanya go? The question can only be decided by Police Colonel Vikorn, who owns most of the shares in the Old Man's Club and who is on his way in his Bentley.

"No," I agree. Like my mother's, my eyes cannot stop flicking across the empty bar to the stool where Chanya's flimsy silver dress (just enough silk to cover nipples and butt) drapes and drips. Well, the dripping was slight and is more or less finished (a rusty stain on the floor turning black as it dries), but in more than a decade as a detective in the Royal Thai Police, I have never seen a garment so blood-soaked. Chanya's bra, also hideously splattered, lies halfway up the stairs, and her panties--her only other garment--lie abandoned on the floor outside the upstairs room where, eccentrically even for a Thai whore, she has taken refuge with an opium pipe.

"She didn't say anything at all? Like why?"

"No, I told you. She dashed in through the door in a bit of a state holding an opium pipe, glared at me, said, 'I've done him in,' ripped off her dress, and disappeared upstairs. Fortunately, there were only a couple of farang in the bar at the time, and the girls were fantastic. They merely said, 'Oh, Chanya, she goes like that sometimes,' and gently ushered them out. I had to play the whole thing down, of course, and by the time I got to her room, she was already stoned."

"What did she say again?"

"She was tripping on the opium, totally delirious. When she started talking to the Buddha, I left to call you and the Colonel. At that stage I didn't know if she'd really done him in or was freaking out on yaa baa or something."

But she'd snuffed him all right. I walked to the farang's hotel, which is just a couple of streets away from Soi Cowboy, and flashed my police ID to get the key to his room. There he was, a big muscular naked American farang in his early thirties, minus a penis and a lot of blood from a huge knife wound that began in his lower gut and finished just short of his rib cage. Chanya, a basically decent and very tidy Thai, had placed his penis on the bedside table. At the other end of the table, a single rose stood in a plastic mug of water.

There was nothing for it but to secure the room for the purposes of forensic investigation, leave a hefty bribe for the hotel receptionist--who is now more or less obliged to say whatever I tell him to say (standard procedure under my Colonel Vikorn in District 8)--and await further orders. Vikorn, of course, was in one of his clubs carousing, probably surrounded by naked young women who adored him, or knew how to look as if they did, and in no mood to be dragged to the scene of a crime until I penetrated his drunken skull enough to explain that the business at hand was not an investigation per se but the infinitely more challenging forensic task so lightly spoken of as a "cover-up." Even then he showed no inclination to shift himself until he realized it was Chanya (the perp, not the victim).

"Where the hell did she get the opium?" my mother wants to know. "There hasn't been opium in Krung Thep since I was a teenager."

I know from her eyes that she is thinking fondly of the Vietnam War, when she was herself a working girl in Bangkok and a lot of the GIs brought small balls of opium from the war zone (one of them being my almost-anonymous father, of whom more later). An opiated man...

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 31 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Exploring the Sleasy Side of Bangkok

    Book 2 in the Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep mystery series

    This sequel to "Bangkok 8" has all the elements necessary to take the readers on a precarious ride through the sweltering hot and sticky streets that form the flamboyant underbelly of one of Asia's most lively cities.... Bangkok.

    The mystery is told in the riveting voice of detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a product of mixed parentage with Buddhist beliefs, a good cop by day and a papasan in the family brothel by night. The story opens with Chanya, a working girl at "The Old Man`s Club" (owned by Colonel Vikorn and Sonchai`s mother), returning from a trick, dazed and covered in blood, coincidently rumour has it CIA agent Mitch Turner has been found near by murdered and his genitals brutally mutilated. Chanya a popular and important asset to the club quickly becomes the prime suspect. Colonel Vikorn decides with the help of Sonchai to construct a cover-up to portray Chanya as a victim acting in self- defence....a statement is created and Chanya goes into hiding. Sonchai always the professional at heart, feels something is not right and the suspense escalates.

    Sonchai's investigation introduces us to prostitutes, katoyes( Lady Boys) sex tourists and very murky characters that roam the streets of Bangkok's notorious District 8. The action eventually takes us even deeper into the heart of Thailand, revealing a possible connection to Al-Qaeda, added to the saga is a mix of rogue CIA agents and drug dealers. A tattoo artist fleeing the Japanese mafia and a turf war between Vikorn and an army general heightens the intensity even further.

    The author has created one sophisticated novel full of marvellous characters, set in an intoxicating décor and told in a gripping manner. Definitely not a novel for the faint at heart, there is brutality and sexuality throughout and Bangkok's sleazy side is rather exploited to its maximum. Unfortunately being a sequel, the plotting seemed familiar and thus rather predictable in many ways, maybe if the prequel wasn`t still fresh in my mind, I would have a different opinion.

    I am looking forward to its sequel " Bangkok Haunts", but this time I will wait awhile before reading it

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2013

    Red marker

    Rahhhh!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2013

    Ryan

    Kk. Cleed up the room and waked to the first result.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2013

    Scarlet

    She got up and walked to the door.. ill be in the shop

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2012

    interesting but then tedious

    This is the 2nd of the series and I was tired by the end. It needed editing as the at times excessive details made me skip to get going. Fascinating locale but it ignores the reality of sexual slavery.

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  • Posted June 12, 2012

    Addictive Reading

    Highly graphic images of the seedier part of Thai culture. Burdett spins a good tale though totally believable if you ever experienced Soi Cowboy, Pat Pong or Soi Nana. If not it'll be a journey into what you only thought existed in the underbelly of Bangkok and beyond.

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  • Posted May 24, 2012

    Very good dective story

    I am going to buy the next ones in this series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2012

    Disliked

    Disliked

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 21, 2011

    Bringing Tattoo Art to a New Level

    I read this book not realizing it was a sequel, and it was still fantastic. Burdett explores the sex industry in such a positive manner, highlighting it's benefits in society and for the women working in the industry. He depicts and interesting juxtaposition between the red light districts in Bangkok, and then in the United States (Texas, Las Vegas, and Washington DC). The rules that applied in the U.S. that were completely alien to a working girl from Bangkok, and the type of clientele each attracted. It was fascinating to read about the different expectations of the farang (white men) and the Thai men, the differences in how they treated and what they expected of a prostitute.

    The book interlaces the story with a corrupt police force, working to encourage the existence of the red light districts, and ultimately working with moral integrity against the corrupt military. For me, the legalities were a bit to exaggerated and over the top, distracting me from the story, but it does make for a fast and interesting read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2006

    To Die For A Tatoo

    Burdett brings back to life Euroasian Thai detective Sonchai in this eagerly awaited sequel to Bangkok 8. This time the plot is even more bizarre and the main characters even wackier. To ex-pats living in Thailand this book has allready achieved cult status.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2006

    Better than Bangkok 8

    I enjoyed this very much for its intelligence and worldly cynicism. My only (slight) criticism is the way the author wears his Buddhism on his sleave. I have nothing against Buddhism, but the constant references to character's past lives, for example, is a little tiresome. Still, very well worth reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2005

    Bangkok Tattoo

    I can distinctly remember picking up Bangkok 8 on a lark back at the Stanford campus bookstore during the 2003 Summer Session. There it sat, enticing me with the promise of exotic mystery in faraway lands. When I devoured it soon after (nothing like a good mystery during a summer day of leisure), I eagerly awaited the next time I'd encounter Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a Royal Thai Policeman operating in the District 8. Sad to say, Sonchai has changed. Our narrator can't resist taking a multitude of jabs at us farang (foreigners) and our materialistic, puritanical, soulless, and hypocritical culture. This could just be Burdett just estimating what attitudes are like over in Thailand at the moment, but one gets the sense that he's putting words in Sonchai's mouth. I'll be the first to admit that this stridency can get to be a little irritating. Other than that, I've few complaints. Like the first novel, Bangkok Tattoo is positively drenched with atmosphere. Seeing as it takes place in District 8, the underbelly of a already slightly seedy place, one has to be prepared for all sorts of shady characters and bizarre events. The graphic parts can be a little off putting, but, hey, this is a murder mystery after all. And another good summer read, to boot.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Teriffic Thai police procedural

    In Bangkok, Nong, part owner of the Old Man¿s Club, calls her son Royal Thai police detective Chai Jipleecheep and her partner, Chai¿s superior Colonel Vikorn to inform them that one of their ladies, Chanya killed a visiting American. While Nong thinks killing customers is bad for business, Vikorn informs Chai that the homicide was an act of self defense without visiting the crime scene or interviewing the woman who has confessed. Chai persuades his boss to come to the hotel room where the murder occurred. The victim not only had his penis removed, but possessed an interesting Visa that allowed multiple reentries over the next two years. In other words Mitch Turner was from the CIA. --- Vikorn knows self defense or homicide means the CIA, the FBI, and the Thai government will be all over them from head to toes. Instead Vikorn, needing to protect his investment decides to throw the blame on Al Qaeda, which will make the Americans happy. While Vikorn tries to con the Yanks and his superiors, Chai conducts inquiries into the homicide because he has problems accepting that even an opium dazed Chanya would commit mutilation. --- This Thai police procedural is a wonderful tale starring an interesting detective trying to remain honest when surrounded by corrupt individuals including his mother. The secondary cast provides insight into the society as well as set an amoral tone to the tale that only seemingly Chai counters. The official inquiries are cleverly designed to occur below the radar screen of the Americans seeking the Al Qaeda connection. Fans of exotic locale who-done-its will enjoy this fine tale and seek Chai¿s previous solid investigative tale (see BANGKOK 8).--- Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 8, 2011

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    Posted July 11, 2009

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    Posted July 23, 2011

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    Posted September 24, 2013

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    Posted August 3, 2009

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