Friday, February 19, 2010

An American film producer on vacation in Thailand is found dead in a seedy hotel in Bangkok. Detectives Sukum and Sonchai Jitpleecheep, affable hero of the novel, of the Royal Thai police force are sent to investigate. From glancing around the room Sonchai is able to correctly deduce the manner in which the American was murdered. Sukum is awed by Sonji's powers.

Beginning with Bangkok 8, The Godfather of Katmandu is the fourth in the series of novels featuring Thai detective Sonji. Narrated by Detective Sonji Jitpleecheep of the Royal Thai police force, the reader is lead through the seemingly impenetrable labyrinth of Thai culture and customs. Sonji is both an insider and an outsider in Thai society. His mother (a Madame) is Thai while his father is an American GI whom he has never met. He is cosmopolitan having spent part of his childhood in Paris where he learned to appreciate the great auteurs of French cinema. Something, which will be of invaluable assistance in solving this case.

Because of his mixed blood and methods of deduction Sonji is viewed with a mixture of both respect and suspicion by his colleagues in the police force. He is usually called upon to deal with crimes involving Farang (foreigners).

Sonji will conduct us through Thai high society where we will encounter drug-addicted doctors, old ladies reminiscing for the days of the raj, and centuries old secret societies. We encounter Sonji's boss in the police force Colonel Vikorn, the chief of Police in the Bangkok and a major drug dealer in Thailand. Sonji informs the reader of Colonel Vikorn's rivalry with Zinna a General in the Thai army. A rivalry concerned not with national security but rather who is destined to become the country's biggest drug lord.

The action in the narrative switches from Bangkok to Katmandu, where Sonji is dispatched by his boss to meet a seemingly drug dealing Buddhist Lama. From this point things start to go downhill for the good detective. Sonji already a practicing Buddhist comes under the spell of the Llama. He asks this Lama for mystical enlightenment and the Llama reluctantly agrees. On returning to Bangkok Sonji endures great personal tragedy resulting in his marriage coming asunder and his descent into a netherworld of mysticism and drugs.

The Godfather of Katmandu is at times humorous, at times mysterious but never ever boring. For an exotic well written thriller with an entertaining plot and characters you can't help but empathise with you would be well advised to look no further than here.


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