Bangkok Tattoo by John BurdettBangkok Tattoo by John Burdett
Narrator: Paul Boehmer
Series: Sonchai Jitpleecheep #2
Published by Random House Audio on April 26, 2005
Genres: Mystery
Length: 11 hrs 26 mins
Format: Audiobook
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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?

I did not like Bangkok Tattoo as much as the first in the series, Bangkok 8. Sonchai is the same- a loner Buddhist cop who tends toward philosophical ruminations, but now he’s also part owner of a brothel, along with his boss and his mom. The atmosphere’s the same- the seedy side of an exotic city, but we do have the addition of Muslims and the mob. And Sonchai has a new partner, a transgender young man who wants to be a dancer of some kind.

The plot was interesting, if a bit meandering. The killed man was CIA, and of course the case is not as clear-cut as it might first appear. There’s also drugs involved. To be honest, I finished listening to this a week or so ago and don’t remember how exactly the drugs and the serial killer tied together. I think they were two separate plot lines pulled together by the corrupt superior and the good-hearted prostitute. What I do remember is one scene toward the end that was downright gruesome.

Most of this book centers around the sex trade in Bangkok. Burdett shows it as empowering for women, giving them money and freedom that they wouldn’t otherwise have. I have to assume it’s not that rosy. It also dwells on the lives and gay men and other sexual orientations.

I listened to the audio version and the narrator did a good job. He catches Sonchai’s attitudes well, when he is lecturing, when he is amused, and when he’s introspective. He differentiates the other characters well and as always I appreciate hearing the foreign names and places, rather than stumbling over them in print.

I’ll probably continue with the series, but only because I can pick them up from the library.

About John Burdett

John Burdett practiced law for 14 years in London and Hong Kong until he was able to retire to write full time. He has lived in France, Spain, Hong Kong and the U.K. and now commutes between Bangkok and Southwest France.


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