Sunday, July 15, 2012
"Vulture Peak", by John Burdett
I have read all the novels in this series and this one has to be one of the best so far. Just like the previous novels this one takes you through the seedier side of Bangkok, the streets where you meet fascinating people who compete aggressively to run and to work their trade and please the demands of foreigners.
Burdett’s fifth Bangkok novel opens with a very descriptive setting, the bizarre triple murder at a pleasure palace where Sonchai and his detective partner Lek happen to be knee deep in the gruesome details and scratching their head looking for answers. The three victims are found in a bed with their vital organs and all traces of identification removed, including face and fingers. Sonchai and Lek quickly come to the conclusion that this case may have links to their superior, the very corrupt Police Colonel Vikhorn, a powerful man with a long reach and a dark cloud hanging over him.
The trail leads them to an international organ trafficking business run by the ruthless identical twins, Lilly and Polly Yip. Sonchai’s only hope of catching them is to set in motion a massive sting operation that involves players that work out of Phuket, Hong Kong, Dubai, Shanghai, and Monte Carlo. He soon discovers the criminal ring’s main source of organs is from executed Chinese prisoners however the demand of wealthy Westerners whose organs have worn out exceeds that supply, forcing the gang to expand into new territories.
On the home front all work and no play for Sonchai creates another crisis. He suspects his long absence has left an opening for his wife to fall back on her previous life as an active prostitute.
The plot comes across as being believable, is tense, engaging and fast-paced, although its main theme may be the trafficking of human organs the story often veers into other territories, drugs, prostitution and gender reassignment create interesting sub-plots. The first person narrative is fresh and has a humorous touch to it. Mr. Burdett often addresses his audience as DFR (dear farang reader) and loves to stimulate their thoughts about the shenanigans the western tourists get involved in when visiting a country with an open, in your face way of life. The strong characterisation depicts the good, the bad and the ugly sides of a country that is also known for its beauty and its deep spiritual beliefs.
This is another gripping tale with a style of its own that I enjoyed reading.