Former London attorney John Burdett is said these days to split his time between Bangkok and France, so he most certainly knows Bangkok more intimately than most Westerners ever will. If any oldsters wonder whether the Thai sex industry they remember hearing about during the Vietnam War (when Bangkok was a favored R&R spot for American soldiers) still exists, they only have to read one of the books in Burdett’s Sonchai Jitpleecheep series to learn that little has changed except for the makeup of the clientele. Vulture Peak, the fourth novel in the series, makes that clear – taking into account the grain of salt that fiction always throws into the mix.
As Vulture Peak begins, Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a former Buddhist monk, still works for Police Colonel Vikorn. Unfortunately for Sonchai, the manipulating colonel is no easier to work for now than in the past. As is often the case with Vikorn, there is more to him than meets the eye and, when he assigns Sonchai to investigate a harvesting-and-sale of human body parts racket that seems to be centered in Thailand, the motive is more about getting himself elected to political office than it is about shutting down the gruesome profiteers. If, in the process, Vikorn also can bring down the equally corrupt General Zinna, his longtime personal rival, it will have been a very successful investigation, indeed.
John Burdett’s books, despite their tendency to be over the top at times, are always long on atmosphere and memorable characters. Vulture Peak is no exception. Before it is over, Sonchai’s investigation will take him away from Bangkok and into the streets of Phuket, Hong Kong, Dubai, Monte Carlo, and Shanghai. As the investigation moves forward, he must deal with an extraordinary cast of good guys, cops, suspects, and assorted villains of multiple nationalities. The lineup includes two sisters I defy any reader to forget quickly, Chinese identical twins with a history of weirdness that goes back to their childhood and makes them perfect for the infamous world of illicit human organ harvesting.
Vulture Peak is Bangkok noir at its finest and will likely entice readers to read the entire series from the beginning in order to find out how the relationships between Sonchai Jitpleecheep, the ex-prostitute who lives with him, and Police Colonel Vikorn have evolved over time.
Rated at: 4.0