Shane's book four: Bangkok Eight by John Burdett

This book starts off strange and gets stranger. It's a detective thriller set, as the title would suggest, in Bangkok. Sonchai Jitleecheep and his partner Pichai are tailing an American marine when the book begins. They lose him and by the time they find him again he is trapped inside his car with a python and a swarm of cobras. He dies and in the attempt to rescue him so does Pichai.

Sonchai, a devout Buddhist, vows to find the person responsible and kill them. What follows is by no means a typical thriller. The solution to the various puzzles - who killed the marine? why? and how did they manage to lock him in a car full of snakes? - is bizarre, to say the least.

It's to Burdett's credit that he keeps things on just the right side of believable. I know nothing about Thailand but the Bangkok Burdett creates feels incredibly authentic. He conveys its strangeness, its intrigue and its squalor. He revels in the chance to challenge our assumptions as Sonchai, the son of a prostitute, delves into the sex trade for answers to his questions. Because the victim is an American the FBI are involved in the investigation, which gives Burdett the chance to set up some East-meets-West clashes. Some of these are predictable and a little trite but Burdett keeps pushing and turns up some occasional food for thought.

On the whole it works well. It's an entertaining and unusual mystery. It would be interesting to know what someone who has been to Thailand makes of it.