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Burdett, John - 'The Godfather of Kathmandu'
Paperback: 320 pages (Jan. 2010) Publisher: Bantam Press ISBN: 0593055462

THE GODFATHER OF KATHMANDU is the fourth in the series of noir thrillers set in Bangkok featuring half-Thai, half-farang (foreign) cop Sonchai Jitpleecheep. As the book opens, Sonchai is struggling to deal with a recent bereavement. He is reliant on a mixture of Buddhism and drugs to function, and is under the thrall of a Tibetan lama, Tietsin, with connections to the drug trade. Sonchai is sent to a flophouse where Frank Charles, a famous US film director has been found murdered in a particularly unusual and gruesome manner, seemingly influenced by gothic and horror authors.

Meanwhile Sonchai's boss, the corrupt Colonel Vikorn, has bigger fish to fry than a murder investigation; he is drawn into an uneasy alliance with his big rival, army officer Zinna, each putting up half the cash for a 40 million dollar heroin deal with Tietsin. Under the influence of the Godfather films, Vikorn decides to appoint Sonchai as his "consigliere" to assist him in his nefarious activities.

In his capacity as consigliere, Sonchai is sent on various errands related to the drug deal, including interviewing drug mules who have been arrested following Tietsin's tip-offs, and a trip to Kathmandu, where Sonchai visits the Buddhist sites, spins the prayer wheels, and falls under the influence of Tietsin and his mantras and becomes involved with a beautiful woman, Tara, a Tibetan Buddhist refugee.

On Sonchai's return to Bangkok he continues to investigate Frank Charles' death, visiting "mad" Dr Moi, a fabulously wealthy and decadent Hi-So (high society) Chinese aristocrat and drug dependent pharmacist, who was one of the last people seen with the victim before his death. Sonchai also searches for a copy of the last film made by the director in the hope this will reveal more about the reason for the killing.

THE GODFATHER OF KATHMANDU is another sliver of deliciously dark exotica from John Burdett, tying together the strands of drugs, religion and official corruption with a biting wit. Sonchai is an engaging and complex hero, troubled by his bereavement, and the difficulty in reconciling his religious beliefs with facilitating the drugs transaction; by comparison the other characters appear somewhat picaresque. I look forward to reading about Sonchai's future exploits.

Laura Root, England
March 2010

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 6/03/2010 19:09