Friday, September 29, 2006
Author: John Burdett
Bangkok Tattoo is John Burdett's fourth novel, a sequel to Bangkok Eight, which was his real breakthrough work. A British lawyer working in Thailand, he returns to Bangkok and his Buddhist police officer. A devout believer, the token good cop in a Bangkok's corrupt district 8. After Bangkok 8, JS's ex-whore mother has opened a brothel, The Old Man's Club, with JS's boss, Vikorn, the head of district 8. The core of Bangkok Tattoo comes from the murder of an American, an American who is clearly an undercover CIA Agent. With the main suspect being Chanya, The Old Man's Club's prize worker, JS is assigned the job of cover up.
But in a post-911 Thailand, a country with its own struggle against Muslim insurgents, it isn't long before representatives of an Imam from the town the CIA were working in, turn up, concerned that they will be blamed. Followed by CIA Agents keen to find someone to blame. Though as more and more comes out about the dead agent, more and more questions are raised.
Burdett writes an eminently readable crime novel, rich in the exotic scenery of Bangkok. With JS he has a strong and dramatic narrator that keeps the story zipping along. However for all its readability and being fun, Bangkok Tattoo isn't as good as Bangkok Eight. JS becomes increasingly over familiar, verging on becoming a caricature as he repeatedly addresses an ignorant audience. There are also too many references to the previous novel, giving away much of the plot of Bangkok Eight. However as long as you keep a steady pace and don't spend too much time thinking there is enough good stuff here to make Bangkok Tattoo worth reading. With the subplot regarding the struggles between police and army taking on an extra relevance, given the recent Thai military coup.
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