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The Godfather of Kathmandu: A Royal Thai Detective Novel (Sonchai Jitpleecheep #4)

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,852 Ratings  ·  240 Reviews
John Burdett's famed Royal Thai detective Sonchai Jitpleecheepis put to the testboth as a Buddhist and as a cop as he confronts the most shocking crime of his career.

A rich American film director has been murdered. It is an intriguing case, and solving it could lead to a promotion for Sonchai, but, as always, he is far more concerned with the state of his karma than he is
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 19th 2011 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published October 13th 2009)
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Mar 04, 2010 Anya rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
John Burdett started out so strong with Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo, mainly due to his appealing protagonist, the biracial, trilingual Thai cop Sonchai Jitpleecheep. Sonchai's the bomb--an ex-drug addict, devout Buddhist, fashionisto, and detective in one of Bangkok's roughest neighborhoods, where he grew up among the prostitutes in his mom's brothel. In both those books, he investigates horrifying crimes, using his Buddhist perspective and street savvy in equal measure.

But with the third book
Sonchai Jitpleecheep is called to investigate the sensational killing of a famous Hollywood director, and becomes embroiled in a major heroin trafficking deal between his Thai police boss, his primary competitor (a Thai Army general), and a Tibetan Buddhist mystic. Meanwhile, Sonchai suffers a personal tragedy and is looking for meaning from the mystic, a Tibetan party girl, and a Chinese-Thai high society lady with unparalleled pharmacology expertise. This book is a letdown from the prior ones ...more
Laura Thompson
Ugh. I gotta let this one marinate before I write a review, but a few things stand out:

1. I'm gonna have to take a break from "Americans are stupid" lit for a while. I just read all four of these back to back and I've had it right up to "here" with people telling me I suck. You know what's amazing? That's probably 1000 pages detailing why I should be ashamed of my culture and my country, and I'm not. So that's good. (for me, anyway)

2. Sonchai started as a guy I enjoyed and understood, even tho
Aug 27, 2012 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have loved reading crime novels set in foreign lands ever almost from the beginning of my obsession with the genre in the 70's, moving my way through Amsterdam, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Japan, and other lands. Rarely have I fallen so head over heels in love with a character and setting as I have with Burdett's Bangkok protagonist, Sonchai Jitpleecheep -- precisely because the tale exemplifies the pleasures one takes these international policiers, namely the culture as character. Of course I can ...more
Dec 15, 2013 Annie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mystery Fans interested in Asian culture; Buddhism
Recommended to Annie by: Discovered this series after tiring of much formulaic; stodgy books in the mystery genre
Being formerly a huge mystery fan at one time, I reached a point where except for a few writers, I just found too many plots going for shock value & for me, this being akin to a skip in a record, I gravitated towards genres where fresher things were happening. That is until the day I happened upon the Thai Royal Detective Series, bringing to life the complex Buddhist Thai-American cross in the form if one Sonchai Jitpleecheep. From, the very 1st in series, up to "Godfather of Kathmandu," thi ...more
I loved it. Buddhist detective Sonchai returns. Half Thai and half Western, he takes joy in the best of both worlds, but they collide when he takes up the case of a murdered Hollywood movie director. And when his wife and mother persuade him to become the consigliore of his boss, a corrupt police chief, his Buddhist faith is challenged by the role he must play in a large heroin deal with a Tibetan expatriate in Nepal and the dangers from competition from an equally corrupt military office. The l ...more
Jan 27, 2014 Felicia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
So I enjoyed this book as well, but less than the first three. Again, we have the mysterious and fascinating woman character key to the plot, which is getting a bit repetitive in the series. The soul searching of the main character and his religion, trapped between corruption and personal tragedies, is what drew me in again. I learned a lot about Buddhism and Tibet and that was interesting too.

I would just suggest breaking up the series and not reading it straight through if you're loving it, s
Apr 09, 2010 Sophia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thailand, 2010

Don't let the title locale fool you: this fourth installment of John Burdett's Sochai Jitpleecheep series is firmly based on the original formula of the earlier Bangkok books. Six years after Bangkok Haunts, Sonchai, now 37, is called to the scene of a gruesome murder. Hollywood director Frank Charles is eviscerated with a chunk of skull and brains removed, in the fashion of foreign noir novels found at the scene. Although this spectacular case is a chance for promotion, Sonchai is not terribly

Warren Olson
I am in awe of Burdett’s writing. While I struggle to get depth of characters in my writing attempts, he does so with amazing skill. Not just your basic descriptive run-down of mood and appearance, but his characters are such we tend to know their souls, their inner thoughts, their demons.
HOWEVER, in the Godfather of Kathmandu, I have to say that Burdett, through his main character Sonchai does I believe go am little too far trying to impress his ‘dear readers/farang’ with his knowledge or in f
Jul 30, 2011 Keith rated it really liked it
I found this one to be a very unusual detective novel. Set in Thailand, the main character is one Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep of the Royal Thai Police and in addition to being the protagonist, he is our guide to Thai culture, religion and of course, language. As readers, we are referred to as “farang” or “foreigner” in the Thai language and this provides his platform for guiding us through a labyrinth of customs, religious curiosities and Asian historical anomalies that would be unfathomable ...more
Sonchai Jitpleecheep is back, fresh from a personal tragedy and still trying to balance his desire to be a good, clean cop while working for one of Thailand's most powerful druglords (who also happens to be the police chief).

Sonchai is investigating the gruesome murder of a successful Hollywood director, while working to arrange a huge heroin shipment from a Kathmandu. While I really like to say "Kathmandu" (go on - say it), that whole part is confusing and random and f
Jan 16, 2010 Brenda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never buy a librarian I am surrounded by them and know how to find any one I want to read. However, I made an exception and ordered this one so I would not have to wait my turn in the holds queue. I am so glad I did because it is yet another complex and riveting story starring the brilliantly conflicted Sonchai Jitpleecheep who is as interesting as his name. My brother has lived in Bangkok for years but I have learned more about the city from the details of Burdett's books than I ha ...more
May 30, 2010 Spencer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This series is awesome. While the murder-mystery genre is generally plot driven, the "Bangkok" series uses the paradigm to give us lush characters who are often hilarious and always complex. Constantly reminding the reader of the flaws in Western society while illuminating the context for the apparent cultural conundrums of the East. Although the tour of Thai society is a learning experience, don't expect enlightenment to lead to understanding. East, West, who cares: we're all screwed up. Might ...more
Andre LeMagne
Jul 16, 2016 Andre LeMagne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After the first three novels, Burdett's Sonchai Jitpleecheep series was in danger of becoming formulaic. We have the noir-ish detective, who also helps manage his mom's brothel, and who is passionately committed to Buddhism along with a dollop of superstitious nonsense, and who assists his police colonel in running much of Thailand's narcotics trade. We have a spectacularly gruesome murder which the detective solves gradually through a highly convoluted plot line, which culminates in a spectacul ...more
The fourth book in John Burdett's Royal Thai Detective series sees protagonist Sonchai Jiptleecheep torn between solving a gruesome crime in Bangkok, brokering a drug deal for his massively corrupt boss, Police Colonel Vikorn, and trying to save his devout Buddhist soul.

Reeling from the death of his son and the desertion of his wife, Sonchai falls easy prey to both Vikorn and a powerful, charismatic Tibetan guru looking to fund his rebellion against occupying China with $40 million worth of hero
Really enjoy this series though certainly gritty murders. The main character gives us a glimpse of Buddism and Thai culture while immersing us in a complex mystery.
I love Sonchai Jitpleecheep - the most interesting character in a crime novel since Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). This is the first one I've read but it is fun, funny and fast read. Now back to Ulysses.
Dec 30, 2012 Magda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not one of his best. Love the main character but all the asides to you and me the farang started to annoy me. The plot is pretty confusing too. I hope the next one is better because I like Sonchai and his musings - as long as they dont go on and on and bang you over the head with a club. Duh!
Jun 07, 2015 Diana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The grisly death of an American film maker in a Thai flophouse requires the expert investigation of Detective Sonchai Jiitpleecheep. The setting as with most of the Dective J series takes place principally in Thailand although there are a couple of forays into Tibet and Hong Kong. The author's rich descriptions of these places and the food consumed there set my mouth to watering (yum, crispy duck in Hong Kong).

Nevertheless, I was slightly disappointed in the fact that there didn't seem to be muc
May 15, 2015 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Crime fiction and Asian literature fans.
A totally delightful, almost transcendent, addition to the John Burdett series of crime/mystery books featuring Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a Royal Thai Police detective.

The plot in this case is very complicated, involving Karmic fate, the search for enlightenment, drugs, Thai corruption, the Asian gem trade, inexplicable murders and Tibetan Independence all held together by a self-deprecating sense of humor on Sonchai's part.

The book is aimed at the foreign (farang) reader directly as Sonchai narrat
Jul 24, 2014 Todd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was another excellent installment in the Thai Royal detective series. It has all the essential elements: Morally Ambiguous duties within the line of Sonchai's police work, Which threatens his future karma for lifetimes to come; Col. Vikorn In his usual role as authoritarian top cop struggling in the is usual battle with general Zinna; Hot, libidinous Thai women, brothel life, and even hot, libidinous Tibetan intellectual women. This story has a huge drug smuggling operation, condu ...more
May 14, 2010 Eileen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Following the career advancement, investigations, philosophical struggles, and cultural explaining of Royal Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, the main character in John Burdett's Bangkok series has been one of my favorite literary excursions over the past few years. Sonchai, the half Thai/half American (farang) son of a former prostitute and current brothel owner (he is a part owner), is a devout, spiritual Buddhist who wrestles with the karmic implications of his role as a minion (and ...more
Toni Osborne
Book 4 in the Sonchai Jitpleecheep series

The writer’s speciality is to take his readers on an exotic and mysterious jaunt exploring the back streets of Bangkok where sex is a marketable commodity. He drags us into a culture unknown to many with his observations of the drug trade and official corruption. He also touches through his protagonist the religious customs of Tibetan Buddhism.

As the book opens, Sonchai is struggling with the loss of his son and is depending more and more on a mixture of
Aug 01, 2010 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jim Leffert
Aug 23, 2012 Jim Leffert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! From the author of Bangkok 8 comes a truly satisfying crime novel, the latest featuring the Bangkok police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep. Sonchai is trying to do the impossible: to serve under the corrupt police commander Colonel Vikorn while pursuing a path to enlightenment through Buddhism. The detective’s spiritual quest becomes even more quixotic when the Colonel, inspired by The Godfather movies, chooses Sonchai to be his consigliere. The colonel orders Sonchai to go to Kathmandu to n ...more
I stumbled upon John Burdett's first mystery in this series "Bangkok 8" and found it intriguing for its major character, Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, whose father was an American GI and his mother still runs a brothel.I like him for his attempt to practice his Buddhism in the gritty worlds he inhabits: the street life of noodle shops,country girls become prostitutes, international sex tourists and backpackers. In this story in the series, Sonchai tries to balance investigati ...more
Dennis Fischman
Like the main character, Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, this book is a half-breed. Look at its features from one angle and you'll swear you see a hard-boiled detective story out of Hammett or Chandler. Even though the movie cited in the book is The Godfather, Sonchai is no Michael Corleone: he's Sam Spade as played by Humphrey Bogart, a man trying to live by a moral code of his own in an amoral world. (And he doesn't understand dames any better than Spade does.) As an example of the genre, it's ...more
Eric Thirolle
Jul 17, 2010 Eric Thirolle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was another serendipitous library find. I don't read a lot of mystery novels, but I do like the occasional mystery set in an unfamiliar culture or environment or time. This goes some way to explaining why The Name of the Rose is one of my all-time favorite novels. A good mystery novel always contains some wisdom; enough wisdom, and it crosses that invisible line between genre novel and "literature".

This book compares well with books from Tony Hillerman, John Straley and Dana Stabenow.
William Young
Sep 12, 2011 William Young rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent story, maybe the best one yet. Burdett has such an easy style of writing, and Sonchai is such an engaging character, that even the preposterousness of the mysteries is easily overlooked. I don't read much detective fiction - well, aside from the one Raymond Chandler a few years back, none, technically - so I can't really compare it to anything. Suffice to say the stories are over-the-top in a good way, with half-way believable explanations, and the characters are vivid and unique.

Terri Huck
Dec 08, 2013 Terri Huck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Godfather of Kathmandu" is classified as a mystery, but about halfway through, I realized that I wasn’t as interested in finding out who killed Hollywood director Frank Charles as I was in seeing how Royal Thai policeman Sonchai Jitpleecheep resolved his spiritual journey. Would he find peace through the Buddhist training of the enigmatic Tibetan Tietsin? And/or would he help his boss make a $40 million heroin deal?

Burdett pulls all the story threads together nicely put not too neatly, whic
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John Burdett is a novelist and former lawyer. He was born in England and worked in Hong Kong; he now lives in Thailand and France.
More about John Burdett...

Other Books in the Series

Sonchai Jitpleecheep (6 books)
  • Bangkok 8 (Sonchai Jitpleecheep #1)
  • Bangkok Tattoo (Sonchai Jitpleecheep #2)
  • Bangkok Haunts (Sonchai Jitpleecheep #3)
  • Vulture Peak (Sonchai Jitpleecheep #5)
  • The Bangkok Asset (Sonchai Jitpleecheep #6)

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