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Serpentine

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  604 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
With compelling style and suspense this true-crime book reconstructs the bizarre, bloody journey of a mesmerizing but sinister young man named Charles Sobhraj. Sweeping back and forth over half the globe -- from the boulevards of Paris to the slopes of Mount Everest to the underbellies of Bangkok and Hong Kong -- Sobhraj left in his wake a trail of baffling mystery and ine
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Paperback, 576 pages
Published September 1st 2001 by Constable and Robinson (first published 1979)
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♥ Marlene♥
Sep 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody who loves reading.
One of the best ever true crime books I've read. How this author managed to know so much about this case is beyond me but the way he writes is so great. I loved everything of this book. It is so exiting and he brings you to another world,and you are never bored.

This book will take you all over the world and the writer manages to keep you exited. It reads as a great adventure novel but in reality it is a non fictional true crime book. I wish more true crime writers could write like this. Neutral
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Mary
May 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dennis Nehamen
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
For years the works of Thomas Thompson disappeared. There was no ebay. Libraries seemed to not know it existed. What happened? I have no idea but I do know that I loved his work. This piece is chilling. It's the story of an international sociopath, a combination of the worst serial killers and a Houdini. I promise that this is not a read that will be done over the course of months, a few pages at a time. This author knows how to craft a story that keeps you engaged. He writes simple and there no ...more
andrew y
May 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
is florid a word? because if it is a word it is definitely in this book.
thompson knows how to write in a way that is simultaneously overwrought and promising. I kept turning this book's interminable pages all the way through and at the end was very 'eh'. So that is sort of an achievement.
Joshua
Nov 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
The story of Charles Sobhraj, a charismatic murderer who killed as many as 12 people and robbed God-knows-how-many after drugging them.

Written by Thomas Thompson, the author of "Blood and Money", this book is a bit longer than it maybe should have been, and the prose is a bit flowery. However, this is a pretty solid true-crime read. Thompson paints a vivid portrait of Sobhraj.

One thing that struck me as I read this was the similarity between the description of Sobhraj and Bugliosi-Gentry's des
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John
Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when it first came out (Jan. 1980)and got a signed copy just before I left on a trip around the world.I read this while traveling and by coincidence stayed at some of the places the killer/con man worked out of. This tale actually continued for many years after this book ended. Over the following years I read several news articles of Charles Sobhraj amazing escapes from prison.
I enjoyed this book so much that I decided to read it again - I still find it to be very exciting.
Pierre Fortier
Apr 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Lu en plein périple de routard en Asie du Sud-Est, cette biographie "romancée" trace l'histoire de Charles Sobraj une crapule don juanesque sans scrupule. Brillant bandit des grands chemins, champion de la manipulation et de l'extorsion qui arrive à s'évader de prison comme on sort de chez Starbuck. On oublie jamais Charles Sobraj. 30 ans plus tard, je m'en rappelle encore.
Diana
Feb 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When beginning to compile a list of books read, this is the first title on my bookshelf to catch my eye. One of the best suspense, adventure books I've ever read. The best part about it? It was a true story. It's been years since I last read it. Maybe it's time to crack it open once more.
Marla A Burke
There is a sentence, near the end of the book: "The trial had long since become mired in tedium, a play with no end, its performers trapped." I found it ironic.

The author has an engaging writing style but the interweaving of victims backgrounds, families and lives, Charles background and characterization and that of his "family" was unbalanced. More than once, before I was 60% into the book, I put it down and wanted to just skip it. The author, however, does tell a good story. It was kinda like
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Ionia
Mar 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Whilst the story of Charles Sobhraj is an interesting one, this book could have benefited from being shorter, in my opinion. The author did a excellent job of researching and fact collecting, but the book was so bogged down by minutia that at times, it became boring and the flow of the story was lost on me.

Even so, if you can wade through the many details, you will likely find this book very interesting. The early life of serial killer Charles Sobhraj was recounted in such a manner that you can
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Emily Graves
True crime writing has changed and I try not to judge an older book by the merits of the present, but frankly, this kind of writing fell out of fashion for a reason. Pages upon pages about how sleek! How dazzling! How fascinating! This man was, juxtaposed with actual trial transcript that reveals him to be pathetic and self-aggrandizing in a way that's frankly embarrassing to most people. Some actual knowledge of the nature of psychopathy and the sort of people targeted by psychopaths is a neces ...more
Sharon Watkins
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book shortly after it was published and decided recently to have a reread. It's the salacious story of Charles Sobhraj, a would be international gem dealer, who drugs and murders his victims, usually for their passports and small amounts of money. Overall the books holds up well, but the prose can be florid, and some of the language ("Oriental," "Moslem") doesn't really fly in today's culture.
Deborah Farrow
Dec 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well written

This man criss crossed the world, leaving destruction in his wake. Mr. Thompson did an excellent job following the paths that he took, especially when he used so many aliases.
Mary
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this maybe 30 years ago and I still remember this book. It was creepy but very compelling and true. I think I might read it again sometime...
Chander
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thompson seems to be Charles Shobhraj's shadow during this entire episode of Charles' life. At times it seems he is deep within Charles to see his weaknesses, that seems to elude almost everyone, except Charles and Thompson.

Charles was astute. He was charismatic and charming to women and men alike. He had a mystical magnetism about him that led many to their deaths and left the ones whose life was spared, with deep mental and emotional scars.

Thompson here has achieved something incredible. You
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Ren
Serpentine is a long book but it doesn’t actually read like one. The writing is detailed and engrossing, pulling a reader in from the start. The story is about Charles Sobrahj, a French national of Vietnamese and Indian parentage born in Saigon. He had a troubled early start and things never much improved, as the book details his early life and family problems and lays out some clear themes that obviously influenced his later actions and crimes.

Sobrahj is described as a serial killer but I don’t
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Carol  Peterson
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
True crime at it's best

I've been trying to find a good true crime book that doesn't have the last half of the book the trial. This book of so many cultures and countries is of another level. The protagonist is truly evil and manipulative. Such a good, well written book.
Rae
Oct 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I'm doing a reading challenge and one of the categories is a book your mother loves. So of all the books in the world, this is the one my mother picked. A true crime book from the seventies.

My mother's questionable taste in books aside, this book does have an interesting basis. An international criminal and prison escape artist, convicted of crimes in countries across the world - should be fascinating stuff, right?

It probably would have been if the author hadn't gotten so mired in the details. H
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Rich
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A book that has stayed with me for years,the central anti hero Charles Sobrhaj absolutely fascinated me.Yet seeing him for real in his later years made me realise the author may have taken considerable licence in creating his version of Sobrhaj.
It's about time this story was brought up to date with an insightful psychological biography.
After a damaging childhood and early jail terms where he study's Nietzche and Jung he embarks on a frantic hustlers journey across Asia,assuming one false identit
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Eric
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ever heard of Charles Sobhraj? I bet you haven't.

This book was written in 1979 and details the murders as committed by Charles Sobhraj throughout Asia. Sobhraj was born to a Vietnamese mother and Indian father, which in some ways left him as a person without a country and eventually allowed him to move more freely during his crimes.

Another reviewer described Sobhraj as being like Ted Bundy, but with more class. The most shocking thing about this man was how during his killing years, many count
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Cassius Shuman
Jan 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book was so riveting that I couldn't put it down. It also had a profound impact upon my life and may be attributable to my interest in telling serial killer stories. Author Thomas Thompson tells the true crime story of serial killer Charles Sobhraj who is of Indian and Vietnamese origin and preyed on western tourists throughout southeast Asia during the 70's. Thompson crafted a tale that was not only engrossing, but horrifically chilling at times. The author's portrayal of the serial killer ...more
Ronald Wilcox
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
Excellent true crime book about a cunning, charismatic killer of tourists in Asia in the mid-1970's. The amount of detail provided about lives of the killer(s) and the victims is amazing. Very disturbing that the main character was released after a few years but thankfully was then jailed again in Nepal and is currently serving a life sentence there. Justice definitely was not done in the end of the book for those who were involved in the crime spree.
Allison Herman
Jan 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
It took such a long time to get through this book. It's over 500 pages (paperback) and I didn't want to miss a word. It's the true story of a child born into a family that really doesn't want him. His way of coping with feeling neglected is to overcompensate. For everything. His "charisma" gets him mixed up with the wrong people and he turns into one of the most evil creatures I have ever read about. It was fascinating, if a bit daunting to tackle.
Laurie Andres
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The single best true crime book ever written.

Every few years, I read it again. Complicated, exotic, horrifying, exhausting, and informative, Tommy Thompson occasionally turns down the intensity with specific details of the far-flung locations descriptive enough to have come from a travel guidebook.
Ninth
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
T.T has done a great job.

Though i read this book some years ago. i still remember the storyline perfectly.

C.S's Crimes are.portrayed in such a way that one might think he is the greatest seductionist and killer.

The ahony of the families who lost their loved ones to Charles is portrayed through great quotes.

One who is a crime fan must read this.
Cyndy
Jun 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this one years ago & I still think about it from time to time. Nice to see that it's back in print. I remember reading that the author got the idea for this book from a short newspaper article about the suspect. From there of course did a lot more research. Definitely not a book I'd take on an overseas vacation. I must read this again!
Quanjun
Oct 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime
I read this book at least 7 years ago when I was a teenager, to this day I sometimes think about it and wonder if it was true or not (having forgotten that part). Finally found it. I was very impressed by the way this man lied and manipulated so many, he could make anyone believe in him, it really did change how I look at what people are capable of.
Fishface
Jan 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime, travel
Traces the life and crimes of Charles Sobhraj and his merry crew of theieves and killers. An amazing odyssey led by a man with a remarkably weak sense of right and wrong. Not as spectacular as everyone led me to expect, but still a good story.
Kelly A. Marsolek
Fascinating

This book is absolutely gripping. The subject was a pure sociopath who truly cared nothing for others. Well written. It is great that this book is finally available on Kindle.
Lew Serviss
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a classic crime narrative. Marvelously told, this book will keep you up late reading. Exotic locales and menacing characters will keep the pages flying.
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serpentine 2 13 Jan 18, 2013 07:43PM  
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He was born in Texas and graduated from the University of Texas in 1955. He then worked as a reporter and editor at the Houston Press.

Thompson joined Life Magazine in 1961 and became an editor and staff writer. While at Life he covered the JFK assassination and was the first writer to locate Lee Harvey Oswald's home and wife. Among his stories were coverage of the making of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely He
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