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Bangkok 8

(Sonchai Jitpleecheep #1)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  8,872 ratings  ·  1,041 reviews
A thriller with attitude to spare, Bangkok 8 is a sexy, razor-edged, often darkly hilarious novel set in one of the world’s most exotic cities.

Witnessed by a throng of gaping spectators, a charismatic Marine sergeant is murdered under a Bangkok bridge inside a bolted-shut Mercedes Benz. Among the witnesses are the only two cops in the city not on the take, but within momen
Paperback, 336 pages
Published July 13th 2004 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published August 6th 2003)
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3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,872 ratings  ·  1,041 reviews

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Dec 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NO ONE AT ALL
Shelves: for-school

The author (or should I say a cheap salesman/opportunist he claims himself to be?) talks as if he knew it all about Thailand and its way of living or thinking.

If you want a glimpse to the real Thai, this is not the book you're looking for.

Before I get to the part when I express my deep hatred for the book, I feel more than delighted to point out certain false facts that Burdett includes in Bangkok 8.

Disclaimer: I'm Thai and was born into a Buddhist family. Below is the explaintaion
Mar 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-noir
Bangkok 8 reads like the bastard offspring of a yaa baa-fueled brainstorming session between James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard, and a Buddhist monk gathered around a manual typewriter in a South Asian bar with slowly rotating ceiling fans in the late afternoon, about four hours before the impossibly beautiful whores (who may or may not be women) come out for karaoke and transaction.

Also, any book that features a male Thai Buddhist cop drunk and pole dancing to Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” within
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
HERE COME THE THAILAND BOOKS! I read all the books in this series while I was in Thailand, and besides the last one, I LOVED them. There's nothing better than being in a foreign country and reading a book SET in that country to live the flavor of both worlds more fully.

This is a mystery series starring a Buddhist cop who is half white/half thai, the son of a Thai prostitute. The cast is full of dirty and corrupt people you kind of fall in love with. It's violent and graphic and edgy and just re
Dec 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: blog
Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep is the son of a Bangkok prostitute (insert your own inappropriate joke regarding the juxtaposition of the words "Bangkok" and "prostitute" here) and a U. S. soldier. As a result, Sonchai is able to walk in both cultures, but belong to neither, and to understand the differences between the farang (a term used for foreigners) and the Thai mindset. He's also a devout Buddhist, which prevents him from taking part in the openly corrupt practices of the Thai police force ...more
Jul 08, 2013 rated it did not like it
Contains spoilers:

I couldn't take seriously for a second this book and its "only honest cop" (wherever) cliche. I lived in Bangkok for 3 years and Burdett's perceptions of Bangkok and the Thais are facile and sneering, laced with cultural chauvinism (the two often seem to go hand in hand), with caricatures rather than characters littering this book. Through the mouth of his protagonist, Burdett expresses pretentious opinions and thoughts you're more likely to find in a pub in Liverpool than on t
Sonchai Jitpleecheep is one of my favorite fictional detectives and Burdett's series featuring him are exotic and multi-layered romps through Thai culture, this one set mainly in the city of the title.

Sonchai is the son of a bar girl and an American G.I. What sets him apart from other cops in Bangkok is his worldliness and his dedication to being an "arhat", a Buddhist well on the path to enlightenment. He gained his worldliness from living abroad with some of his mother's liaisons; his time in
Jun 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We’re all exasperated with the police at one time or another. But in Bangkok, the pique is simply more acute.

“I used to buy whole trays of Rolex watches for police officers,” the city’s top sex tycoon complained to The New York Times recently. “I used to carry cash in black plastic bags for them. But they are still harassing me.”

In John Burdett’s thriller Bangkok 8, the half-Thai, half-American, all-Buddhist detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep -- as dry and charming as a good martini -- explains the
Elizabeth (Alaska)
To tell the truth, I expected some piece of pulp fiction type with prose in the vein of Chandler or Hammett. Instead, it is much better than pulp and very different than those noir authors. I think the cover of this edition does it justice, as the night life of Bangkok has a decided influence. While the book doesn't take place entirely in the red light district, prostitution - more specifically, the life of prostitute - is very much this book. So, to, are drugs and drug trafficking.

While this is
Hardcover Hearts
Sep 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hardcover by: Friends of the Library sale
I am so thoroughly amazed at this book. I had read interesting reviews about it, so when I saw this next to the next book (Bangkok Tattoo) at the Friends of the Library sale, I jumped on it.

Allow me to preface by saying that I love good crime noir book- one where the heroes are as flawed as some of the bad guys and things are gritty and the subject matter is dark. I also adore reading about other cultures where you are so enmeshed that it feels a little like culture shock when you turn the page
Nov 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: 1
Shelves: mystery-asia, police
Excellent introduction to John Burdett's Sonchaii Jitpleecheep mysteries. Set in a very exotic locale of Bangkok Thailand with so many interesting things going on; great characters, I loved the relationship betw Sonchaii and the FBI agent. I kept wanting them to get together. One of the strangest murders I've ever read; so much interplay between cultures, the American, Thai, Buddhism, etc. Fascinating story. Loved it very much. I will read more.
Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
Couldn't finish this because the author's portrayal of Thai people, language and culture seems off to me. I would be interested to hear from another Thai speaking person who have read this book.
Ian Connel
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Could not finish. Got to within 40 pages of the end and was so dissatisfied that I could not care less what happened with all of the TV/thriller cliche characters. The main character seemed wimpy and disaffected but somehow had the rage to pursue his partner's killer. The female protagonist, of the privileged white FBI beauty archetype, inexplicably gets enamored with aforementioned sad-faced Thai. They walk around the city to get evidence and see lots of prostitutes. Whores everywhere! Apparent ...more
Sep 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
The novel Platform got me interested in the cultural political economy of sexual tourism, sexual encounter, and the sex service industry.

Then I heard about John Burdett's 4 novels (3 are out, he is writing the 4th one) based in Bangkok. Each is a detective story. The main character is what I call a "mixo" -- thai mother, african-american father. His mother is a retried sex worker, and he is a non-currupt detective who following the 8 fold path of Buddhism. The setting and plot are set within th
Darrell Reimer
Nov 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The older I get, the more prone I am to borrowing from the library before I put down money for a book. I was especially hesitant to pick up John Burdett's Bangkok 8, fearing it would be the lurid and grotty sort of “Neon Noir” that British male authors seem to revel in: a cascade of depravity concluding with collapse. (James Ellroy, who writes the sort of novels I most dislike, calls this book, "The last, most compelling word in thrillers.") But the premise held appeal: a murder to solve, anothe ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
4 Stars

If you are looking for traditional mystery, then you've come to the wrong book.

If you want an original take on the mystery genre, with some mild thrills, Thai attitudes on sex/sexuality, and Buddhism that is sewn within the plot like silk; then this is definitely the right book.

Sonchai Jitpleecheep is our honest Thai cop, on the hunt for his partners killer. He is thrust deep into a known cover-up and conspiracy of an old murder, unknown to him. He is vulnerable, flawed, and yet has a s
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who are really into thailand
i liked this book, but wasn't ultimately totally satisfied with it. i usually like to finish a fluff-type book like this with a feeling like "ahhhhhh that was good," but at the end of this one i just kinda felt like "meh."

i really liked reading about thailand/bangkok, given my obsession with the region, so that was cool. but the characters didn't really have a lot of depth (and were sometimes pretty implausible), and i wanted the plot to have more twists and turns and be more exciting.
Josh tcatsninfan
Oct 06, 2014 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
I didn't enjoy this book at all. I enjoy reading thrillers from time to time and never expect them to be Pulitzer winners. Having said that, this book is hot garbage.

First off, I'm no expert on Thailand or Thai people but this book SCREAMS that it was written by a non-Thai person. The way the character thinks and talks doesn't feel authentic at all. It's extremely obvious that it was written by some American who had a few token conversations with Thai people and thought he could write stories f
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mysteries, bookclub
Barely 2 stars. I enjoyed the main character, Sonchai, and was sympathetic with his desire to avenge the death of his partner, but most of the other characters were either stereotypical or offensive. The FBI agent was a fantasy out of any hard-boiled detective novel, an apparently sex-starved beautiful blonde, lusting after Sonchai. Please. I thought the murderer was obvious pretty early on, so I probably would not have kept reading except that this was a bookclub selection. I did enjoy the refe ...more
There were parts of this book that were OK. The discussions between the FBI Agent and the Thai hero on the culture of consumerism versus those from a Buddhist country had some interesting points. The initial murder scene and the punishment mete out to the bad guy were original. But I just thought there was a lot of pretentious, Western bias into Thais and their beliefs. It also seemed to argue that strip clubs and prostitution were okay in a weird way.
This book does not measure up to Colin Cott
Nov 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
With a bang (or, rather, a venomous bite) John Burdett introduces us to the spiritual, yet corrupt, world of Bangkok policing, with the murder-by-drug-crazed-cobra of an expat African-American Army office in Bangkok. The attack also kills a police officer, and his partner/spiritual brother, seeks his killer. This reveals a colorful world of expat decadence, business-oriented prostitutes, corrupt cops, spicy food, Buddhism, hospitals specializing in transsexual operations, the jade trade, and som ...more
Apr 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
You're either a fan of Thai prostitutes and that whole scene, or you're not. But if you're a Raymond Chandler fan, well, you'll just put this down and reread one of his.
Dave Szostak
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Drug smuggling, the illegal jade trade, and gender reassignment surgery drive the narrative in Burdett's series first, an electrifying and potent mix of the exotic, erotic, and narcotic.
Mar 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book was not what I expected. I thought it would be a thriller, or a detective novel. Rather, it is an insightful look into the sex & crime culture in Bangkok Thailand. The author writes (through the voice of the narrator) "This isn't a whodunit, is it? More like a whatwillshedonext." That's a perfect description of this book. You figure out the details of the crime as you read, but more importantly, you understand WHY things happen. And the WHY is in the context of the deep, philosophi ...more
Jamie Collins
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: noir-crime
A crime novel set in Bangkok and featuring a devout Buddhist detective, the son of a Thai bar girl (now retired) and a long-gone American G.I.

I loved the writing style and the protagonist’s narrative. Much of the novel takes place in Bangkok’s red-light district, which does not fail to be fascinating. The institutional corruption and cronyism in Thai society is shocking to the farang reader (who is occasionally directly addressed), but it’s made clear that one can do good within the system. The
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a very unusual book, not for everyone certainly, and not for the faint-hearted. In basic terms, it is a murder mystery. The detective investigating is a half-Thai, half-farang (American) son of a prostitute who spent his formative years in a Buddhist monastery. His Buddhist beliefs color the investigation and the denouement is definitely a Buddhist solution. The situations are pretty raw but seem to portray real life in the sex-oriented tourist areas of Thailand. It is an intriguing stor ...more
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
Strange, but interesting. Difficult in spots. Not sure I will read sequels. Worth considering.
Mike Rasbury
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
A variation of the quote having do with a bang and a whimper comes to mind. Bangkok 8 starts with a bang—pun not intended—and very much grinds to a whimper. That is, despite being so terribly preoccupied with literal banging.

You see, this book isn't so much a crime novel, and it certainly isn't a mystery. Nor is it a book about Buddhism, and it certainly isn't a book about Thailand. It is a book about sex, and the professions that trade in it. This is painfully obvious part way through the book
Terry Cornell
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
Different from anything I've read in crime fiction. Detective Jitpleecheep is a detective in the Royal Thai police, a Buddhist, and perhaps the only non-corrupt policeman in Thailand. As the case moves along, the author shows differences in eastern versus western culture. Really surprising ending. The author's writing style takes a little getting used to, otherwise I would give this book five stars. Can't wait to read the next book in the series.
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book gave me some insight into Thailand's sex industry and helped me understand a bit better, at an emotional level, why some girls choose to go into prostitution. I thought the short exposition on gender was quite interesting too, and anything presented in work of fiction is generally way more accessible (except for Sophie's World) than something from an academic article. But I didn't find it very thrilling, perhaps because the main character, Sonchai, was never really in any danger at any ...more
Matt Carrell
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I found Bangkok 8 in a bookshop at Suvarnabhumi Airport as I was waiting for a flight back to London. Unfortunately I did not start reading it straight away. That’s why I still had about an hour’s reading to do when we were only 30 minutes short of Heathrow Airport. For the first time in my life, I was praying for my flight to go into a holding pattern, I could not wait to find out what happened. It was one of those books you start to read more slowly as you get to the end, you just don’t want i ...more
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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.

Other books in the series

Sonchai Jitpleecheep (6 books)
  • Bangkok Tattoo (Sonchai Jitpleecheep #2)
  • Bangkok Haunts (Sonchai Jitpleecheep #3)
  • The Godfather of Kathmandu (Sonchai Jitpleecheep #4)
  • Vulture Peak (Sonchai Jitpleecheep #5)
  • The Bangkok Asset (Sonchai Jitpleecheep #6)
“Don't ask me when I first mastered the obvious.” 10 likes
“I don't want enlightenment, I want him. Sorry Buddha, I loved him more than you.” 8 likes
More quotes…