By John Burdett
It’s election time and Colonel Vikorn of the Royal Thai Police Department wants to slide into office being a hero by eliminating human organ trafficking in the city. He assigns Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep to look into the problem. Unsure what the game is, Sonchai is soon whisked away to Dubai where he meets a pair of enigmatic Chinese twins who are big players in the human organ game…and both crazier than a loon. Back in Bangkok, he is sent to investigate a triple murder in a mansion on top of a heralded mountain, named Vulture Peak. Sonchai discovers the organ trafficking business is much bigger than he imagined, with ties close to home. There’s also a rapist wandering his home neighborhood…and Sonchai’s wife might be having an affair. What’s a man who wants only to be a good cop and a faithful Buddhist to do?
There is a lot going on here and I found it difficult to keep everything straight. There is a lot of weirdness with a few subplots to break up things. How Burdett kept everything in order only shows how complex some authors’ minds can be.
Sonchai Jitpleecheep: Royal Thai Police Detective, Buddhist, American father, speaks English, son died in traffic accident, mother owns a prostitution bar, smokes marijuana now and then
Chanya: Former prostitute and Sonchai’s ‘wife’. Has a masters in sociology and working on her Doctor’s
Vikorn: Police Colonel and Sonchai’s boss. Not gung ho about enforcing the law, gray short hair, average height, multiple wives
Lek: Sonchai’s assistant, going through a gender change to become a woman
Lilly and Polly Yip: Human organ traffickers, have a mansion in Hong Kong, early 30s, Chinese, tall, exquisite personas, fluent in several languages, rich, very attractive, and, in the minds of many, insane. Will gamble huge amounts of money on small contests
Freddie Monroe: Aging British rock star, owns a yacht, spends time with a transgender, had two liver transplants, uses a walker and wheelchair because of breathlessness
Most of the characters are crazy, either humorously or genuinely. It’s no wonder Sonchai retreats from the world through drugs. There’s no other way to deal with the nuttiness and the horror around him.
Fairly definitive voices. Lek’s comes through pretty well. There’s a heavy dose of Western influence with conversations even with Thai and Chinese terminology and I didn’t get the feel of some of the Asian characters’ voices. I couldn’t see these people speaking in my mind and see them as Thai or Chinese.
First person from Sonchai’s POV and presented as if he’s speaking to you, acknowledging the reader. Mostly present tense. There are many levels of complexity to this story, almost too complex. Graphic depictions are tempered with humorous scenes but the humor is almost surreal. I don’t know if I want to spend too much time trying to make all of the connections between the subplots and the culture; that’s just not my cup of tea. Still, a fine piece of writing and Burdett knows his stuff.