Enjoyable, mostly, with a savage payoff and a smoky, acidic aftertaste.

READ REVIEW

BANGKOK 8

East and West coexist in a murderous symbiosis in this exotic thriller by British author (and Hong Kong resident) Burdett (The Last Six Million Seconds, 1997, etc.).

This tangled tale of drugs, sex, and political corruption is narrated by Krung Tep (i.e., Bangkok) detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a “half-caste Third World cop who speaks English and French,” has a criminal past, and still does the local drug of choice (“yaa baa”). Burdett kickstarts the tale with a dynamite opening sequence: the discovery of black US Marine William Bradley’s dead body in his Mercedes, filled with seemingly drug-crazed cobras and a giant python wrapped amorously around the torso of the deceased. Sonchai’s investigation, done in tandem with American authorities, and abetted and complicated by gorgeous FBI agent Kimberley Jones, takes us through the meanest and seamiest streets of District 8 (Sonchai’s turf), and introduces us to a beguiling gallery of sinister personages portrayed with black-comic brio. The principals include a beautiful black woman whose relationship to Bradley isn’t initially clear; Sonchai’s pragmatic mother Nong, a retired “bar girl” interested in the commercial potential of Viagra; his crafty boss Colonel Vikorn, who’s a little too cozy with CIA ops in Thailand and abroad; jade mogul (and connoisseur of Bangkok’s thriving sex industry) Sylvester Warren; and a fast-talking transsexual with a sure survival instinct. A Russian nuclear physicist turned pimp, “Barbara Hutton’s jadeite wedding necklace,” and an educational visit to a crocodile farm keep the reader alert—even when Sonchai’s summary descriptions of Bangkok’s history, culture, and economic priorities lapse into exposition and background information clumsily grafted onto the story. Burdett is more successful with Sonchai’s frequent citations of Buddhist wisdom: they’re funny, endearing (and informative) building blocks in the creation of an unusual and interesting protagonist.

Enjoyable, mostly, with a savage payoff and a smoky, acidic aftertaste.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-4000-4044-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

HEAVEN, MY HOME

The redoubtable Locke follows up her Edgar-winning Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) with an even knottier tale of racism and deceit set in the same scruffy East Texas boondocks.

It’s the 2016 holiday season, and African American Texas Ranger Darren Matthews has plenty of reasons for disquiet besides the recent election results. Chiefly there’s the ongoing fallout from Darren’s double murder investigation involving the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. He and his wife are in counseling. He’s become a “desk jockey” in the Rangers’ Houston office while fending off suspicions from a district attorney who thinks Darren hasn’t been totally upfront with him about a Brotherhood member’s death. (He hasn’t.) And his not-so-loving mother is holding on to evidence that could either save or crucify him with the district attorney. So maybe it’s kind of a relief for Darren to head for the once-thriving coastal town of Jefferson, where the 9-year-old son of another Brotherhood member serving hard time for murdering a black man has gone missing while motorboating on a nearby lake. Then again, there isn’t that much relief given the presence of short-fused white supremacists living not far from descendants of the town’s original black and Native American settlers—one of whom, an elderly black man, is a suspect in the possible murder of the still-missing boy. Meanwhile, Darren’s cultivating his own suspicions of chicanery involving the boy’s wealthy and imperious grandmother, whose own family history is entwined with the town’s antebellum past and who isn’t so fazed with her grandson’s disappearance that she can’t have a lavish dinner party at her mansion. In addition to her gifts for tight pacing and intense lyricism, Locke shows with this installment of her Highway 59 series a facility for unraveling the tangled strands of the Southwest’s cultural legacy and weaving them back together with the volatile racial politics and traumatic economic stresses of the present day. With her confident narrative hands on the wheel, this novel manages to evoke a portrait of Trump-era America—which, as someone observes of a pivotal character in the story, resembles “a toy ball tottering on a wire fence” that “could fall either way.”

Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-36340-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more