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VULTURE PEAK by John Burdett


by John Burdett

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-307-27267-6
Publisher: Knopf

Thai detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep returns in Burdett’s fifth Bangkok novel as he gets involved in murderous—and convoluted—doings working on a case involving the trafficking of human body parts.

This triple homicide is particularly grisly because all three bodies have been discovered at a mansion on Vulture Peak, near Phuket, and are all unidentifiable because they’ve been mutilated for the harvesting of their organs as well as less prepossessing body parts like faces. Police Colonel Vikorn puts the detective in an awkward position because solving this crime would make the unfathomably corrupt colonel smell like a rose and the Thai people would get respect when this illegal trafficking is brought to a halt. The plan is for Sonchai to go undercover and pose as one of those very organ traffickers, and when he does so, he quickly comes up against Lilly and Polly Yip, Chinese twins with brains, beauty and ruthlessness. The twins have received medical training and are also pathological gamblers, willing to bet thousands, for example, on when a fly will get to the top of a window. It turns out the demand for organs is fueled by rich farangs (Westerners), and the Yips seem to be willing to supply body parts from Chinese criminals as well as from more unwilling and vulnerable members of society. Sonchai bounces his theories off of his girlfriend Chanya, a former prostitute now working on a doctorate in sociology. (She knows whereof she speaks because her topic is on prostitution in Bangkok.)

Burdett’s strengths are tilted toward characterization rather than plotting, for Buddhist Sonchai remains a fascinating cross between Buddhist monk and hard-boiled detective.