Bangkok 8: A Novel (Sonchai Jitpleecheep Series #1) by John Burdett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book took me forever to get through, and when I read the ridiculous last chapter, I regretted not having given up long ago. I had a real love-hate relationship with the narrative--sometimes getting into it, often struggling just to keep reading. John Burdett too often used his lead detective's spaciness as an excuse to jump over narrative details, and so plot machinations and character motivations lack clarity and logic (a demand Burdett would dismiss as being "too Western"). The female FBI agent, for instance, makes no sense to me. Her reasoning for continually trying to bed the main character is never explained, and the device goes on long past the point of contrivance.
I even found the prose style to be weird. Sometimes I found myself pleasantly lost in the strange rhythms of Sonchai's syntax, other times it just seemed like a cheap gimmick. The final 1/3 is plagued with long passages of exposition that seem like an easy way to get most of the work done rather than have the mystery unfold naturally. Mystical discoveries--some of them literally so--take the place of real detecting, and most of what we find out spills out of the mouths of minor characters in ill-conceived chunks of dialogue. This shatters any possible suspension of disbelief, and makes for an unsatisfying climax.
A real disappointment, I'm sorry to say. If there is a book #2 in the series, I won't be picking it up.
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