The Godfather of Kathmandu by John Burdett

The Godfather of Kathmandu by John Burdett

A Royal Thai Detective Novel

John Burdett’s famed Royal Thai detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep confronts the most shocking crime of his career and is put to the test both as a Buddhist and as a cop in this riveting tale.

Sonchai’s Jitpleecheep’s boss, Colonel Vikorn, has decided to make Sonchai his consigliere in a heroin smuggling operation. Vikorn’s connection is a man named Tietsin, an exiled Tibetan lama based in Kathmandu, who wants to use the profits from the deal to invade China. Sonchai travels to meet Tietsin, and, still reeling from personal tragedy, falls under the sway of this dark and charismatic guru. To complicate matters, a rich American film director has been murdered. It is a shocking and intriguing case, and solving it could lead to a promotion for Sonchai, but, as always, he is for more concerned with the state of his Karma than he is with his status in the earthly realm.


“Burdett’s fever-dream mysteries recast the police procedural as psychedelic peep show.” —The New Yorker

“John Burdett is writing the most exciting set of crime novels in the world.”
Portland Oregonian

“Godfather is written with Burdett’s characteristic zest, serving up pungent slices of Bangkok’s bazaars and waterways.” —Boston Globe

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Ours is an age of enforced psychosis. I’ll forgive yours, farang, if you’ll forgive mine—but let’s talk about it later. Right now I’m on the back of a motorbike taxi hurtling toward a to-die-for little murder off Soi 4/4, Sukhumvit. My boss, Colonel Vikorn, called me at home with the good news that he wants me on the case because the victim is said to be some hyper-rich, hyper-famous Hollywood farang and he doesn’t need poor Detective Sukum screwing up with the media. We’ll get to Detective Sukum; for the moment picture me, if you will, a Eurasian Bangkok cop on my way to one of our most popular red-light districts with a Force 8 tropical wind in my face causing eyes to tear and ears to itch, where there awaits an overweight dead Westerner.

I’m nearly there. With a little urging my motorbike jockey drives up onto the sidewalk to avoid the massive traffic jam at the Soi 4 junction with Sukhumvit, weaves in between a long line of cooked-food vendors busy feeding the whores from Nana Plaza who have just gotten up (it’s about eleven in the morning), slaloms between a mango seller and a lamppost, returns to the tarmac with the usual jolt to the lower spine, and now we’re slowing to swerve into Subsoi 4. (Should one add the two fours to make the lucky number eight, or should one accept the stark warning: two fours mean death twice within the Cantonese luck system, which has taken over the world as a vital component of globalization?) Finally, here we are with a couple of squad cars and a forensic van in the parking area of the flophouse to welcome yours truly on this fair morning.

Also waiting for me is my long-haired assistant, Lek, a katoey— transsexual—who has not yet scraped together the courage or the funds for the final op. He avoids the supernatural brightness in my eyes (I’ve been meditating all night) to inform me, sotto voce, that Detective Sukum is here before me and has already developed possessive feelings toward the cadaver. The good Sukum is half a grade above me, and we are rivals for promotion. Like any jungle carnivore, Sukum is hunched over the kill as if it were all his own work—and who can blame him? Necrophilia is a professional hazard on any murder squad, and I have no doubt my rival is slobbering over his magnificent prize, just as if he had come across the Koh-i-noor diamond in a sewer. Within the value system into which we were all inducted at cadet school, this murder is everyone’s definition of ruang yai: a big one. It will be interesting to see how Sukum handles my inconvenient arrival. I think I might be able to surprise him.

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John Burdett
About John Burdett
John Burdett is a nonpracticing lawyer who worked in Hong Kong for a British firm until he found his true vocation as a writer. He has also lived in France, Spain, and Thailand. He is the author of A Personal History of Thirst, The Last Six Million Seconds, Bangkok 8, Bangkok Tattoo, and Bangkok Haunts.

Photo © Joanne Chan

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