cover image Vulture Peak

Vulture Peak

John Burdett. Knopf, $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-307-27267-6

Burdett’s fifth Bangkok novel (after 2010’s The Godfather of Kathmandu) opens with a memorable tableau—three corpses, laid neatly on a bed in a Phuket mansion and missing all commercially viable body parts, including their faces. It’s clearly a case for the quirky, pot-smoking police detective, Sonchai Jitpleecheep, whose investigations are often stymied by the double whammy of his country’s corruption and his own personal problems. When Jitpleecheep is on task, he’s doggedly pursuing traffickers in human organs, led by a beautiful but ruthless set of twins, Lilly and Polly Yip. The criminal ring uses as its source material executed Chinese prisoners, while its customers are wealthy Westerners whose internal organs have worn out. All too often, though, the story veers off into side issues concerning drug use, Jitpleecheep’s marital difficulties, and gender change. Burdett’s writing remains fresh, humorous, and full of insights into Thailand, but readers who prefer focus and suspense should look elsewhere. Author tour. (Jan.)