Read Vulture Peak by John Burdett Online


Nobody knows Bangkok like Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, and there is no one quite like Sonchai: a police officer who has kept his Buddhist soul intact—more or less—despite the fact that his job shoves him face-to-face with some of the most vile and outrageous crimes and criminals in Bangkok. But for his newest assignment, everything he knows about his cNobody knows Bangkok like Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, and there is no one quite like Sonchai: a police officer who has kept his Buddhist soul intact—more or less—despite the fact that his job shoves him face-to-face with some of the most vile and outrageous crimes and criminals in Bangkok. But for his newest assignment, everything he knows about his city—and himself—will be a mere starting point.   He’s put in charge of the highest-profile criminal case in Thailand—an attempt to bring an end to trafficking in human organs. He sets in motion a massive sting operation and stays at its center, traveling to Phuket, Hong Kong, Dubai, Shanghai, and Monte Carlo. He draws in a host of unwitting players that includes an aging rock star wearing out his second liver and the mysterious, diabolical, albeit gorgeous co-queenpins of the international body-parts trade: the Chinese twins known as the Vultures. And yet, it’s closer to home that Sonchai will discover things getting really dicey: rumors will reach him suggesting that his ex-prostitute wife, Chanya, is having an affair. Will Sonchai be enlightened enough—forget Buddha, think jealous husband—to cope with his very own compromised and compromising world?     All will be revealed here, in John Burdett’s most mordantly funny, propulsive, fiendishly entertaining novel yet....

Title : Vulture Peak
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780307272676
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 285 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Vulture Peak Reviews

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2019-03-31 17:23

    ”This system carries with it the unspoken implication that once someone has been defined as an ‘object,’ it is automatically assumed to be ‘promiscuous’ in the sense that it may be bought and sold like any other object, even if the object in question is somebody’s kidney or liver--or whole body. This kind of thinking is exactly what underpinned the slave trade for hundreds of years: as soon as a captive West African was defined as ‘property.’ then he could be treated as a ‘promiscuous object,’ that is to say an object whose human rights have been magically transmuted into a money value in the accounts of the property owner. What is unclear, however, is why modern Western culture has continued to target prostitution by adult volunteers as ‘immoral’.”Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep is a Buddhist who is struggling to keep his soul untarnished by the harsh realities of existing in a corrupt system that is part of a violent world. He is under the thumb of the merciless Colonel Vikhorn who relies on Sonchai’s detective skills and his discretion in his ongoing competitive gamesmanship with General Zinna. When Vikhorn decides that he must run for provisional governor, he decides that he needs some moralistic victory to help guide him to political success. Vikhorn knows that Zinna is tied into the global illegal organ trade, so what would be more perfect than to shut down his operation and, better yet, destroy his rival completely?When three bodies are found with every useful organ harvested in an expensive villa in Phuket, Sonchai is dispatched, undercover, to meet with a Hong Kong connection dealing in organs. He finds himself sandwiched between two beautiful Asian twins who aren’t fooled for a minute that he is who he says he is. ”Imagine what it does to your worldview when you can see profit in everyone you meet.”It makes you certifiable.Of course, there are some ambiguous issues about at what point the law is broken. For the Vulture Twins, there is no line. ”A crime without a victim, most of the time. Most of the time the illegal organ sale is voluntary. The real crime is letting people get that poor. The real crime is capitalism, of which this trade is an inevitable product.”Is it voluntary if you are selling your kidney to feed your family? The demand for organs is way larger than what the market can provide under normal circumstances. When people are willing to pay a half a million dollars for a liver, the market will provide. China has been a great source of organs. The carving up of executed criminals for their useable organs has been well documented. With advances in drugs, it has also now become possible to place transplanted organs in people with previously noncompatible blood types. This is not only a game changer and will save many lives, it also makes life much, much easier for black market organ dealers to fulfill those half a million dollar contracts. It might even be you. Let’s say you decide to go to Thailand on a vacation. You go to one or maybe several of the clubs there, and you meet this lovely young lady or maybe a katoey that you find to be attractive. You decide to pay their bar tab (code for paying for sex), and you go to have boom boom. You wake up the next morning, after hopefully a night of amazing debauchery, missing a kidney. Inconvenient...yes... but you should probably be very glad that they didn’t decide to take your liver, your eyeballs, lungs, etc.The other interesting aspect to consider is the advances in face transplants. Remember the movie Face/Off with Nicholas Cage and John Travolta? I still get the willies about that movie. What a wonderful medical breakthrough that allows people who have been horribly burned to have a face the world can look at without wincing. Now consider the next possibility. Let’s say a rich industrialist who was born with a face even his mother couldn’t love decides he wants Tom Cruise's face. Or maybe he’d settle for someone easier to get to, like an upcoming actor who is vulnerable because he likes to party or maybe that punk with symmetrical features hanging out on the street corner. The amount of money that a certain immoral element of very rich people are willing to pay makes anything go from improbable to possible. ”A money-driven morality is no morality at all.”Needless to say, Sonchai finds himself up to his, I would say eyeballs but that seems inappropriate given the circumstances, neck in an investigation where even a nosy policeman could find himself being craved like a Thanksgiving turkey. He meets a Hong Kong Detective named Chan, who is brilliant but lithium dependent to combat his bipolar disorder. He is cerebral and sees well beyond the tree to the breadth of the forest and over the mountains. Sonchai asks him why he doesn’t have a partner. ”Me? I’m too confused. Look, I grew up in a genuinely modern city, where nobody even pretends to know who they are. I could be gay. I’ve thought about it. It’s true that I’m sexually aroused by young naked women, but on the other hand I can never convince myself that my sperm would be safe with them. Next thing you know she’s had your baby, never wants to see you again, but demands child support for the next twenty years as an alternative for having you indicted for rape. At least with a man you’re safe from that gambit.”There is some cynical logic going on in that statement. He might need to stop being a cop for a while and meet some normal women. Chan is a terrific character with his personal philosophies threaded through every sentence that spills from his lips. John Burnett takes on the top social issues during the course of this series and discusses several of them in this book. Sonchai’s partner Lek is trying to make enough money to start his transgender modifications. The whole idea of sexual orientation or any stigma associated with it is tackled head on in this book. The novel is populated with characters with about every normal or alternative sexual orientation you can think of. As you begin to get to know people it is no great surprise that what once may seem strange about their orientation becomes ordinary.Sonchai’s wife, a retired prostitute, is writing her thesis on why prostitution should be legalized. She believes that women are being victimized by governments that do not allow them to practice prostitution. Which sort of turns the whole concept on it’s head. ”The answer to the world economic crisis was obvious: legalize prostitution and tax it. At 15 percent per bang, deficits would shrink overnight. It would be safe to leverage as well. The worse things get, the more people bury their problems in sex. The better things get, the more people celebrate their good fortune with sex. It’s a tax revenue for all seasons, and with ever more sophisticated surveillance coming onstream, it won’t be long before governments will be in a position to tax sex between married couples. Hey, Obama, are you listening?”This sounds like a business opportunity to me, government surveillance proof pods for sex, coming standard for two people, or a deluxe that fits three people, or a Magic Johnson that has room for...well...more arms and legs and lips than I would know what to do with. I already have a pod market for those people, Doomsday Preppers, who think the government is already well aware of their do-si-do activities. Burdett also makes the case that soft drugs, such as marijuana, should be legalized. Now Sonchai is a stressed man. There are things he sees during this case that leaves him in serious need of self-medication. Export grade marijuana is his favorite way to cope with his job inspired anxiety. ”At least I’ve got control of the demons. Thanks to the power of cannabis, I’m able to shrink them with my brand-new green demon-shrinking gun, which sort of grew out of my right hand after the third joint.” If I didn’t know better I’d think he’d seen too many David Cronenberg films. Sonchai also bemoans the demise of the Thai stick, but Burdett, always so helpful, does describe the method with too...could make your very own at home. The eyes of a man who smoked, drank, and whored his way across Thailand while doing research for his novels.There is some crazy ass stuff going on in this novel. Some readers find the social issues mingling with the plot distracting or annoying. I think it is more realistic to see a detective who is struggling with more than just the aspects of the case. We are becoming such a linear society that we even want our novels to behave and never stray from a plodding course towards resolution. The Buddhist elements to this series of novels are fascinating and always bring me a knew perspective that I can apply directly to my own life. This is a wonderful series that continues to hold my attention. You could probably read them out of order, but I would suggest starting with the first one, Bangkok 8. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:

  • Michael
    2019-04-18 23:24

    I love the collision of spirituality and worldly corruption in this series featuring Buddhist detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep in the sinful world of modern Bangkok. This 5th in the series is a satisfying addition to the saga. It widens the gyre by getting Sonchai involved in a murder case linked to the global illegal organ trade, with Thailand somehow in the middle between factions in China marketing body parts from executed prisoners and Western customers.Sonchai tries hard to advance justice while working inside a corrupt police force led by the infamous Colonel Vikhorn. His honest skills are useful to Vikhorn in his perpetual competition with General Zinna of the Thai Army. When three bodies stripped of organs and faces show up in a mansion in the resort town of Phuket, Vikhorn hopes some link to Zinna’s schemes can be found which can help consolidate his power and help generate good PR in his campaign for provincial governor.Sonchai’s investigations lead him to focus on a pair of wealthy twin femme-fatales from Hong Kong, who quickly see through his attempt to pose as undercover organ dealer. They are over-the-top twisted and colorful adversaries. One the way to Lourdes to fish for customers, one of them does a rant against Western values she exploits:Of the world’s three universal religions, one is based on a profound insight into human psychology and one is based on a profound insight into the kind of social structure that is necessary for people to live in peace and harmony. The former is Buddhism, and the latter is Islam. The other world religion is an insane collection of primitive magic and mumbo jumbo, with cadavers resurrecting and walking around with holes in them, and lepers suddenly healing and the blind suddenly seeing, virgins giving birth, and snakes that talk. Since it’s a blatant lie, something has to be done to keep the faithful dropping coins onto the plate, or the economic model on which the whole pious edifice is based will collapse in less than a generation. It needs miracle machines.Sonchai’s work also leads him into the prostitution industry for leads into life at the mansion. Sonchai knows a lot about the latter because his mother manages a bar/brothel and his common law wife, Chanya, is a former prostitute. Burdette has a lot of fun with Chanya working on her PhD thesis on the subject. Together they gossip a lot about her Western advisor, whose feminist orientation leads her to view the industry as founded on slavery. Chanya’s Buddhist outlook gives it another spin (the term “farang” means Western foreigner and “DFR” is Burdette’s coy way of addressing the “Dear Farang Reader”) :It seemed to her that there was something seriously wrong with farang logic: it only dealt with measurable things and had no way of incorporating the Unnameable—or even basic nuance—in its calculations. … when she started to work on her thesis …she began to discover she had been right all along: farang social science was mostly propaganda for farang dominance. In former times, DFR, you used exactly the same double-talk to justify the opium and slave trades. She went back to Buddhism and challenged the Western world from there. Starting from Emptiness, it is not so difficult to see clearly: one has less of a stake in fantasy. At one point on his dangerous forays, Sonchai touches base at a Buddhist shrine where he draws out a monk his views on Western sex tourists taking time out for spiritual solace:“For farang I despair. Hardly one of them I meet has a hope of being reborn into the human form. I see sheep and dogs of the future in designer T-shirts climbing up and down the mountains, getting in and out of the tourist buses.”“They’re stuck in Aristotlean logic: ‘A cannot be not-A’ ““Tell me about it! The discovery of Nirvana is the psychological equivalent of the invention of zero but vastly more important. Think of where mathematics was before zero, and you have the level of mental development of the West: good/bad, right/left, profit/loss, heaven/hell, us/them, me/you. It’s like counting with Roman numerals.”This playful intellectual fun on the contrasts of East and West is obviously a thread I like in this series. But we still get enough of a thriller and police procedural to satisfy those seeking escapist fare, with an exotic setting and sexual themes to spice things up . Along the way, I can’t help but root for a favorable evolution of lovable Sonchai. In this one, he and Chanya must negotiate the challenges of a “seven year itch” in their relationship. And Sochai’s delightful, faithful subordinate Lek moves closer to completing his transgender transformation.

  • Adam James
    2019-03-24 23:19

    John Burdett was sitting there uncomfortably. He'd been in these meetings before. He tries his best smile despite his contempt. "I told you, I'm done with the Sonchai Jitpleecheep character. That's it. I've stretched it far enough." "They really want you to write another one, John. It's a popular series." "Yeah, but I mean, I'm ready to explore other areas in literature. Have you ever gone bird watching? It's truly magni--" "John. Dead hookers. That's what the people want. You have a successful thing going for you; why ruin it?" John Burdett turns to the window, looks out into the vast cloudless sky. "I can't anymore! My life needs meaning! There's more to the world than dead hookers!" His agent closes his cell phone. "They're offering 80 bazillion dollars." "I'm in!" "I knew you could do it!" "So, selling human organs is like even more prostitute-y. Get it? It's like taking prostitution to the next level! Literally selling your body, but bloodier! It'll be so bloody! Because of the dead bodies!!" "You're a genius, John Burdett! Now go write, you literary genius! But they want at least three dead hookers this time." "Done and done!"And that's exactly how it happened.

  • Felicia
    2019-03-24 21:11

    Annnnd here's where the series disappointed me :( It was if the author had lost the love of the character and the philosophies behind the series, and tried to do different things that kind of fought with the core of what he'd built? I dunno, it just felt like a whole different writer wrote this one. The plot and setting is, again, really interesting and fun, but opening the world in an odd way gutted why I loved the character. I guess I wanted more spiritual stuff, and this went to crazytown, with identical twin creepy Asian women, haha. Still a good read, but again, trigger warnings for violence against women!

  • Shawn
    2019-04-07 21:15

    I love these Thailand (mostly Bangkok) books by Burdett. Sure, I know he's a farang (he's taught readers we foreigners are called farangs by the Thai), but shows an appreciation of Thai culture that borders on obsession. This is his fifth Bangkok novel, after all. In his novels, Burdett makes fun of American culture seen from the Thai perspective so much that I think it would be fair to ask him: I would like to know how many Thai people Burdett has had sex with, which of the three genders has he tried, and how much drugs he has personally consumed/which kinds during his extensive research in Thailand. Americans are so uptight that they usually only go to Thailand in order to have sex in a culture that respects a paid transaction between consenting adults. (I appreciate the opinion and it makes for fun reading, but I have to disagree--I've only been once, and I went for the beach...with my wife! :-) And most of his protagonists use drugs sometime during the story. Like the police detective hero sits around smoking weed on a day dedicated to what Burdett teaches us is a Thai cultural custom of savoring the joy of indolence, that is, if you say you are kikiat that means you will do nothing, no work, the entire day; everybody will understand kikiat, recognizing it as a natural phenomenon, and it can even set off an epidemic leaving everyone in the house unwilling to get out of bed and boil water for coffee. I found the author's explanation about Thai Stick very useful, too, because when I was a teenager you could get this--it was an incredibly powerful weed, he says it was laced with opium and that it is no longer available, but he teaches the reader how to make it. Detective asks his connect for some, but the guy says it is no longer for sale because the penalty for weed is small compared to the penalty for selling opium so you have to make it yourself now by dissolving a ball of opium in boiling hot water during the drying period of marijuana production, then immersing the weed in this solution and finishing the drying process so the result is sticky Thai Stick. I remember the time when we were teens, it was stupid expensive, like 20 dollars for a small amount that looked like enough for a joint (usually that would be like a dollar). Some period later when someone spoke (it seemed like a 24 hour period had lapsed, but I don't know the actual time, it was still the same evening), she asked "did we smoke it all?" but each person had only had one pull off the pipe and seemingly lapsed into a coma! We were happy, and saved the rest for tomorrow. Like this book, you could also finish it today, but you can make it last a couple more if you are determined. :-)

  • Skip
    2019-03-31 22:19

    Sonchai's crooked boss Colonel Vikorn is running for mayor of Bangkok and decides to make a campaign issue out of stopping organ harvesting on the heels of a triple murder in a posh home in Vulture Peak. Sonchai is places in charge of the investigation that takes him to Dubai, Phuket and China as he seeks to solve the grisly murders. A set of Chinese twins (the Yips) seem to be at the center of the trafficking, but are they someone's pawns? As always, Burdett explores the dark side of humanity in a humorous at times, but serious way, with prostitutes and transvestites, etc.

  • Carl R.
    2019-04-24 20:22

    John Burdett kind of exploded onto the thriller scene a few years back with his Bangkok 8, and he’s kept the adventures of conscience-ridden detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep flowing ever since. Vulture Peak is the latest installment.Jitleecheep is a fascinating character. He’s half white--G.I. father--and his mother is a prostitute cum (pun intended) madame. Thus, he was raised in a whorehouse. His boss in completely corrupt, and his schemes to best a military rival in their competing criminal enterprises is central to the themes and action of the novels. Sonchai himself continually struggles both internally and externally with his efforts to maintain law and order while simultaneously keeping good relations with his corrupt commander. What is required of a good Buddhist in such a situation? A recurring dilemma.  The setup in Vulture Peak involves the harvesting and marketing of body parts. Where do you get those hearts, kidneys, eyes people need and want for survival or merely for enhancement? A triple homicide in a huge mansion in Phuket leads our sensitive cop into the world of providers, sellers, and purchasers of such organs. The story that follows is grotesque, brutal, sometimes bordering on science fiction and paranormal. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se, but the book isn’t properly set up for the motif, and so the disbelief doesn’t suspend so well. Science fiction often goes on to become reality, so I suppose this may (or may already have) become a great international problem. But I can’t get too excited. I hadn’t touched Burdett for quite a while after the similar freakishness of Bangkok Tattoo put me off. I suppose this element increases sales, and power to Burdett, but it’s not so much my cup these days. In addition, Jitleecheep’s philosophical meanderings have become tiresome, and even the entry of a partner/wife hasn’t added enough dimension to the situation to satisfy. For my Asian crime fix, I’m now preferring more realistic excursions with Jake Needham’s Jack Shepherd and Sam Tay.

  • Jamie Collins
    2019-04-17 19:58

    2.5 stars. I love the characters and the setting for this series, but the books have been getting weirder (and they started off pretty damned weird). Sonchai’s personal life provides some grounding for the wacky yet sinister mystery/crime plots; this time the background is a layer of mistrust between Sonchai and his wife. Their relationship has never seemed real to me, though, so it wasn’t a satisfying counterbalance to the book’s outrageous aspects.I was glad that the author omitted the supernatural elements which were threatening to turn the series into fantasy. The weirdness is relatively mundane in this one. I won’t begin to describe the plot, but it involves illegal organ transplants obtained (not always voluntarily) from impoverished third-world people for wealthy Westerners.While I found the book to be unsatisfying overall, there are some nice scenes. I like the unabashedly corrupt Chief Vikorn, and I like Lek, Sonchai’s katoey assistant. I liked the Hong Kong police officer. I missed the FBI agent, though, and I was really annoyed by the new American character, a sociologist who decried prostitution until her first glimpse of an attractive man in a bar.

  • Jacqui
    2019-04-09 22:10

    I had a chance to read John Burdett's "Vulture Peak", this is my first exposure to his work and would look forward to reading the rest of the series which I believe totals five books crafted around his main character Thailand detective Mr. Sanchai Jitpleecheep.The novel starts with a triple homicide in a very upscale neighborhood (Vulture Peak), in which not only are the victims brutally murdered, their organs, including their faces are removed from each. Sanchai's boss Colnel Vikorn, directs him to look into and eradicate the illegal organ trading business which he wrongly assumes is centralized in Thailand. Sanchai travels to major cities Hong Kong, Shanghai and Monte Carlo and uncovers the scope and context of this bazaar, dark and evil practice. The characters are oddly eccentric and interesting, Mr. Burdett develops them in a fast paced compelling manner.The novel is particularly dark and gruesome (which may bother some), I found the characters engaging and credible. This is a fast and fun read that I would highly recommend.

  • Emily Crow
    2019-04-01 23:15

    There's a good story in here somewhere, but overall, this book got on my last nerve. I thought the plotting was sloppy, with subplots and characters seeming to appear and disappear at random, and the protagonist, Sonchai, seemed rather incompetent. Also, the writing abruptly changes from past tense to present tense about a third of the way through, and I'm the kind of stickler who finds that sort of thing annoying. Also, I found the book to be rather misogynistic. (view spoiler)[From the uptight Englishwoman who decides prostitution's dandy and gets gigantic breast implants once she manages to get laid, to the predatory Chinese women who literally steal men's genitals and use them as dildos, to the description of the vagina as "an aching wound needing to be sated", this book seemed to have some serious problems with women. (hide spoiler)]

  • John Hubbard
    2019-03-25 23:00

    One of the weaker in the series. Perhaps signaling time to stop but I will probably read part 6 when I find a cheap copy.

  • Juliet
    2019-04-13 00:00

    An explosion of 1) the grotesque and 2) male fantasy. The book is about the underground trade in body parts, so naturally you would expect the grotesque. A cooler full of eyeballs seems about right. And it's a popular mystery, so naturally you would expect people saying such tired old saws as, "I don't have to tell you what I'm thinking, do I?" and "You already know what I'm going to do." But the unexpected here is, first of all, some unusual characters who are a bit more complex than the run-of-the-mill: Vikorn, the corrupt boss who secretly appreciates his truly dedicated employee and our hero Sonchai; Polly and Lily, well-polished twins who turn out to be twisted and then downright diabolical; and the detective from Hong Kong who keeps popping at the most opportune moments.But the second unexpected is the ongoing obvious THEME about women's sexuality that this guy feels he must PROCLAIM, even having his main character's ex-prostitute-now-sociology-PhD read into the record. In this book, all women are whores, and they like it. Being whores gives them money and power that they otherwise wouldn't have. They stop being whores when they decide to stop -- or when some guy rescues--er, that is, marries them, or when they beg some guy to rescue-- er, marry them. (Something wrong with your logic there, Burdett.) All the prostitutes are beautiful, high-priced, and very intelligent. Only two women in the book are not whores. One is a nun who is so ugly, she is able to deter a would-be rapist by the sheer fact of her ugliness. Another is a sociologist from Britain who is also extremely unattractive, most especially in terms of her drooping breasts -- until she discovers the pleasures of sex and then she gets breast implants, and everyone applauds her.At first, I was willing to be open to another perspective, but then things really got nuts. Not only are all the women whores, but the really scary ones literally castrate men and steal their penises. I mean, was this Burdett guy scanning a book on Freud for plot ideas? The penises are frozen and kept in jars as trophies/dildoes. Really, think of every cliched worst male fear, and it is in this book. There are a lot of transsexuals, one of whom gets his other head cut off, but only after he weeps over his castrated cock & balls. One detective even STROKES some guy's cut-off penis and does a riff on "Alas, Poor Yorick." Oh, and that detective happens to be bipolar. Which in Burdett's lexicon means hallucinating, liable to descend into gibberish the moment the lithium runs out, and capable of ESP. There is a literal Frankenstein -- or maybe he is Leatherface, or maybe he is King Kong. The first third of the book is a little unsettling but draws you in. The second third of the book is startling and has you wondering, was that violence/dismemberment/disquisition on prostitution really necessary? The final third of the book is so over the top, you wonder what this Burdett guy was smoking (while proclaiming himself none too thinly in the dialogue a prophetic genius). The only reason I finished it was so I could finish it.

  • Trish
    2019-03-28 19:01

    Burdett does something memorable in this episode of his Bangkok series (Sonchai Jitpleecheep #5). He introduces two of the most interesting character creations he’s had in years: the bipolar and incisively intelligent Inspector Chan of the Hong Kong police force, and the incomparably sophisticated Detective San Bin of the Shanghai police. Mind you, these two men are creations of a Western mind, but they are everything a reader wants in a detective: very smart and very sly, with an unparalleled streak of righteous vengeance and duty to protect. It’s been awhile since I have visited Burdett’s world, and perhaps I did not choose an auspicious time. His somewhat loose narrative and rants about the sex trade in Thailand didn’t hold up well next to the heavy-duty nonfiction I have been immersed in lately, but gradually I relaxed enough to acknowledge the points he was making. I just finished watching the third series of Danish TV called Borgen, where the same questions Sonchai’s wife, Chen Mai, is researching for her doctorate are being considered, e.g., prostitution as a woman’s right rather than exploitation. So Burdett is quite topical, and not just in the tropics.The bulk of this mystery, however, is about international organ trafficking, always a topic that arouses strong emotions and means money changing unsavory hands. For the first time our Buddhist hero, Sonchai, travels overseas: to Dubai, Monte Carlo (!), Hong Kong and Shanghai. We meet a pair of Chinese doyens who specialize in organs, transplanted or otherwise, and this adds to the unreality of the scenes he conjures. Undoubtedly some of the research is true (six-star hotels in Dubai, for instance) but it seemed just a little ‘out there’ for me to get scared.Again, his character creations for Chinese cops are ground-breaking in my experience and I’d love to come across them again. It almost seems Burdett could colonize some new territory if he wanted to move to Shanghai, for instance.A word about the ending, in which Chen Mai’s friend Dorothy features: seems a little ‘out there,’ and yet another figment of a western man’s mind. We learn more about Burdett than human nature, perhaps, but…ain’t it always the way?

  • Kathleen McFall
    2019-04-15 20:01

    Wow. Who knew that organ trafficking, empowered prostitution, sexy twins, dirty politics, infidelity and true love could be woven into such a compelling story? Wait a minute ... as I write these words it occurs to me: have I been conned? Are the salacious plot elements and the juicy narrative of Vulture Peak subliminally and callously constructed to ring all the most primal and secretive human bells? Is that writing or marketing?Meh. Who cares. Not me because Vulture Peak is a good and gripping book. I was hooked from the beginning, tore through it in just a few days, even accidentally dropped it in the bathtub (now it's a thick mess, thank goodness it was just the ARC), because I could not put it down. By the end of it, I was considering that the sex trade might be a good second career, that my next vacation would surely be to Thailand, and was headed out the door to Portland's food carts in search of authentic Thai street food. But - and here is what makes it work - I was also wondering, along with Detective Sonchai Jitplecheep and his wife Chanya, about the intrinsic terror of global capitalism and its relentless drive to commodify everything - even human organs. Where will it all end?That's a long-winded way of saying that in Vulture Peak, John Burdett has created a standout of smart storytelling that tackles complicated grown-up questions about modern life. The characters genuinely come alive, the cultural landscape was finely drawn and I was transported, however briefly, into the author's mind. The plot of this thriller is complex and the characters numerous - rendering the book occasionally hard to follow, but that's okay; this is adult reading and I don't need to be led by the nose through every twist and turn.Highly recommended.

  • Patrick McCoy
    2019-04-21 17:04

    Vulture Peak (2012) is the fifth installment of the Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep mystery series by John Burdett. I felt the need for something lighter for a break. I mostly enjoy Burdett's books for the exotic locales and here there's lots of that since there are forays from Bangkok to Phuket, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Monte Carlo. However, I have to say that the dialogue was really bothering me this time around. The characters started to blend together as their styles of speaking were rendered too similar and intelligent sounding as well as using some of the same verbal ticks, like using "HiSo" for "high society." I also feel that most of the dialogue is used as exposition to give information about characters or plot or to expound the author's facile opinions on western society, capitalism, and other topics. Burdett stoops to giving wikipedia definitions twice in the novel--laziness? Is there no way to explain it in conversation? His American stereotypes continue to irritate me as well, all of the political advisers in the novel are amoral American opportunists. There are science fiction/fantastical elements to the novel, not unlike Bangkok Tattoo, that are not my cup of tea. I think I might skip the next installment of the series and focus on more accomplished mystery writers like Charles Willeford, James Ellroy, and Patricia Highsmith.

  • Lexie
    2019-04-01 20:11

    Every 'Bangkok' novel is a delight, and is written from a most unique perspective -- that of a male, middle-aged, married, Buddhist, Thai homicide detective who manages to keep his heart, soul, and mind intact through the horrors of his work and the all-pervasive corruption within the police force. Cultures and sub-cultures clash -- in this case, Thai, American, and Chinese -- and John Burdett spares us no aspect of the universal human condition. Humour abounds, too; there is genuine comedy in Burdett's writing. An example: an American governmental agent remarks to Sonchai Jitpleecheep, the Thai homicide officer, about the American idea of happiness:"... I wish you'd been around when the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution. They've got three hundred million of us chasing our own asses in the pursuit of that same happiness you Buddhists already knew didn't exist ... I did always wonder why it was the pursuit of happiness -- like you've never really expected to get there. Kind of a Godot thing right at the center of the American mind. The best is always yet to come, yet to come, yet to come ..."

  • Don Schecter
    2019-04-15 20:08

    The plots of volumes 1-3 were amazingly fresh and made me look for the next book. But Godfather of Kathmandu was a different book. Mystery took a back seat to the hero's investigation of his religious beliefs and I found myself learning a great deal about comparative Buddhism. Vulture Peak was a further departure: I stayed with it because I liked Sonchai, his extended family of characters, and the Bangkok ambience from the first four books. After waiting through two-thirds of the book for the story to pick up pace, I found the ending singularly unsatisfying. The secondary characters popped in and out as window dressing and the main characters got their just desserts in the dark, off in the distance. I enjoyed the first four books, but it's not just the main character who has grown world-weary, the author seems to be tiring as well. If you choose to read these fascinating books, I suggest you read them in order.

  • Jim
    2019-04-13 23:04

    I look forward the arrival of each addition to Burdett's Thai series, even the somewhat weaker ones, such as this one. Sonchai Jitpleecheep is caught up in another mystery, the murder of three in a mountaintop estate that forces the detective to enter the dark world of organ sales. Of course he meets seductive women, trolls the underbelly of Thai (and also Chinese) society, and does the bidding of his powerful corrupt boss. It is scary actually to think that this type of thing actually goes on, but no reason to doubt it either. Sonchai also has to deal with his relationship his Chantal, his wife, who has turned to academic pursuits. The story is fairly straightforward, and maybe not quite as mysterious as some of the other entries; hard to avoid in series writing. Still, it was enjoyable, more so after about halfway through. Burdett seemed a bit tired of the whole affair at then end.

  • Betsy Lewis-moreno
    2019-03-28 22:18

    What a disappointment. I had so been looking forward to the latest in Burdett's Bangkok series. The story is disjointed with long rambling monologues and Wikipedia entries that do nothing to move the story forward or make us care about the characters. Familiar characters such as Lek and Vikorn drop in oh so briefly but then drop out again. We see glimpses of the Sonchai that I so enjoyed in the other books, but in too many instances it was hard to figure out exactly what he was doing and why. I wouldn't recommend this one to anyone who hasn't read Burdett - stick to the first three in the series that were so readable and fresh. If you are a Burdett fan and can't stay away, go for it - but don't expect too much. Another one like this will put me off the series for good.

  • Larry
    2019-04-16 18:22

    Sonchai Jitpleecheep is a detective in Bangkok who works for a spectacularly corrupt and cynical superior. The superior, Colonel Vikorn, is in charge of a crackdown on the illegal body part trade at the same time that he seeks to make a fortune from it. Jitpleecheep, who is a very funny narrator and guide to a surreal world, has to be very careful while overseeing a sting operation. The fact that he has a Buddhist monk-like (except in matters of sexual activity) orientation on life (that means he's not totally corrupt) makes him consistently interesting. The book, latest in a series, is like a cross between Kojak and Kafka, as a reviewer once said about William Marshall's Yellowthread Street series.

  • Chris
    2019-03-31 01:04

    Disturbing, weird, but still a page turner. This was like the first two novels in the series in terms of the flow of the narrative. Burdett does a lot of philosophizing about religion, capitalism, etc. The Chinese twins are pure evil and Sonchai meets some interesting police colleagues from China. You never know where the plot is going in this series. We jet to Dubai, Nice,and China tracking an organ ring but is that what we are really after? One never knows in this series. Given the duplicity of Songchai's boss you never quite know. Lots of humor and irony with the girls of the night as well. Another very strange ending.

  • Rick F.
    2019-04-19 20:02

    quite a fun and facinating read- great local and really involves the reader (the narrator addresses us throughout the book as have to read book to understand what DFR means!) quite a good entry in a very good series!

  • Angela
    2019-04-05 22:24

    Another book in the Sochai Jitpleecheep series. Fan of the series, not the best of the series, felt like it could have used another look see from the editor, language was awkward at times. The case in this book focuses on the black market for transplant organs.

  • Jesus Portillo
    2019-04-09 19:08

    Smart, funny, gruesome, and well written.

  • Shuriu
    2019-04-04 19:59

    After our son died, she had nothing much to do, so she studied sociology because I told her it was about people and society. She has an excellent brain and was at the top of her classes. The price she paid was that she had to think like a *farang*. It seemed to her there was something seriously missing in *farang* logic: it only dealt with measurable things and had no way of incorporating the Unnameable -- or even basic human nuance -- in its calculations. She let that pass, at considerable cost to her peace of mind and personality -- you might say she sold an organ, metaphorically speaking. What she demanded in return was that *farang* thinking be faithful to its own terms. Things were fine up to her first and second degrees, but when she started working on her thesis, which required personal creative input and direct fieldwork, she began to discover she had been right all along: *farang* social science was mostly propaganda for *farang* dominance. In former times, DFR [Dear Farang Reader], you used exactly the same double-talk to justify the opium and slave trades. She went back to Buddhism and challenged the Western world from there. Starting from Emptiness, it is not so difficult to see clearly: one has less of a stake in fantasy. (p. 39-40)"Of the world's three universal religions, one is based on a profound insight into human psychology and is based on a profound insight into the kind of social structure that is necessary for people to like in peace in harmony.... The former is Buddhism, and the latter is Islam. The other world religion is an insane collection of primitive magic and mumbo-jumbo, with cadavers resurrecting and walking around with holes in them, lepers suddenly healing and the blind suddenly seeing, virgins giving birth and snakes that talk. Since it's all a blatant lie, something has to be done to keep the faithful dropping coins onto the plate, or the economic model on which the whole pious edifice is based will collapse in less than a generation. It needs miracle machines. Lourdes is the most important. Of course, since there are no miracles, you have to have a large collection of people willing to lie to themselves. We are talking about the terminally ill, of course." (p. 70-71)I watched in fascination as that special thing geniuses have -- that extra half inch of willpower the rest of us lack -- started to stir at the back of his retinas. (p. 77) "Suppose that in their time -- we're talking about the early nineteenth century -- there was just enough wealth and employment in China for, say, ten percent of the population. And most of the rest of the world, even working-class England, was in the same boat. The British were almost as addicted as the Chinese. You see, opium was even cheaper than gin. According to this economist, even the great Wilberforce, whom the Brits like to cite as the honorable Englishman who got slavery abolished, he too was an opium addict." He pauses. "Looked at from that point of view, the opium trade was not so bad. It was a way of keeping twenty million unemployed men docile. As soon as opium was suppressed, China tore itself apart in revolution -- and the U.K. lost its empire." "A modern Chinese economist told you that?" "Yes, but only by way of illustration. After all, economists are there to forecast the future. See, his punch line was: the world economy has positioned itself in such a way that almost everyone is going to be unemployed by the middle of this century. The American sucker-consumer is now bankrupt for the next fifty years, and there's no way Asians are going to waste their money en masse on toys like iPods -- hoarding is hardwired in every head east of Suez. Americans are strange people. They allow themselves to be bled white by gangsters for generation after generation and call it freedom. But that blissful ignorance may be in its endgame. The consumer economy is already dead -- what we're experiencing right now is its wake. What do you think governments are going to use to keep everyone docile when the shit finally hits the fan?" "Surely not opium?" "No. Not opium. Opium is an ugly way of dying. How about cannabis? The Spanish used it in Spanish Morocco to keep the Riff tribesmen sedated. The best thing about it: young men delude themselves into believing they're already war heroes. They don't need to kill anyone.... When this economist came here and told a select group of cadres that the PRC was thinking of legalizing it within the next decade, everyone left the room to make calls to Beijing, to get in on the ground floor with one of the consortiums. Imagine the value of a license that permits you to sell marijuana to a significant portion of two billion people.... Of course there will be other consequences of extreme poverty, worldwide." (p. 120-121)*Guanxi* describes the basic dynamic in personalized networks of influence, and is a central idea in Chinese society. In western media, the pinyin romanization of this Chinese word is becoming more widely used instead of the two common translations -- "connections" and "relationships" -- as neither of those terms sufficiently reflects the wide cultural implications of *guanxi* describes. Closely related concepts include that of *ganqing*, a measure which reflects the depth of feeling within an interpersonal relationship; *renqing*, the moral obligation to maintain the relationship; and the idea of "face," meaning social status, propriety, prestige, or more realistically a combination of all three... As articulated in the sociological works of leading Chinese academic Fei Xiaotong, the Chinese -- in contrast to other societies -- tend to see social relations in terms of networks rather than boxes. Hence, people are perceived as being "near" or "far" rather than "in" or "out." (p. 122-123) To keep the conversation going, I asked him [the abbott] about *farang.* His temple has become world famous and is mentioned in all the guidebooks. He rolls his eyes. "I never know where to start. They're so programmed by materialism, they think they want enlightenment, when all they're really looking for is a new kind of gratification, a thrill they can't get from a pill or a bottle or a video game. When I try to explain that strong emotion is inherently unreliable and isn't what the Buddha meant when he referred to the heart, they think I'm being cruel. Thai monks may not be what they were, but they still have the perspective. For *farang* I despair. Hardly a one of them I meet who has a hope of being reborn into human form. I see sheep and dogs of the future in designer T-shirts climbing up and down this mountain, getting in and out of the tourist buses.""They're stuck in Aristotelian logic: 'A cannot be not-A.'" "Tell me about it! The discovery of nirvana is the psychological equivalent of the invention of zero but vastly more important. Think of where mathematics was before zero, and you have the level of mental development of the West: good/bad, right/left, profit/loss, heaven/hell, us/them, me/you. It's like counting with Roman numerals." (p. 230)Today Chanya is *kikiat* and won't be doing any work of any kind. *Kikiat* is usually translated as "lazy," which is misleading because of the disfavor into which this vital component of mental health has fallen in the work-frenzied Occident; over here *kikiat* is not a fault so much as a frank statement of the human condition. To fail to lend a helping hand because you have something more important to do may provoke anger in others, but to fail to perform a chore because you are feeling *kikiat* will, in all but the most extreme circumstances, meet with an understanding sigh; indeed, the word itself has a kind of pandemic effect, so that one person declaring themselves *kikiat* can cause a whole office to slow down. You may spend a lot of time over here, DFR, learn our customs, know our history better than we do ourselves, and even speak our language, but until you have penetrated to the very heart of indolence and learned to saver its subtle joy, you cannot claim really to have arrived. (p. 235)"I should have spent time teaching her how to have sex, introducing her to different men, how to get the best out of them -- that's really why she's over here, I see that now. She wants to be a real girl.... But I didn't know. She's so big and dogged and speaks with *farang* certainty -- I'd forgotten what a fraud it all is. I thought she was going to be the adult in the room helping with my thesis. I fell for the description instead of the reality -- now I'm stuck with the mess on the floor." (p. 239)"Too damned anxious staying ahead of the competition to even think about being happy -- it would take up too much time.... That's what being a fully liberated woman has done for me. How about you?" ..... "I'm Buddhist. We don't think that way. The question has no meaning for me." "Uh-huh? How's that?" "The kind of happiness you're talking about is a form of clinging -- of greed, part of a cycle. Of course it leads to unhappiness in the end." .... "Well, I'll be damned. I wish you'd been around when the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution. They've got three hundred million of us chasing our own asses in the pursuit of that same happiness you Buddhists already knew didn't exist." She laughs. "I did always wonder why it was the *pursuit* of happiness -- like you're never really expected to get there. Kind of a Godot thing right at the center of the American mind. The best is always yet to come, yet to come, yet to come....." (p. 243)"Are you ever clear about anything?"He shrugs. "For sixty years it was dangerous to be clear about anything in China. It still is. How do you break the habit of a lifetime? Tell me, how realistic is it to be clear about anything?" (p. 265)

  • Terje Fokstuen
    2019-03-30 00:27

    This is the fifth entry in John Burdette's Inspector Jitpleecheep series. Bangkok based Royal Thai Police Inspector Jitpleecheep is an honest cop, a devout Buddhist, and half American, half Thai.Jitpleecheep works for the seriously corrupt Colonrl Vikorn but manages to do good police work while avoiding becoming personally corrupt in this entertaining and wise series that is deeply colored by the authors knowledge of Thailand and Thai Buddhism.In this episode Colonel Vikorn is running for office in Bangkok and sends Inspector Jitpleecheep to investigate an illegal organ harvesting operation. The Inspector's wife, a Ph D student in Sociology, and a former prostitute, plays a significant role in the book, as does their increasingly strained relationship.This is a good entry in the series. It has Burdette's usual mix of Thai Buddhism, violence, sex, and a running commentary on how the west is screwed up.

  • Catherine
    2019-04-09 17:27

    I love John Burdett’s books! Set in the complexities of the darker side of Thai culture, streets teaming with tourists there for the sex trade alongside fragrant food stands and sophisticated Thai bullies, Burnett develops complex plots. Low level detective Songhai is a humble, faithful Buddhist, willing to take risks, able to frame situations in fresh ways, and pursuing justice and balance more than legal victories. Though the crimes in this and other books are shocking—even to the locals—Burnett also includes many flashes of humor, particularly in how the foreigners misunderstand the culture and clumsily strut around in their Western chauvinism. This volume, a trip into the international trade in human organs, also includes more development of Sonchai’s relationship with his former prostitute wife, a fascinating character herself, wise and feisty.

  • Paul
    2019-04-08 00:13


  • John
    2019-04-08 01:17

    If you like the first four then keep on going.

  • Sal Fernz
    2019-04-05 23:20

    The depth and detail of the narrative is astonishing.