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Issue 73 - Bangkok bound

Whisky Magazine Issue 73
July 2008


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Bangkok bound

Jefferson Chase looks at a classic tale of Buddhist vengeance.

Thailand was never the sort of place where I would have imagined people drinking much whisky, but I was forced to think again when I read John Burdett's imaginative 2003 novel Bangkok Eight.

The book is a tale of Buddhist vengeance, pitting the hero Sonchi Jitpleecheep – one of the few cops in the Thai capital who's not on the take – against a mysterious network of criminals who inadvertently killed his partner.

Along the way, readers learn a fair bit about Thai culture and society, including its not exactly sombre funeral customs.

Pichai's body will sit in its decorated coffin under a pavilion in the grounds of a local wat, with a band playing funeral dirges all afternoon.

Then at sundown the music will liven up, Pichai's mother will have succumbed to community pressure to throw a party. There will be crates of beer and whisky, dancing, a professional singer, gambling, perhaps a fight or two.

Bangkok, of course, is well known for sexual debauchery, and indeed Sonchai is a half-caste son of a presumably American father and a Thai prostitute mother.

His investigations into his partner's death – brilliant detail: the murder weapon is a clutch of poisonous cobras – quickly take him to one of the capital's red-light districts. There he engages in some non-judgmental reflections on the milieu of his birth.

Nana Plaza is only the seed at the centre of the mango; there are thousands of bars in side sois and disused lots in every direction…about five acres of brown f...

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