Far-out East

In this latest installment of his Bangkok mystery series, John Burdett returns to the perspective of Sonchai Jitpleecheep, equal parts Buddhist pacifist and bloody-minded right-hand man to the corrupt chief of Thai police. Beneath the sweaty-palmed tale about a policeman experimenting with drug running, The Godfather of Kathmandu is a solid detective novel. Although the territory may be foreign to most readers, Jitpleecheep’s dry, self-effacing voice is hypnotically engaging, taking the narrative on a strobe-lit journey from Thailand to Japan to Nepal and back again. Burdett’s slew of characters is at once classic and eccentric, including a pharmacist femme fatale completely unmotivated by “carnal delights” and a transgendered, snappy sidekick only interested in the love of romance novels. Though the main mystery may seem like a straightforward murder case, in true hard-boiled style, it is merely the catalyst for a world-changing drama in which Jitpleecheep finds himself at the whirling, neon-hued center.