Welp, I’ve finally done it, friends. I’m DNFing this book. I just can’t finish it. I can’t think of a book that felt more like a chore to read. And, normally, since this is a book I’m setting aside, I wouldn’t even review it, but I got to the 63% mark so I feel like I am capable of passing some level of judgement. I’m not rating this book anywhere else, nor reviewing it for that matter, except for here, so let’s get into it shall we? How a book that is supposed to be a thriller and mystery, darkly humorous, and set in Thailand from a native perspective really came across as anything but.
First things first, the author does live in Thailand, but he is not Thai. I won’t say he shouldn’t write about Thai people or from their perspective, but the way he does it with this main character, Sonchai, never sat well with me. The author really does make it seem like Bangkok is nothing but rampant drugs, where the cops are the primary sellers, and every girl is a sex worker and the only people who ever visit Bangkok are only there for those things. It just felt… off to me. And in reading reviews from Thai natives, I wasn’t wrong in my feelings about this. Sonchai is supposed to be the only honest cop there is, a Buddhist who randomly sees all the past lives of everyone he comes into contact with, as well as Hungry Ghosts, but this book is missing the cultural gravity and context those things deserve. Him seeing past lives and ghosts also had nothing to do with the murder mystery this main character is supposed to be solving. So, there’s that.
Also, all the characters came across as caricatures of tropes. You had the Barbie FBI agent who is this gorgeous girl no one takes seriously but is determined to bring down the bad guy and also bone the male MC for reasons. All the corrupt cops were the most stereotypical versions of themselves, as was the deceased unfortunately. The deceased is a Black man and the author makes even him a racist trope at times. Plus, the main character is wimpy and yet so full of rage that he’ll avenge his slain partner? Nope, not buying it. And while the author may have wanted to normalize how Thai people view sex with their red light district and bar girls, when your main character only seems to care if the male deceased had a massive penis, and more times than I can count starts viewing his own mother through a sexual lens (kid you not, there were actual lines where Sonchai thinks his mom is sexiest in T-shirts and jeans, or how he reaches for her in a hospital bed like a desperate lover), that this book has such a male gaze when it comes to sexuality that any good intention he had is gone.
Is it possible I simply did not “get” this book and what the author was trying to achieve? Yes, sure, absolutely. But at the end of the day, I could never care about Sonchai. The murder was a background for this author to throw in things and words and scenarios that he felt were very authentically Thai but only scream that this isn’t written by someone who really understands the culture. I couldn’t care enough about any of what was included to even be hooked by the gruesome and odd murder that the characters are supposedly solving. But really the investigation always boiled down to “let’s go talk to the whores”, which is what the author refers to them as SO MUCH. I think I know how this story ends anyway and that’s good enough for me at this point, and if there’s a twist I’ll be missing? Oh well. I’m too angry and annoyed to force myself to read this any longer, so this book as is, is getting a 1 star from me, and I’m fine never continuing this book or this series ever again.
Click the book images to see them on Amazon!