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This is the first of John Burdett’s novels I have read, and to be honest it made me wonder what the hell I’ve been doing with my life. It is electric, dazzling, sensational – the literary equivalent of mind-altering pharmaceuticals, the trade of which, incidentally, are at the heart of a bewilderingly thrilling plot.

There is so much going on in The Godfather Of Kathmandu that a simple review could not do it anything like justice, but I will have a bash at it. But in case you don’t get that far let me say this: just get a copy and read it.

The Godfather follows the journey of Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a detective in Royal Thai Police force. It is a professional journey, a spiritual journey, a criminal journey and an unbelievably enteraining journey.

Aside from his role as a detective, Sonchai is made “Consigliere” of the drug trafficking organization of his boss, Colonel Vikorn, who in turn is locked in a bitter and enduring feud with his army counterpart, General Zinna, for control of the Thai drug trade.

The crossed lines between law enforcement and criminality hands Sonchai twin tasks. First, he assists with the investigation of the violent death of a famous American film director in Bangkok’s red light district but at the same time must secure supply for Vikorn who is trying to stay ahead in the battle with Zinna.

Vikorn sends Sonchai to Nepal, where he is charged with meeting an exiled Tibetan lama, Tietsin, to work on a major heroin deal. Having just lost his son in a road traffic accident, Sonchai, a spiritual man, is an emotionally fragile state of mind, and quickly finds himself in thrall to Tietsin’s teachings. Before long the heroin deal and the murder investigation cross paths as Sonchai discovers that the dead director has also been in Nepal and possibly has had his own dealings with Tietsin. The detectives pursuit of the truth also brings him into intimate contact with a female disciple of Tietsin who further confuses his mind – as, literally, does a Thai socialite and former pharmacologist involved with the deceased who drugs Sonchai when he interviews her.

As a complex and rip-roaring plot probably suggests, Burdett is a no-holds-barred novelist. He writes explosively, like a catherine wheel firework cut loose from its mooring, firing ideas and observations in every direction, while maintaining a dangerous and astonishing momentum. Time and again as I read the book, I found myself thinking, “I should quote that piece in the review”. There is a jewel on every other page.

No single one is adequate but I settle on this vignette, narrated by Sonchai after he has organized a summit meeting between Zinna and Vikorn in which he persuades the two “old pythons” to cooperate in the spirit of the modern drugs trade, which he has previously told them follows in direct lineage from the birth of commerce as delivered by the British East India Company and Clive.

“This morning both Vikorn and Zinna e-mailed to ask me to download a portrait of Clive of India; so there he was for a moment, gracing my monitor in his powder, wig and ruff, the Shropshire lad himself, that whoring, bloody, racist, suicidal, alcoholic, upwardly-mobile, treacherous, opium-addicted narcotics trafficker who started globalism.”

The writing is as addictive as the heroin Vikorn trades. The first person narrative of Sonchai, who addresses the reader as farang (foreigner) throughout lends the whole thing a conspiratorial intimacy.

A wonderful, entertaining novel. Now for the rest of the series…