From the promo text:
Orphaned as a child and raised as the only son of a Thai mafia godfather, Chance plans to quit the family business for the woman he loves.
Chance’s father is the godfather of Pak Nam and owner of the largest crocodile farm on earth. He didn’t get to where he is without knowing a thing or two about people, including how long it takes for a crocodile to digest one. Before Chance can quit, his father asks him to “take care of a little something for me.” Then a bomb goes off.
Waking up in hospital later that night, his father in a coma next door, Chance’s troubles have only just begun. There are three guys dressed in black down the corridor and they aren’t carrying flowers. Worse, Uncle Mike isn’t answering his phone, and a guy with a lisp is asking for a hundred million dollars in a week or “I’ll kill him, sthlowly.”
While figuring out who is trying to put the family permanently out of business, where to get a hundred million, and who’s got Uncle Mike, in the midst of a Bangkok gone crazy with factional fighting, quitting the family business takes a backseat to survival.
Survival begins with dying. And dying is the easy part.
I've been enjoying a wave of Thailand-themed novels by various authors, so when Bangkok Burn came along - I believe it was briefly a free download in Kindle format from Amazon - I decided to give it a shot.
Simon Royle is a gifted storyteller, and I was hooked from the start by his fast-paved, episodic way of telling what turns out to be a rather complicated story.
This is a story about a Thailand mob family, with Chance being the only son of a Thai godfather (with five wives). Although Chance is actually an adopted son, born of American parents killed years ago by a rival drug-smuggling operation ("the Germans"). Chance therefore inhabits both the Thai world and the Western world, and explains Thai society and culture as he narrates the story.
This is also a book with some great characters in it - Joom, primary wife of the godfather; Uncle Mike, the retired Australian drug smuggler turned real estate mogul; Chai, the tough ex-Ranger raised to be Chance's bodyguard; Pim, the girl who loves Chance, but she's not from his world. Not to mention a few salties... (now, why would a Thai criminal family want to own a crocodile farm?)
Just to complicate things, the novel takes place during a time of political turbulence in Thailand - the "red shirts" rebellion - hence, "Bangkok Burn." Thus we get not only criminal activity, but political activity, police activity, guerrilla activity, all stirred up with a good measure of corruption.
Plus... the author has a sly sense of humor.
The story does take a slight bit of willing suspension of disbelief - "our" gangsters are the professional ones, the ones with the latest techniques and technology; the "other" gangsters are the ones who do bad things. Well, except that "our" gangsters are really good at getting revenge...
One irritation is that this book is terribly edited - heck, I'm not even sure it was proofread! This is mostly just annoying, though in a few action sequences I was left confused by exactly who was standing where doing what.
A warning: There is a bit of bad language and some sexual situations in this book, but nothing too crude or salacious.
Another problem is that about halfway through, I almost gave up on the book because I had no clue what the solution of the mystery was... but I'm glad I stuck with it, because it all comes out in the end, and it was very satisfying. Well, except for one loose end, which I suppose sets up a sequel.
My bottom line is that I loved this novel, and highly recommend it to crime/pulp fans. I hope someone makes a mini-series out of this one! This could also inspire one heck of a modern crime wargaming campaign!
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .