Bangkok 8 by John Burdett

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The 150-word Review: In Thailand, I am known as a luk kreung (half-American, half-Thai).  During my first visit to Bangkok, walking the streets in awestruck wonderment, I was filled with conflicting emotions.  On one hand it assaulted my senses with an otherworldly foreignness; on the other, I felt a reassuring sense that I was home.  This mix of feelings returned when I read Bangkok 8, a crime novel that revels in all of Bangkok’s chaotic contradictions.

Sonchai Jitpleecheep and his best friend are detectives with the Royal Thai Police and devout Buddhists – the only Thai cops who can’t be bought.  When the shocking murder of an American Marine also claims his “soul brother” partner, Sonchai vows to avenge his death.  Bangkok 8 is a classic Noir-thriller set among the vibrant hues of Bangkok, skipping along from Armani-filled shopping malls to palatial riverside estates to hyperkinetic sex-on-parade red light districts with exhilarating energy.

You will enjoy this book if you are a fan of: spiritually insightful Sam Spades, unconventional “femme” fatales, entrepreneurial police Colonels, cultural anthropology, methephedrine-frenzied cobras, chilies for breakfast, jade phalluses, exploitative farang and exploited farang, Sukhumvit Road, Khaosan Road, and Soi Cowboy.

Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Actually Norm, Sonchai Jitpleecheep is also a luk kreung, the son of a Thai bar girl and an unknown American GI.

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The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

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The 150-word Review: If the novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” with its themes of escapist fiction and stylized bygone eras, hinted at Michael Chabon’s interest in genre, then “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” is the result of a focused treatment of the 40’s noir genre using his considerable literary talents. It is, however, more than a straightforward hardboiled detective story; it is also an ambitious piece of historical fiction.

For more than two-generations, Jewish refugees have lived in the Federal District of Sitka, located on the Alaskan panhandle. Created as a “temporary” safe-haven for the Diaspora, it has become a vibrant Yiddish city, where only fanatics speak Hebrew. Meyer Landsman, a washed-up homicide detective, must tackle his last case before Sitka reverts back to Alaskan control; one that sends Landsman, and his half-Tligit partner, on a classic noir mystery where the bad guys wear black hats for more reasons than one.

Having this book on your shelf will impress: Hassidic Godfathers, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Yids, femme fatales, chess fanatics, fans of Yiddish slang and hardboiled dialogue, and anyone who’s familiar with an eruv.

This book will go great with: Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon

Set the mood with: anything klezmer.

Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Interesting fact Norm, Secretary of the Interior under F.D.R., Harold Ickes, did propose a plan to move European Jews to Alaska in a report, commonly referred to as the “Slattery Report.”