This month's Tip of the Ice Pick Award goes to lawyer-turned-author John Burdett for the steamy and seductive Bangkok Tattoo. In this long-awaited follow-up to the sensational Bangkok 8, Thai policeman Sonchai Jitpleecheep returns to investigate the murder of an obnoxious American sex tourist. There is a wrinkle, however: the so-called tourist may be a CIA agent, and there are rumblings of al Qaeda involvement. In the lush, atmospheric reaches of Southeast Asia, however, not all is as it seems. The truth is an elusive commodity, and one that is viewed through an entirely different lens than in the West. The cops are corrupt, the army is worse yet and the Americans are by and large druggies and/or spies. Just to the south, in Malaysia, Muslims of both moderate and radical persuasion angle for converts, while primarily Buddhist Thailand strives to find the revered "center path." As you might imagine, this path is not always clear: for example, we find devout Buddhist Jitpleecheep to be a closet pot smoker, an occasional patron of prostitutes and part owner of an infamous Bangkok brothel, all potential distractions in his pursuit of truth and justice.

If I may leave you with one closing thought, it is this: it is in some ways as difficult to review Bangkok Tattoo for a potential reader as it would be for a returning traveler to describe Asia to someone who had never left the U.S. This remarkable novel truly has to be experienced firsthand to be appreciated.

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