Burdett has created a new sort of mystery hero in Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a tough yet sensitive half-Thai, half-American Buddhist cop working out of Bangkok who's not above wanting to off the people who killed his partner. And that's not even the core case, which involves an American killed by cobras and one large python. Ouch! Burdett knows how to dole out engagingly gory details and hard-boiled patter. One reservation: His Buddhist paraphrases (''The mind likes truth. It will work quite hard to make the connections, once the pieces are all on the board'') occasionally come off less as wisdom than as fortune-cookie platitudes.