8 Booklist May 1, 2017 www.booklistreader.com
spins an involving tale of murder, corruption, and espionage in
the burgeoning Chinese economy, as it struggles between the
Communist Party and free enterprise.
Nine Dragons. By Michael Connelly. 2009. Little, Brown,
Harry Bosch, who lives and breathes Los Angeles, in Hong Kong?
Two things get him there: the murder of a Chinese grocery owner
in L.A. and the kidnapping of his daughter, who is living in Hong
Kong with Bosch’s ex-wife. Over a lost weekend like no other,
Bosch flies to Hong Kong and launches a one-man vigilante campaign aimed at rescuing his daughter and solving the murder case.
By the end of his “39-hour day,” Bosch needs a shower, a new suit,
and a therapist—and a lawyer. A full-throttle, blood-spattered narrative road race with a neon-sharp look at Hong Kong’s underside.
Shanghai Redemption. By Qui Xialong. 2015. Minotaur,
Character study, crime novel, insider’s look at the hypocrisy
and corruption that riddles contemporary China—Xialong’s
series delivers it all, with side dishes (in this installment) of ancient Chinese poetry, Confucian sayings, and noodle criticism.
Xialong’s hero, Chen Cao, was once chief inspector of special
investigations with the Shanghai Police Department and deputy
party secretary of the bureau, but he has since been sidelined,
fobbed off into heading the powerless Legal Reform Committee. But that doesn’t stop Chen from sticking his nose in where
it doesn’t belong, as in this case of the “ernai,” women lured into
the thriving sex-club and prostitution business.
The Wolves. By Alex Berenson. 2016. Putnam, $27.95
Berenson’s John Wells, a CIA freelancer, jumps from one global hot spot to another, and here he lands in Hong Kong, hoping
to close the deal on American billionaire Aaron Duberman, who
very nearly tricked the U.S. into starting a war with Iran. Duberman is ensconced in a seemingly impenetrable Hong Kong
mansion, so what should be a simple snatch, grab, and shoot
becomes something else entirely. As always, Berenson brilliantly
blends global politics into an adrenaline-pulsing spy novel starring a stone-cold killer who nevertheless does what we all wish
we could do: stand up to the powerful and make them pay.
Black Water. By Louise Doughty. 2016. Farrar/Sarah Crichton,
In 1998, amid the instability of Suharto’s collapsing regime,
John Harper huddles in his Indonesian hideaway, awaiting the
hit squad that his employers at the Institute of International
Economics will soon be sending to eliminate him. Harper seems
resigned to his fate until he meets fellow expat Rita. Doughty
creates a jarringly realistic backdrop of Indonesia’s violent past,
sharply contrasting the menacing atmosphere with the growing
romance. A tense, contemplative literary thriller.
Jakarta Shadows. By Alan Brayne. 2003. Dufour/Tyndal Street, o.p.
Graham Young, an Englishman living in Jakarta, Indonesia, has
a bewildering conversation with a stranger in a bar; hours later, a
policeman appears at Graham’s door. The stranger, possibly a serial
killer, has himself been killed. So begins an intoxicating, wonderfully
atmospheric variant on the familiar wrong-man scenario. First-novelist Brayne doubles down by suggesting that Graham may be
wrongfully suspected of killing the stranger because Graham could
be the serial killer. Great premise and delightfully seedy ambience.
A Corpse in Koryo. By James Church. 2006. Minotaur, $23.95
This first novel in Church’s outstanding (and far too little
known) series introduces North Korean Inspector O, who is asked
to go to a certain part of a certain road at dawn and photograph
a certain vehicle. Trouble. Inspector O is completely believable
and sympathetic, a working cop who isn’t entirely sure he believes
in the things his government tells him to believe in. There’s more
than a little of Arkady Renko here, Martin Cruz Smith’s Russian
detective similarly plagued with ambiguity in a totalitarian world.
Like Renko, O’s misgivings only grow as the series matures.
Mr. Kill. By Martin Limón. 2011. Soho, $25 (9781569479346).
In the 1970s, a young Korean woman is savagely raped on
a train from Pusan to Seoul, and the rapist is said to be a GI.
Koreans are outraged, and army criminal-investigators George
Sueño and Ernie Bascom are assigned to work the case with Korea’s greatest police detective, Mr. Kill, a man famed for not only
tracking down criminals but also dispensing justice personally.
Throughout this critically acclaimed series, Limón has displayed
a remarkable talent for weaving his background knowledge of
the country into his plots.
American Blood. By Ben Sanders. 2015. St. Martin’s/Thomas
Dunne, $24.99 (9781250058799).
Marshall Grade is an ex-cop in Auckland searching for a kidnapped girl and encountering as nasty a crew of killers as ever
confronted a hard-boiled sleuth. Whether Sanders is breathing
new life into familiar genre scenes (the motel shootout) or wowing
us with Chandlerian turns of phrase (a pile of money giving off
“the scent of beckoning dreams”), he hits every note perfectly. The
novel is soon to be the basis of a film starring Bradley Cooper.
Death on Demand. By Paul Thomas. 2013. Bitter Lemon,
Maori police detective Tito Ihaki— overweight, unkempt,
loud-mouthed, incorruptible, and exiled to the hinterlands due
to his issues with authority—has been summoned back to Auckland to follow up on the case that got him in trouble in the first
place. Thomas’ gorgeous prose and zest for low comedy, along
with his ability to evoke landscape, are the draws here.