Combining colorful historical fact, personal reminiscence, finely wrought description, and social and economic observations, Morris (Venice, The Matter of Wales, Manhattan '45, etc.) now paints a lively portrait of one of the world's most intriguing cities. Scheduled to be returned to China in 1997 after nearly a century as a British Crown Colony, Hong Kong faces immense and, to its inhabitants, unsettling changes within the next decade. Morris has skillfully incorporated this sense of ending and beginning into almost every page of her narrative, lending her work a seriousness and cohesiveness often lacking in more traditional travel books. Morris is also most convincing in delineating the laissez-faire attitudes that have been hallmarks of Hong Kong since its earliest days. From the opium merchants who first established the city's wealth during the 19th century to today's corporate manipulators, intent on wheeling and dealing in the world market, Hong Kong has engendered and encouraged a freewheeling capitalist mentality. Profit is worshipped with as great intensity as ancestral spirits. By comparing and contrasting the demands of tradition and the drive for progress, Morris lends complexity and irony to her tale. There may be readers who will find the writing here, as in previous Morris volumes, a bit too ornate, too embroidered, just the least bit self-conscious. For others, the analogies, lists of exotica, digressive (but always involving) details will prove a plus. No matter what the stylistic reservations, however, most readers will be grateful for this timely and evocative portrait.