THE PEKING MAN IS MISSING by Claire Taschdjian


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Until now, the unsolved mystery of that redwood chest packed with priceless Peking Man fossils--it disappeared on or about December 8, 1941 en route to the US naval base Chin wangtao--has inspired only inconclusive, unsatisfying, non-fiction accounts (Shapiro's Peking Man, 1974; Janus & Brashler's Search for Peking Man, 1975). Fiction, however, can imagine away inconsistencies and embroider across gaps, and this serene, stately concoction keeps an eye on them bones for 25 years--from the Paleoanatomy Lab at Peking Medical School to a garbage compactor in a Harlem tenement basement. Quiet ironies, along with welcome echoes of The Wrong Box and The Moonstone, hover while the treasure chest is tugged along its wayward route. Hijacked by a US Marine and an opium-market chemist whose conspiracy is interrupted by Pearl Harbor, a POW camp, and a laboratory accident. Stored--innocently and then not so innocently--by the chemist's widow as she social-climbs from Peking to Tiensin to Shanghai to New York. Hunted--via the futile interrogations of Japanese soldiers and postwar CIA agents. And silently, relentlessly followed by Ch'en--ageless, chameleon-like servant of Mao. Expect to be taken by surprise: suspense can build without bombs, chases, shoot-outs, or hysteria. And the fascinating, quick sketches of Westerner life under Japanese mainland occupation provide exactly the right frame for an elegant puzzle where nothing's belabored and everything fits.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1977
ISBN: 1934609137
Publisher: Harper & Row