Who lives by the hooker meets the reaper.
So instructs this modest, and marginal, first novel retailing the adventures of one Ray Sharp, expat editor of a Hong Kong–based financial news monthly, man about town and future candidate for liver transplantation. Ray is fond of minding his own business in nearby Macao, to which he retreats for adult recreation, this being 1995, before either Hong Kong or the nearby foreign colonies have reverted to Chinese rule. Interrupting this leisure is a junior colleague, a plummy scion of London bankers who has been seeking his own recreation in the arms of a Russian prostitute having trouble with her boss: a Mafiya type who is decidedly no fun. He begs for help. Ray knows a thing or two about Russian hookers, having one himself as a long-distance girlfriend, and, besides, it promises to make a story or two. Thus Ray goes up against a very well-oiled crime machine whose depths he can only begin to guess at. It’s a little exciting for him, we imagine, because he gets to tussle with giant Soviet-era women who’ve honed their various skills in the Gulag, and then luxuriate with more compact models who would be supermodels were they not working the ports. Yet, warns both a CIA type and Ray’s well-intentioned Portuguese biker pals, he’s messing with more than he can handle. It’s less exciting for us, who must read page after page of portentous prose: “The Roman is the most dangerous of all. He is from Vladivostok. People say that he is crazy.” And, “The one with the sword and the hearts means that she’s killed three men, one for each heart. She’ll get more put on when she kills more.” Still, there are moral lessons to be found in these pages: don’t get drunk around the clock, keep a low profile, find a nice partner, stay out of the way of the bad guys.
An amateurish debut effort. Imagine Graham Greene would have done with the same material.