If Flannery O'Connor had written the screenplay for Midnight Express, it might have turned out somewhat like this startling and remarkable debut novel--academic glum, international intrigue, and Christian redemption all stirred up in the same wok. ""Going Abroad was the core motivating principle of my life."" Mei has always been looking for ways out. Born in Singapore, she moved to Holland with her family as a girl, then won a scholarship to study law in Britain. Now she's back in Malaysia as a fledgling attorney, and one of her first cases turns out to be the greatest trial of her life--literally. Her English boyfriend Andy has been arrested for running a betting operation out of his flat, and under Singapore's draconian penal code, he faces a lifetime in jail. It's obvious that the real culprit is Loong Tay, Andy's old Oxford chum, who brought him over to Singapore and set him up in the flat in the first place. Loong is a diplomat's son who has spent most of his life getting into trouble and leaving other people to deal with the consequences, and he's been heavily involved in Singapore's gambling scene for some while. But is a Singapore court likely to believe the truth when it implicates the son of the ambassador to China? Mei knows better: ""The good suffer, while the bad go on to live happy lives. End of story."" And Mei knows this from experience: specifically, the experience she had as a child at the hands of her father, whose perversion and cruelty could have killed her but instead somehow made her a Christian. Can Andy survive as well as she has? That depends on what you mean by a ""happy ending."" Witty, hip, engrossing--and utterly astonishing both in breadth of feeling and depth of intelligence: one of the strangest and most original works of the year.