Sendker’s most recent offering continues his literary love affair with Asia, this time following two broken men and the ways in which their lives intersect.
After Paul and Meredith Leibovitz’s little boy, Justin, dies of leukemia, the couple breaks up, and Paul withdraws from life almost entirely. He buys a house on Lamma, an island that’s a ferry ride from Hong Kong, and every year he climbs a peak he used to hike with his son. On one such trip he meets Elizabeth Owen, an older woman whose son Michael, who lived in Hong Kong to manage their family business, has disappeared in Shenzhen; Elizabeth and her husband, Richard, are in Hong Kong looking for him. Elizabeth asks Paul to help her, which he reluctantly agrees to do. Since Justin's death, he's associated with almost no one except Christine, a Hong Kong–based single mother, and Zhang, a homicide detective in Shenzhen. Once Paul brings Zhang into the investigation, they discover that a foreign man’s body has been found in a park, and a shadowy and prosperous businessman named Victor Tang may be involved. Much of Sendker’s story rests on the shoulders of Paul and Zhang. As broken as Paul in his own way, Zhang continues to confront demons from his past—demons that have left him to atone for terrible guilt from the actions, and inactions, of his youth. The story is rich with detail about Chinese culture and cuisine, but the pacing is very, very slow, and while Sendker’s descriptive passages are beautiful and absorbing, sometimes the book feels more like a travel guide than a suspense novel.
This novel explores a side of Hong Kong tourists rarely experience, but it has a conclusion that feels rushed despite action that moves at an almost glacial pace.