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Imported from Canada (1987 publication there), a complex yet uninspired police procedural that's noteworthy mostly for the bright surface flash of its exotic Hong Kong milieu. First-novelist Konkel, now a Toronto cop, served for several years with the Royal Hong Kong Police. It shows--in the vivid settings of secluded mansions and secret slums, in the knowing details of Hong Kong cop and politico ways, in the quick evocation of the city as a decayed beauty. What doesn't show, however, is much consideration of character or narrative drive, as the plot slips slowly down a labyrinthian path from one incident to another, starting (after a by-the-numbers roll call of dramatis personae) with the lethal explosion of a drag-running ship in Hong Kong harbor. Who lit the fuse? Two who want to know (and Konkel's lack of a sole unifying hero severely fractures his tale) are workaholic police commissioner John Cleve and his subordinate, Inspector David Andrews, who's also obsessed with clearing his name of allegations of corruption. Arrayed against Cleve and Andrews is a host of thinly sketched villains--among them, Robert Maguire, director of shadowy Special Branch; Lee Shiu Shing, wiley Red Chinese agent of influence; reclusive millionaire Henry Szeto; and the governor himself--all dipping their hands into lush and lucrative Hong Kong pies, including a big land-sale scheme and a heinous drug-running organization. After run-ins with Triads, the uncovering of a WW II secret, and much bloodshed, Cleve and Andrews at last solve their case--but, in the cynical conclusion, find that justice is no match for raw power. Like a lacquered Chinese puzzle box--intricately designed (the final, talky explanation of the plot runs to 12 pages) and moderately satisfying to work through, but empty inside.

Pub Date: March 27th, 1989
Publisher: McGraw-Hill