If you have the right incentives, dollars in the billions can be made in Shanghai, where capitalism wrestles with communism. So says Pearson (In Harm’s Way, 2010, etc.) in this first in a new series of thrillers.
Of course, “incentives” means bribery and overpayment. And that means more business for Rutherford Risk, specializing in corporate security. Now Rutherford has only days to free Lu Hao and Clete Danner, an American who had been surveilling Lu for Rutherford. The ransom is meager, but stakes are high. Lu delivered and accounted for incentives paid by The Bethold Group, an American company building Shanghai’s Xuan Tower, the world’s tallest building. Suspects are plentiful, especially considering entrepreneurs like Yang Cheng were resentful of the American company’s success. With private investigation illegal in China, Rutherford reaches out for John Knox, an import/exporter with a long history as a military contractor, and Grace Chu, an American-educated, Chinese army intelligence veteran who’s currently a Hong Kong forensic accountant. With subplots involving Grace’s muddied love affair with Lu’s brother, Knox’s need to protect his brother and partner, Tommy, who is autistic, and Danner’s shadowy connections, Pearson’s narrative grabs readers and rockets through hundreds of pages of nonstop action laced by violence, double-dealing and shady characters. First, there are the Mongolians, exiles working for a chimerical Bejing bigwig. There’s Shen Deshi, an inspector for the People's Armed Police, “the Gestapo of China.” Most mysterious is mainland China itself, “an anything-goes market economy layered over a police state.” Knox knows China, but he’s a waiguoren (foreigner), never to be completely familiar with “the complexities of the interwoven social and professional etiquette involving the Chinese.” And then there is guanxi (connections), and that untranslatable matter of “face.” A cunning thriller worthy of the promised series, especially if the fascinating Grace Chu reappears regularly.
Exotic locale. Credible heroics. Vicarious thrills. Fans will want more, and soon.