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MASTER OF RAIN by Tom Bradby


by Tom Bradby

Pub Date: April 16th, 2002
ISBN: 0-385-50397-0
Publisher: Doubleday

A straight-arrow young Yorkshireman dives headlong into the corruption of European Shanghai in the 1920s—and very nearly drowns.

China’s rich, rotten plum of a port is the star in this very noir debut by British TV reporter Bradby. The innocent Englishman is Richard Field, son of an obsessively upright but abusive father and a much-higher-class mother with whose very posh relatives Field rather shyly connects upon his arrival in grotesquely divided Shanghai. Field, without a dime but well educated and a fine boxer, has taken a job as a detective in the British police force that keeps the peace in the Imperial sector of Shanghai’s international enclave. He is promptly paired with Detective Caprisi, a tough Chicagoan with a bitter past, and assigned to the investigation of the brutal murder of one of the many Russian demimondaines living in the European underworld. The investigation is hampered immediately by rivalries within the police force and by the early discovery that the victim was the property of Lu, the most powerful Chinese gangster in the city. To complicate further, Natasha, the beautiful but damaged singer in the flat next to the murder victim's, proves irresistible to the handsome and grievously inexperienced young Field. Field’s persistent inquiries into the murder and Lu’s doings stir things up dangerously, as the European community has largely accommodated the gangster to keep things smooth in the business sector, and Field would be a goner were it not for his connection to Uncle Geoffrey Donaldson, a war hero who sits at the top of the thoroughly rotten social heap. There is also protection from the good guys on the police force, but who the good guys are is not at all clear, and becomes even less so as the trail leads to earlier and similar murders of other hapless Russian beauties. Sifting into the social chaos is that most explosive new ingredient, communism.

Tense and rather lush, expertly working the wonderful setting without overplaying the cultural clash: eerily well suited to these parlous times.