NEON TOUGH by Tony Kenrick


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Another link in the sturdy chain of competent, by-the-numbers thrillers (China White, Faraday's Flowers, Blast, The 81st Site) that Kenrick has forged since his one standout, The Nighttime Guy (1979). Here, he limns the sexy and violent Hong Kong adventures of a Drug Enforcement Agency operative. Hugh Decker's a good agent--smart, tough, and dedicated--but his explosive temper keeps him on a low rung of the ladder to success: it gets him bumped from Hong Kong to New York and then inspires his transfer back to the British colony after he tears up a Chinatown eatery--where he loses track of a double-crossing stoolie, Eddie Fong. In Hong Kong, on Eddie's trail, Decker takes times out to look up an old flame; news of her recent marriage spins him into a bittersweet, erotic tumble with a Chinese whore and then into a torrid affair with lovely Faye Keeble, roommate of a DEA secretary savagely raped and murdered a few weeks back. With help from his DEA pals--foul-talking Miriam, stolid Bumpy, etc.--Decker grabs Eddie and sniffs into the rape/murder, which begins to smell of premeditation. Dogged tracking takes him to the all-glass palace of Hong Kong's richest man, ruthless and crippled Arthur Murdoch; to the dirty digs of Murdoch's hired gun, Sgt. Reggie Slemp; and into the heart of a massive drug deal run by Murdoch and Taiwanese generals, and more--a spiteful plot by the Red-hating Murdoch to blow up half the city in order to create ""a symbol of the rot and decay that would come once the Reds took over."" Can Decker keep a rein on his temper long enough to dodge Slemp's bullets, keep Faye from harm, and maybe even prevent the ultimate fireworks display? No inspiration but plenty of reliable crafting--from the vividly evoked locale and DEA lore to the calculatedly eccentric villains--make this a bread-and-jam thriller, filling enough but far from savory.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1988
Publisher: Putnam