AND BROTHER IT’S STARTING TO RAIN by JAKE NEEDHAM

I am a card carrying Jake Needham fan, and of all his wonderful cast of characters, I think Samuel Tay is possibly my favourite.

I love Mr.Tay’s outspoken, curmudgeonly take on his home country Singapore, but it was precisely this very fact that slightly marred my enjoyment of the latest book in this series.

Because there is very little of Singapore in this book.

I got my Asian kick through the adventures in Pattaya and Hong Kong, of course, and since I was actually in Hong Kong last week when I read the book, that certainly added another dimension.

Mr. Needham is at his unsurpassable best describing the gritty neighbourhoods, the heat and the noise of Asia.

Not going to plot-spoil by telling you what happens. Suffice it to say it’s a clever wide-ranging story, with a distinctly worrying premise, which bears witness to the crazy political times we are all living through.

I enjoyed the book.

I truly did.

I enjoyed seeing Samuel out of context.

But I missed Singapore.

Here’s the link to buy this 5th book in the smashing Samuel Tay series.

Can’t wait for the 6th instalment!

If you’re not already up to speed with the Samuel Tay series, here’s a link to my review of the first book.

Enjoy 🙂


THE KING OF MACAU by JAKE NEEDHAM

I clearly am a very late learner…

Having only recently discovered the wonderful detective novels of John Burdett, which are set in Bangkok, I have just this week made the acquaintance of yet another Asian based crime writer, Jake Needham.

I was in Hong Kong a few days ago, and decided I wanted something “regional” to read on the flight, and after a bit of judicious Googling, chanced upon “The King of Macau”.  Having recently re-visited Macau after a 25 year interval, and seen at rather distressing firsthand the change from a sleepy, quiet, slightly faded-around-the-edges old-fashioned Portuguese colony to a brash, crowded, noisy, bigger, re-invented kitschy Chinese gambling venue “The King of Macau” hit the spot.

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Jack Shepherd, the likeable main protagonist of the novel is a Hong Kong based American lawyer, and a case of suspected money laundering at one of the biggest casinos in Macau sees him travelling between the 2 former colonies, both now reintegrated into China.

The drawback of reviewing a crime novel is that you absolutely do not want any plot spoilers, so all I will say is that the pursuit of the suspected money laundering trail is an exciting, dramatic one.

Jack Shepherd knows his way around Southeast Asia (as does his author, Jake Needham) and yet even he is surprised to meet Freddy in Macau.  Freddy, aka…no, sorry, I Really can’t tell you, as that would seriously spoil your enjoyment of the second story line in this cleverly crafted book.

Suffice it to say, while reading the novel I googled Freddy and found (oh joy of joys) that he really does exist, and I learned lots of fascinating stuff that I never knew (but I won’t spoil it for you, worry not).

Then, after reluctantly finishing the book, I googled Stanley and Pansy Ho –  and yes, they too are real live people, which makes the author’s note at the end of the book fascinating :

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This is a beautifully written book.  The plot rattles along at such a pace that you don’t want to put the book down – I had to force myself to, in order to sleep on my hideously timed overnight flight to Hong Kong – and Mr. Needham’s great love for Asia shows through, in moments of pure lyrical beauty :

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(Apologies for these uneven screen shots, taken from my Kindle).

We went to Macau on our honeymoon, and went back to celebrate our wedding anniversary there with our children.  Completely taken aback at the garishness of Macau –  and the way the little place had grown, literally, with all the landfill –  it was only when I stood on the balcony of our hotel, on our silver wedding anniversary, and looked out over the city by night, that I felt a connection to the old sleepy Macau of a quarter of a century ago.  And, just like Jack Shepherd, it was so beautiful that night that it took my breath away…

I love Mr.  Needham’s sense of gentle irony :

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A great read.

Thrilled to have found a new writer and a new Asian hero.

Thoroughly recommended.

Published in 2014.
If you now feel like reading this excellent book, nothing could be easier.  Just click on the link below :

Kowloon Tong by Paul Theroux

The book had sat on my shelf, puzzingly unread, for 13 years.

And then we went to Hong Kong on holiday and “Kowloon Tong” went along too.

Reading a book about the place where you are staying is always fun, with the added piquancy of recognising names and places.  This is a wonderful read in any case, but reading it in situ was marvellous.

The novel is set in the last year of British colonial rule in Hong Kong, before the 1997 handover to China.  Or. as Mrs. Betty Mullard scathingly calls it, “the Chinese Takeaway.”

Betty and her 43 year old, unmarried, balding son Bunt are British, trapped in a damp, colonial time-warp.  They loathe most things Chinese, especially the food, have never bothered to visit, and aren’t remotely curious about so doing.  They lead a predictable, dull, uneventful life in Albion Cottage, looked after by Wang their silent servant, and the colour and noise and smells and politics of China and Hong Kong pass them by.

As the handover date looms ever closer, a mysterious Mr. Hung shows up and almost without their realising it, he has bought their factory.

Money makes Betty happier, and she initially takes quite a shine to the well-spoken Mr. Hung.  Bunt is less convinced, and as he realises his days in the colony, and at the helm of Imperial Stitching, are numbered, his normally well-planned, uneventful life descends into a vortex of horror and fear and – surprisingly – love.

The culture clash between The East and the Mullards is sharply drawn.  The increasing air of threat and menace that hangs over the book is superbly described, and by the end, I was turning the pages as quickly as I could to find out what happened, and then felt saddened that this marvellous book had ended.

A moving, gripping book.  I loved it.

Published by Penguin in 1997, the paperback I have cost £5.99 but it was bought 13 years ago…

 If you want to buy a copy –  and I do highly recommend this book – just click on the link below :