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.
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 :
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 :
(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 :
A great read.
Thrilled to have found a new writer and a new Asian hero.
Published in 2014.
If you now feel like reading this excellent book, nothing could be easier. Just click on the link below :