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Tuesday, 29 November 2016

‘The Borrowed’ by Chan Ho-Kei

Published by Head of Zeus,
8 September 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-78497-151-9

Six stories take us through through the career of Hong Kong detective Sonny Lok and his mentor, Kwan Chun-Dok. The series begins with Inspector Lok bringing his suspects to the hospital room of the dying Chun-Dok, the former commander of Crime Intelligence Bureau, also known to his subordinates as the ‘Eye of Heaven’, because of his genius in detection.

The stories then take us back through the way the men’s relationship has grown over the years, as well as showing key moments of Chun-Dok’s career, and the story of Hong Kong itself in the move away from Britain. Each story is a carefully crafted classic crime, with the clues fairly presented, and a clever twist to the solution. The plots include a Christie-style murder of a tycoon, a war between Triad members, an escaped prisoner, the capture of that prisoner’s brother in a bungled hostage situation, and the kidnapping of the son of a British official involved in investigating corruption in the Hong Kong police. The final story is told in the first person, by a young man who becomes involved in foiling the schemes of a terrorist gang. The backwards-telling idea is cleverly done, and it’s an interesting way of looking at Chun-Dok and Lok’s careers. While these stories follow the police point of view, and give a full picture of the Hong Kong police from the inside, Ho-Kei’s more like Christie or Conan Doyle in their use of the detective figure than a modern police procedural.

The stories also take us through the story of Hong Kong’s moves towards separation from the British, from the initial demand for indepencence through the negotiotions to the city as it is today. Each story is 80-90 hardback pages long, and the book would be ideal for carrying for those moments when you don’t want a full-length novel, but can’t be bothered with learning new characters for each short story.

An excellent read for classic crime fans, with the bonus of an interestingly exotic background, both in police procedures and the politics of a city.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Chan Ho-Kei was raised in Hong Kong. He has won the Mystery Writers of Taiwan Award for his short stories, and In 2011, his debut novel The Man Who Sold the World won the Soji Shimada, the biggest mystery award in the Chinese world.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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