The Master of Rain
Reviewed by Russell James
|Into the impenetrable and multi-layered society of
1926 Shanghai comes a newly employed and incorruptible police
officer, Michael Field. British, like many of the Shanghai police,
he shares the same hopes as many émigrés - to rebuild
his life in a distant land. Unlike most, he wants to rebuild his
life pure and clean. But he finds himself immediately plunged into a
whirlpool of conflict: police officers who vie with each other more
than with criminals; rich, untouchable businessmen; all-powerful
Chinese gangsters; impoverished Russian princesses (there's more
than one!) who are now reduced to smuggling and prostitution.
Investigating the sickening murder of one such prostitute, Field
falls for another - the ravishing six foot tall Natasha Medvedev.
But is she a prostitute? Is she in peril? Could she be a villain? As
Field threshes in the Chinese maelstrom he can trust no one,
understand little and resolve even less. But he is an honourable
man, perhaps the only one in Shanghai. Against vast opposition what
difference can he make?
At times this novel is too complex and bewildering for its own good
- Field's closest colleagues won't explain what's going on, and
since Field doesn't know, what chance has the reader? Also, despite
the well presented research, the dialogue and attitudes sound far
too modern for the period - more 1976 than 1926 - with polite
society surprisingly blasé about sadistic sexual practices,
described by one character as 'kinky', an adjective which in 1926
had a far milder meaning.
Nevertheless, this is a big, bold, ambitious novel, deeply
researched and densely populated with a large cast of feuding police
officers, grasping businessmen, beautiful women, up and coming
communists and powerful Chinese gangsters interlocked in a complex
and massive struggle for total power. Transworld will back this one
to the hilt.