The Magazine for Crime & Mystery



The Master of Rain

Tom Bradby

Bantam £9.99tbo

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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.

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