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A Death in China by Carl Hiaasen
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Dec 29, 09

bookshelves: thrillers
Read in December, 2009

Hiaasen, Carl & Montalbano, Bill. A DEATH IN CHINA. (1984). ****. This is one of three books that these two authors wrote cooperatively. The other two are “Trap Line,” and “Powder Burn.” Montalbano was a foreign correspondent for the Miami Herald, where Hiaasen also worked as a writer of the metropolitan column. Montalbano died in 1998, and Hiaasen went on to write a series of novels set in Florida that are the benchmark of a genre called “ecological crime fiction.” This book was a timely one for me since we have just visited the “Terra Cotta Warrior” exhibit in Washington, D.C. The story here is about a retired professor, David Wang, from a small college in Ohio who goes back to visit his birthplace in China after an absence of thirty years. He went at the request of his younger brother Wang Bin, who was now a high-ranking deputy in the Chinese government, and in charge of all of the digs and artifacts at Xian. Soon after his arrival and a visit to Xian, David dies after visiting an ancient tomb housing priceless artifacts. Officials diagnose death by duck, a fatal confluence of culture shock and cuisine. Wang’s friend, Tom Stratton, also an art historian and a protege of Wang, suspects that there is more involved, especially after Wang’s brother, the deputy, tries to have him kidnapped. Stratton is ex-Phoenix, and has a dark history from the Vietnam conflict, where he was known as Captain Black – a highly skilled assassin. From a nightmarish interrogation to an attempt to kill Stratton by cobra, this thriller takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of mayhem and double-crosses that will force him to keep turning pages to the end. Recommended.
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