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Chinaman's Chance

(Arthur Case Wu #1)

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  898 ratings  ·  92 reviews
"It was while jogging along the beach just east of the Paradise Cove pier that Artie Wu tripped over a dead pelican, fell, and met the man with six greyhounds."
- from Chinaman's Chance

Thus begins what may be the most popular of Ross Thomas's unique stories. The combination of Wu, pretender to the Imperial throne of China, and Quincy Durant, who has his own colorful past, m
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 14th 2005 by Minotaur Books (first published March 15th 1978)
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Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  898 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it

Thirty pages in, and I was delighted. A plot not just complex but deep: layer beneath layer of stratagem and objectives, and--underneath that—a myriad of agendas, fueled by wounds and desire.

It starts with an apparent coincidence: when Artie Wu, pretender to the Chinese throne, trips over a dead pelican while jogging, he is helped, limping, to his friend Quincy Durant's place, assisted by wealthy entrepreneur Randall Piers, who had been walking his six greyhounds on the beach. The three men have
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"It was while jogging along the beach just east of the Paradise Cove pier that Artie Wu tripped over a dead pelican, fell, and met the man with six greyhounds."
- from Chinaman's Chance

The main character (Arthur WU) appears in:

Chinaman's Chance (1978)
Out on the Rim (1987)
Voodoo, Ltd. (1992)

It is defiantly time I re-read this book.
John Culuris
Jun 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-shelf, 5-star
Lately I’ve been going back and picking up writers I’d dropped during a period when I only had enough free time to read my very favorites. This is Thomas’ first outing with Artie Wu and Quincy Durant, who seem to be his favorite reoccurring characters (The fans’ favorites are McCorkle and Padillo, although if most had known he’d also written the Phillip St. Ives series as Oliver Bleek, that may be a contender). Always readable, Thomas sometimes lost his way when winding things down to the conclu ...more
Dec 29, 2012 rated it liked it
"Wu looked past Durant to the ocean, still gray from the overcast, although the horizon, for some reason, was clearly defined - so clearly, in fact, that Catalina was plainly visible, which it seldom was, even on clear days. 'I've had a couple of ideas,' Wu continued, 'which, when you hear them, might help you to understand why they used to call us Oriental folks wily.'

'Shifty, too.'

'Well, this is one of the shiftiest ideas I've ever had, but it might make us a little money.'

'How much is a lit
DeAnna Knippling
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An unlikely pair of opportunists--raised together as orphans--take on a missing persons case that may be more important to them than a mere payoff.

Fun! I enjoyed this thoroughly and dug in my heels so I didn't read too much at any one the end of the first chapter, I already didn't want the book to end. The end gets to be slightly eye-rolling, not because of the plotting or anything, but because there's a nod to something that was way overdone, even at the time. Really??? Okay...

David Wrubel
Apr 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: beach-reading
Ross Thomas was at his best writing comic mysteries with serious undertones, and his best ones featured Artie Wu and Quincy Durant and an unusual cast of characters. I believe they appeared in one or two others in addition to "Chinaman's Chance", which remains my favorite. Thomas died in 1995; the NY Times once called him the greatest storyteller in America, and that is still true 14 years after his death, yet most of his books are out of print. They are well worth finding.

Another Thomas book I
Jul 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Read this one some time ago, but Ross Thomas is a writer I want to read more of.
May 12, 2018 rated it liked it
I’m always looking for hardboiled, noir reads from or set in the past. This book came highly recommended to me by bots in response to my Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett reading fetish. My own research of more reputable sources found Chinaman's Chance is considered to be Ross Thomas' best. I liked it. The story was complex. The narration was entertaining. The characterization was rich. If I had an issue the early 70's world-building was not recognizable as forty years ago. The story felt mo ...more
Craig Pittman
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm trying to read all of Ross Thomas' novels this year. This one was a fun if loopy read, starting off with a dead pelican and ending with an empty beach house that still contains a hot pot of coffee. In between is a classic Thomas mix of oddball characters, snarky political commentary and a plot so twisted you won't be able to predict which way it will turn next.

Our heroes, if you can call them that, are Artie Wu -- the last pretender to the throne of China -- and his lifelong buddy Quincy Du
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
My third Ross Thomas book. I wasn't as in on it as Briarpatch and Misisonary Stew, but the last quarter of this one really hooked me late. There's a few too many long, expository plot-moving conversations that cover way too much ground, but all the characters are great, with clear individual voices. There's always going to be some unfortunate anachronistic choices for a noirish book written in the late 70's, moreso in something named "Chinaman's Chance," but I still enjoyed the ride. ...more
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
wonderful entry into a trilogy of all the main characters.
David Schlosser
May 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ross Thomas is being unjustifiably forgotten in the annals of crime fiction. He has a particular bent on looking at crime -- in most books, from the perspective of using public office to commit moral and ethical crimes that insulate the perpetrator from criminal prosecution and spread the impact of those crimes across such a wide range of victims that it becomes very difficult for any one person to justify spending the time and energy to stop it. His good guys are barely good and often bad, and ...more
David Corbett
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I feel like an idiot for not picking up Ross Thomas sooner, but this (and two other of his novels I've read in the past year, Briarpatch and The Fools in Town Are On Our Side) have solidified my opinion that no one wrote a better, more satisfying crime novel. I once asked Otto Penzler why RT wasn't more widely revered, and he said, "He never wrote the same book twice," meaning readers didn't know what to expect of him, and thus he never gained the kind of fame awarded to Leonard and MacDonald an ...more
Joseph D. Walch
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great prose and layered crime plot that comes together very enjoyably in the end. All you have to do is read the hook in the first sentence and you too will be instantly mesmerized:

"The Pretender to the Emperor's Throne was a fat thirty-seven-year-old Chinaman named Artie Wu who always jogged along Malibu Beach right after dawn even in summer, when dawn came round as early as 4:42. It was while jogging along the beach just east of the Paradise Cove pier that he tripped over a dead pelican, fell,
Mike Harper
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have a daughter in law who accuses me of reading for self-improvement. Giving this book five stars ought to prove that I read for enjoyment, instead. Because this book has damn little in it to please an intellectual, but plenty of plot, character, action and just plain good writing. You don't have to Google this one to figure out why it's considered "great literature," because it isn't. Just great fun.
Best of the genre, and the best of Ross Thomas' many good novels.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
The very beginning of the Ross B. Thomas adventure - grabbed me from the first line and kept me until the end. Thomas was one of the best writers ever - espionage, mystery, buddy story, quirky and absolutely marvelous storylines. It's difficult to say which of his books was the best, but this was the first and I loved them all. ...more
Shelley Diamond
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Superb storytelling without a doubt. Reminded of why I loved Dashell Hammet. I have read 4 of Ross Thomas' books now and am having a hard time finding more since they are from many years ago. I don't know why he wasn't more well known then. ...more
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Just a great book. Like Elmore Leonard only with a bit of political analysis. Thomas' writing is superb; he brings you right into a scene and doesn't let go. Fast paced, twists and turns, great characters - I think I'm in love with Quincy Durant...unless I'm in love with Artie Wu. ...more
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thriller
There is a lot to like here, and for the most part it's a fun read. It really zips along. I also like the retro information in older books. I have not thought about the John Birch Society or Common Cause in years.

The aspect I most enjoyed was the conversations between the characters. Thomas writes with a wry wit, and the characters seem to speak authentically -- that is, they way this character or that one would actually talk. Lots of the characters are sort of endearing, even the bad guys, and
Marty Fried
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, action
I liked this a lot. The dialog was quick and witty, the plot was complex and hard to figure out, the characters were great, mostly likable. Even the villains were almost likable. The style is a little like the old-fashioned detective novels like Dashiell Hammett or Philip Marlowe, although I can't really recall either of them.

I'm still not 100% sure exactly what happened, perhaps because I had the audiobook version, and may have missed parts of it. I did have to go back a few times, and I think
May 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Wildly inventive with terrific primary and secondary characters. Thomas keeps the story moving sparkling, understated dialogue, lots of plot twists, and just the right amount of descriptive prose so that the reader gets a strong sense of place. Arthur Wu and Durant reminded me of the uber-cool characters played by Travolta and Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction. They are professional con men, with interesting backgrounds, who are trying to pull off a sting on other con men; the parry and thrust of t ...more
Lady Jayme,
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: murder-whodunits
I picked this up because Gillian Flynn recommended Ross Thomas' book "The Fools In Town Are on Our Side," but Half Price Books had this one instead. I enjoy a good crime caper, but perhaps this one just didn't age well? It was published in 1978. The title is jarring in and of itself, but the worst part for me were the badly written female characters who were almost all prostitutes or nyphomaniacs. A book by a man for men, I suppose. ...more
Jane Naylor
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
With an opening line of "It was while jogging along the beach just east of the Paradise Cove pier that Artie Wu tripped over a dead pelican, fell, and met the man with six greyhounds." it was almost inevitable that I'd get hooked into this novel. Artie is the pretender to the throne of China and Randall Piers, the man with the greyhounds, has need of Artie and his friend Quincy Durant: the convoluted post Vietnam plot involves money, pollution and corruption ...more
Jeremy Hollingshead
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I haven't read all of Ross Thomas' novels, I can't find them all, but I have read a good many. This was my favorite one. I know many prefer St. Ives, or Mac and Padillo, but I'll take Artie Wu and Durant any day. What a fun and action packed read. Great characters and a well told story, Ross Thomas is a craftsman. I can't wait to read the other two Artie Wu novels, if I can find them.

Seriously Amazon, why can't all of his novels be on kindle instead of a random offering?
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating and funny caper story about two guys that grew up in an orphanage in SF together. They're real hardasses that have issues. An enjoyable read from start to finish. Very Westlake-esque in style.

Michael Fredette
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A crime caper (from 1978), involving a fortune lost in Saigon, organized crime in the California town of Pelican Bay, and the search for the missing sister of a once-popular folk trio Ivory, Silk, and Lace.
Aug 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, library-book
Have to confess that I can never follow complicated con games (I still haven't figured out what happened in Oceans 11, and I've watched it several times), but I enjoyed the pace and the characters in this one, not to mention the retro-LA setting. ...more
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
I hadn't looked at a synopsis before reading and assumed it would be like a McCorkle/Padillo story, and it was totally different. I enjoyed the story and the unfolding of the character arches/backgrounds- more so in the first half of the book- but it kept me engaged. ...more
Dec 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars rounded up.
Berta Kleiner
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read for the 2nd time and found it as good as I thought it was.
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Ross Thomas was an American writer of crime fiction. He is best known for his witty thrillers that expose the mechanisms of professional politics. He also wrote several novels under the pseudonym Oliver Bleeck about professional go-between Philip St. Ives.

Thomas served in the Philippines during World War II. He worked as a public relations specialist, reporter, union spokesman, and political strat

Other books in the series

Arthur Case Wu (3 books)
  • Out on the Rim (Arthur Case Wu, #2)
  • Voodoo, Ltd. (Arthur Case Wu, #3)

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