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Chinaman's Chance

(Arthur Case Wu #1)

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4.18  ·  Rating details ·  849 ratings  ·  88 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,
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Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 14th 2005 by Minotaur Books (first published March 15th 1978)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  849 ratings  ·  88 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 thata 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
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John Culuris
Jun 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-shelf, 5-star
Lately Ive been going back and picking up writers Id 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 hed 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 conclusion. ...more
Karl
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.
Will
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
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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 sitting...by 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...

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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
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Ed
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.
Charles
May 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Im 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 ...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
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Scott
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.
Todd
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 ...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,
...more
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.
Liz
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.
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.
Tracella
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.
William
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
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
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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
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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.
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.
Kenneth
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.
David
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.

Enjoy!!
Judy
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.
Bix
Dec 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars rounded up.
Jacob
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Despite the unfortunate title this is my favorite Ross Thomas book.
Thomas
Jun 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Lace Armitage is an Ozark folk singer turned actress. Her sister and fellow former group member Silk is an activist who was carrying on a not so secret affair with a local Congressman. That ended abruptly when the Congressman's wife shot him, then herself in an apparent murder-suicide - but there are those who feel the case is less "open and shut" than it would appear. Since then, Silk has been in hiding. One day, Lace's billionaire husband makes a (seemingly) chance encounter with Artie Wu and ...more
Ryan
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This novel is a lot of fun for fitting so comfortably into the crime fiction genre. Like with many of the best of the genre, the joy of the story unfolding is where the book really soars. The plot gets a little complicated in spots, and like many novels with a conspiracy at its heart, some of the characters know more than the readers and are playing a long game that keeps even the reader in the dark. This can get a bit confusing at times, but it never detracts from your enjoyment.
The novels
...more
Larry
Oct 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Ross Thomas wrote more than twenty cynical and funny books about those drawn to power, and those clustered around them. "Chinaman's Chance" (not a title I like much) ranks with "The Fools In Town Are on Our Side" and "Durango as the best of a good lot. In this case, a struggle for the heart and soul (meaning the money) of a corrupt California town drives a plot in which no one is completely trustworthy, and most are weren't trusting at all. despite that ugly reality, the book is clever in every ...more
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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
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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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