Eight Skilled Gentlemen

Barry Hughart, Author
Barry Hughart, Author Doubleday Books $21.95 (255p) ISBN 978-0-385-41709-9
Reviewed on: 12/01/1990
Release date: 12/01/1990
Hughart's ( Bridge of Birds ) third novel is another gem, continuing the adventures of the aging sage Master Li and his youthful sidekick, Number Ten Ox, a delightful pair of ancient Chinese sleuths. When a respected mandarin is murdered by a ch'ih-mei , a vampire ghoul, in broad daylight, the Celestial Master, the most revered Taoist priest in the realm, gives his old friend Master Li the case. The Celestial Master himself, however, seems to be the main suspect after he reports the murder, which he claims was committed with a ball of fire by a man who was then transformed into a crane. Thus commences a wild adventure that takes Master Li and Number Ten Ox from the Forbidden City through backwoods villages and bandit-infested countryside to the sinister palace of Yen-men. There are ghosts, wizards, dog-brides, monsters, puppeteers, female shamans, magic birdcages and, of course, the Eight Skilled Gentlemen, mysterious hooded figures from the dawn of Chinese history who are in league with eight particularly nasty demon-deities. Superbly written and narrated in the humorously observant voice of Number Ten Ox, this is a book not to be missed. (Jan.)
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