THE CHINESE FIRE DRILL

Les Roberts, Author . Five Star $23.95 (190p) ISBN 978-0-7862-3760-9

After 15 years and 18 mysteries featuring either Saxon, a Hollywood actor/private investigator, or Milan Jacovich, a Cleveland private investigator, the author takes a break from the genre that has netted him two Shamus Awards to try his hand at an international thriller. The result is a fast-paced, enjoyable Hong Kong adventure starring Anthony Holton, an American expatriate novelist. Holton has made a home for himself in Bangkok, where he misses a distress call from his actor buddy Jake McKay in Hong Kong. By the time he responds, Holton learns that Jake's fancy boat has been stolen and Jake has gone missing. Holton flies to the rescue and straight into trouble. Roberts captures the ambience of Hong Kong as easily as he does that of his native Cleveland, while Holton, truly a stranger in a strange land, has to deal with a slew of shady characters to find Jake. An American mercenary, a fake film producer, warring triad factions, a laissez-faire police chief, an alcoholic British journalist and a spurned woman are among those Holton encounters as he battles deceptions and danger. Readers who want political correctness should look elsewhere (Holton jokes that if his Thai houseboy insisted on pronouncing his name correctly, "I'd probably fire him and have to answer my own telephone"). But Roberts's debut as a thriller writer draws on his strength as a plotter, and the book's economy offers a nice antidote to the bloated thrillers that weigh down many bookshelves. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 11/19/2001
Release date: 12/01/2001
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