cover image Beijing Payback

Beijing Payback

Daniel Nieh. Ecco, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-288664-4

College basketball player Victor Li, the narrator of Nieh’s remarkable debut, has little to concern him beyond his next game, until his restaurateur father, Vincent Li, is killed in a burglary at home in L.A. Sun Jianshui, a 30-ish immigrant who was raised by Vincent before he married and left for America, tells Victor that his father was part of a criminal enterprise formed when Vincent was a young man in China in the years after Mao’s death. According to Sun, Vincent was murdered for refusing to import a dangerous product called Ice. A letter from Vincent to Victor that Victor finds among his father’s papers instructs him to accompany Sun to Beijing and destroy the syndicate. The rich cast includes beautiful young courtesans, Chinese thugs, Russian gangsters, French journalists, and corrupt police in Beijing. Nieh, a Chinese-English translator, has a real gift for language; one character has “a voice that sounds the way strawberries taste.” This impressive blend of crime and coming-of-age marks Nieh as a talent to watch. Agent: Bonnie Nadell, Hill Nadell Literary. (July)