French Concession

Xiao Bai, trans. from the Chinese by Chenxin Jiang. Harper, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-231345-4
Even with the helpful list of dramatis personae, this novel of 1930s Shanghai from Xiao (Game Point) remains a hot mess of murky political intrigue, steamy couplings, foreign profiteering, and often-naive Communist fervor. It’s hard to keep the players and their shifting allegiances straight when the characters themselves—most of whom go by multiple names, to make matters even more confusing—frequently find themselves in the same bind. Can central figure Hseuh, a half-Chinese, half-French photographer, become a useful undercover operative for the French police controlling the Concession, or will he remain a dilettante boy toy to the sexually insatiable White Russian arms dealer (who might really be German) alternately known as Therese Irxmayer and Lady Holly? Is Leng, the mysterious beauty who bewitches Hseuh, a Communist true believer or a muddled borderline supporter? By the time surprising plot fireworks finally begin to explode, the average reader will probably have long since conceded defeat. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/04/2015
Release date: 07/01/2015
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-06-231355-3
Ebook - 368 pages - 978-0-06-231356-0
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