cover image The Firemaker

The Firemaker

Peter May, Peter May. Minotaur Books, $24.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-312-34294-4

This first novel in a series that has already includes six volumes in Britain, promises more fireworks than it delivers both as romance and as melodramatic murder mystery. The nascent romance between American forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell, in Beijing to deliver a series of guest lectures, and Chinese police detective Li Yan seems more doubtful than hot-blooded as they resist their unlikely attraction. Margaret's expertise in autopsies of burn victims proves valuable, but the beautiful blond pathologist, seeking a respite from her painful past, is unmindful of her host country's customs and sensibilities almost to the point of caricature. The taciturn Li Yan, on his first assignment after promotion to Deputy Section Chief, is intent on his career and first new case: a series of three murders linked only by a single dubious clue. May is most convincing in his vivid depiction of a dynamic China recovering from the damage of the Cultural Revolution. Unfortunately, the plot is too flimsy for the weight he piles on and the overblown consequences lack credibility. An anticlimactic conclusion hints at further adventures.