Tangled Web UK Review December 2000
The Third Messiah by
hbk out November 00
Published by Allison & Busby
This is an excellent book, especially to those who know China and particularly Beijing.
Not only is it an interesting detective story, but is a bang up-to-date commentary on the dilemmas of modern China, where both young and old are grappling with a precipitate changeover from both ancient traditions and Marxism to consumer-crazy Westernisation. It is the fourth in a series about Wang, a middle-grade Beijing detective and his wife Rosina. In this book, Rosina’s younger sister, a swinger who calls herself Julie instead of Fragrant Flower, joins a neo-Christian sect who worship God’s second son sent on earth, claimed to be Hong Xiuquan, the historical figure who led the Taiping rebellion in 1850.
Most of the story revolves around the efforts of Wang and Rosina to rescue Julie from the sect, which is difficult as she doesn’t want to be rescued. The denouement on a storm-swept mountain one Millennium Eve is exciting and everyone lives happily ever after.
The descriptions of Beijing’s public Security Bureau and its intrigues and funding shortfalls, strike a realistic note, as do the almost pathetic attempts of officialdom to hang on to the fading echoes of Maoist self-criticism.
Christopher West certainly knows his China and offers a convincing word-picture of life in Beijing, with its schizophrenic mixture of imperial palaces, tattered communist ideology and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
As a reviewer, my criticisms are reduced to complaining about the book itself, which progressively fell to pieces as I read it – but the binders were from Barcelona, not Beijing!
- Author of the highly acclaimed Crowner John series set in Medieval Devon)