By John Burdett
Vintage, $15.00, 400 pages

Chief Inspector S. K. (“everybody calls me Charlie”) Chan of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force has his hands full. He has a brutal triple homicide to solve as the clock ticks down to June 30, 1997 – the day the lease is up and Britain hands the land it took 100 years prior back to the People’s Republic of China. When industrially minced body parts are discovered in an empty warehouse and the corresponding mutilated heads show up in the waters of the South China Sea, the investigation into a crime without apparent motive begins. Who are the victims? Who are the killers? Can the crime be solved in the last few weeks before the British decamp? And what about that uranium?

The twilight period between the decision to leave and the final exit is marked.

Originally published in 1997, this mystery has similarities to the author’s bestselling Royal Thai Detective series. In both cases, his spare but descriptive writing perfectly captures a Western view of Asia as exotic, beautiful and corrupt. For fans of Thai detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, as well as new readers, this Hong Kong-based novel shows the beginnings of the author’s style. It’s a good, entertaining read with enough suspense, humor, character development and dialogue to be worth a look.

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen