Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Firemaker

The Firemaker is a re-release of the first book in the China Thrillers series by Peter May.  Reformatted and published by Quercus US publishing, it's a hefty 560 pages and available in ebook and paperback formats. 

This book started very slowly for me.  I have been a fan of Peter May's other series for years, so I was really looking forward to this one.  There seemed to be an awful lot of 'telling' instead of 'showing'. The characters spend a distressing amount of time talking about feng shui and honor and losing face, etc. After establishing the setting, the plot does pick up, but that first 100 or so pages were nearly a deal breaker for me, which shocked me. It did get a lot better and I really did wind up devouring the last 80% of the book.  Peter May is a deft and very gifted writer.

I also had some trouble working up any attachment for the characters.  They're introduced as professional colleagues and everyone spends the majority of their time antagonizing and belittling one another.  They're all pretty unpleasant (except for Li Yan's uncle, Yifu. He's such a cool character and really comes alive in the book). 

Despite the slow start and sarcastic characters, there were also many good points.  The background research is meticulous and accurate.  The setting really comes alive. 
I'm a bioengineer working in a histopathology lab and I was impressed that the author spent the time to provide good background (a little dated now, of course, the book was originally published almost 20 years ago). The plot is a bit over the top, but it is a police procedural thriller.

Three and a half stars, rounded up.  Very well written. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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