Hiaasen and Montalbano leave South Florida drug runners behind to
chase artifact smugglers in a fascinating journey to Peking. The
story takes place a few years before the 1989 Tiananmen Square
occupation as young Chinese intellectuals seek freedom of
A DEATH IN CHINA, the gripping tale of Thomas Stratton, a New
England Art History college professor with an uneasy, mysterious
past in Southeast Asia benefits from Montalbano's knowledge of
Asia. While on a package tour to Peking, Stratton encounters his
old Ohio college mentor, Professor David Wang on the eve of Wang's
departure for a visit to Xian and the fabled tomb of Emperor Qin.
Wang has returned to China for the first visit with his brother,
now a high ranking official in the Chinese People's Department of
Cultural Affairs, since he left China as a young man. Stratton and
Wang agree to meet upon Dr. Wang's return, but Wang never returns.
Stratton becomes suspicious after he learns that his friend has
died of a heart attack, or Death By Duck, as the press has labeled
sudden deaths by tourists who imbibe in ultra rich Chinese
Stratton, frustrated by the bumbling attempts of the American
Embassy to unearth information from Chinese Communist officials,
encounters a lovely young Chinese art student who agrees to help
him discover the truth about his friend's death. A DEATH IN CHINA
is embellished with generous doses of Chinese history, culture and
scene. Just when you think the book is going to lapse into a
travelogue, the authors skillfully set the story back on track.
Stratton endures the worst of Red Chinese interrogation methods,
including death by cobra. He manages, with skills acquired during
his mysterious role with the CIA during Viet Nam, to survive
conditions and murderous fiends lesser men would not survive.
The fast paced action, authentic dialogue and colorful setting
makes A DEATH IN CHINA the pick of the three Hiassen/Montalbano
novels. Hiaasen's plotting ability is surely at hand, and the
diabolical ending is juicy indeed. None of the three vintage
mysteries is a disappointment and should prove fascinating reading
for Hiaasen fans and readers new to his writing alike.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 21, 2011