The Killing Time - M J Lee

Shanghai, January 1932. China is faced with the threat of a Japanese invasion/annexation of Manchuria. The atmosphere in the International compound (mainly British)is very tense as it is is surrounded by a Japanese concession, a French one,a Russian one….and of course a lot of Chinese inhabitants. There is a boycott of Japanese shops and products and there are several riots. Amidst all these tensions,the body of young ,Chinese boy is found,horrible mutilated. Inspector Danilov(of Russian origin)and his inspector Strachan(with a wonderful Chinese/Scottish background) start their investigation in a rainy,damp and foggy Shangai. Very soon two other Chinese children disappear which bring the tension in the Settlement to a boiling point. When the bodies of the two children are found(mutilated,as the first child) the Chinese population (of Shanghai)take their revenge and attack some Japanese monks. Needless to say this,and the fact that more Japanese warships found their way into Shangai harbour,does not exactly improve the precarious situation. But then a Japanese boy disappears and Danilov has to reconsider his theories about these brutal murders.
Of course, the storyline is good,the horrible murder mystery keeps your attention but what is so remarkable about this book,is the atmosphere it creates. One is practically present at this amazing setting that is Shangai in 1932. You can feel the chill of the fog,hear the street hawkers selling their goods,smell the street food,inhale the coal smoke….And although it is perhaps not always particularly pleasant it definitely is full of life!

 

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