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French Concession    by Xiao Bai order for
French Concession
by Xiao Bai
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2015 (2015)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

An exotic Asian setting, two femmes fatales, and a murky brew of mobsters, smugglers, anarchists and assassins makes this thriller one that those who enjoy international espionage will find hard to set down.

Hseuh, A Franco-Chinese photographer, finds himself playing detective when he is drawn into Shanghai's underworld and he is forced to become a police collaborator and spy so that he can provide evidence that his girlfriend, Therese, is an arms dealer.

Keeping tabs on Therese also gets the photographer involved with Leng, the wife of an assassinated Nationalists Party official. A loyal Communist revolutionary, Leng has ties to a new group causing all sorts of mayhem in the country.

Torn between these two women, Hseuth is inclined to protect both of them but that means he'll have to watch his step very carefully because one error and either the police or the revolutionaries will make him pay a heavy price.

The story unfolds in 1931 when Shanghai was an even more interesting city, and certainly a more dangerous one, than it is now. The author not only creates an absorbing story with some unexpected twists and turns, but he also captures the city's sights and sounds in an unforgettable manner. Translated by Chenxin Jiang, French Concession marks Xiao Bai's English language debut.

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