The Last Six Million Seconds (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
It is April 1997, and all of Hong Kong is counting down to July 1, when Britain will hand over rule of the country to China. Public anxiety about the transfer of power is running high, but “Charlie” Chan Siu-kai’s biggest concern is a gruesome triple murder case, with no solid leads. Chan, a half-Chinese, half-Irish Hong Kong native and chief inspector with the Royal Hong Kong police, thinks he’s found a breakthrough when three mutilated heads are found floating in Chinese waters. But he grows increasingly frustrated as the Chinese police actively hinder—and the English bureaucrats pointedly ignore—his investigation. As Chan tracks the killers, he discovers cover-ups and conspiracies running deeper than even he had imagined. All the while, in the background, the clock ticks down to the day the British leave . . .
The old boy’s in a frenzy about it. Acting purely on instinct, I’m trying to block the investigation because after thirty years in diplomacy I can smell a scandal when it’s creeping down the Yangtze, and this one is big, whatever it is. In diplomacy, Caxton, a scandal is worse than a holocaust. One hint in the press of what Xian is really doing in Hong Kong, and there’ll be the biggest imaginable row. Can you imagine, eight weeks before handover?” “Ah! Yes, that would land us in a bit of a
the way, what’s so terrible about Romford, Essex?” “Nothing … until you’ve been somewhere else. Even Luton. When you’ve been here … I tell you, honest, I’d give ten years of my life to stay on here.” “On this filthy, polluted, Chink-infested, superficial, crass, materialistic, overheated rock?” “You know why? Life! The place is buzzing with it, night and day. It’s crawling with it, bursting. People flying all over the place earning a crust, nobody has time to sit around moaning. England’s on
away.” Chan and Aston watched Riley walk to one of the far walls, his footfall echoing off the raw concrete. It was like watching someone walk to nowhere from nowhere. When he reached the wall, there was nothing to do but come back again. “I see,” Riley said. On the way out Chan looked again at the flickering light and shook his head. Normally he would have checked light fixtures. The stench from the vat had driven everyone to take shortcuts. After agonizing, Chan slipped home midmorning with
English with an upper-class accent, any English person foolish enough to assume that he wanted to be one of them was quickly put in his place. Ng, though, had invested his life energy into growing a British carapace at the center of which, Wong was fairly sure, lay nothing at all. Each man in his own way defied a basic law of physics, possessing height and width but no depth. But people who wondered how they’d survived so long and grown so rich underestimated the inexhaustible appetite of the
predict. On reflection, though, he padded back down the corridor. Abovewater perhaps she would talk. Cuthbert lay down on his bunk. It was so hot he gave in and turned on the boat’s air conditioning. He had prepared his diskman and travel alarm. He set the alarm, replaced the Gregorian chants with Mozart’s Concerto for Clarinet. When the alarm bleeped, he pressed a button that activated a radio receiver: nothing except the sound of Xian snoring. Cuthbert removed the headset. As he did so, he