Shanghai Twilight

This is Legare’s third published book. It is a good story and the historical setting of Shanghai, China in 1932 makes it a good read. I am a historian but my knowledge of China in this period is rudimentary. However, Legare seems to have it right. Japan and China had several brawls starting in 1894, culminating in full invasion in 1937. The 1932 incident was short-lived, just two months.

In this story, Tom Lai, an American born Chinese, has made a name for himself by owning the best night club in the city, the Club Twilight. His success did require deals with the (real)  Green Gang lead by Big-Eared Tu (real). The Green Gang hunted for spies for the government (real) and the fictional Tom was suspected because papers were passed inside his club. Tom was given 48 hours to discover the real spy or be executed as the spy.

It’s a good plot and Legare has stuffed in plenty of kinks and twists. My only complaints are that there are too many typos and the style is heavy-handed at times. Perhaps a better description would be that his voice lakes polish. He also uses phrases that work in American English but are unlikely in Shanghainese. Still, good read.

Mike Lawrence

Old Flames

I read Lawton’s first book (though not chronologically) some seven years ago and enjoyed it. It was called Blackout and had Inspector Troy chasing through bombed London for a murder (short version).

This book is set in 1956 and is a two-for-one murder/spy novel. This time Troy has to wade through a tangled web of spycraft to figure out who committed all the murders.

For you non-historians, 1956 was a year filled with international action of the Cold War variety. Lawton writes numerous chapters regarding Khruschev’s visit to the United Kingdom in that year. As you are reading about that strange visit–Troy is assigned to protect K and takes him pub-crawling–you will wonder what this has to do with the murder Troy is supposed to solve and why is Lawton spending so much time with it. Relax, enjoy the read. All the pieces will fit together eventually.

I’ve read several of the Amason reviews. Some people really don’t like Lawton’s writing. Be warned: he is writing something close to literature in the guise of murder mysteries. He writes great descriptions. Nothing ever just happens, it happens in detail. Lawton thinks nothing of writing ten chapters to set up one minor character. As one person wrote in his five-star review, ‘He goes to the effort of describing what a railway workers voice sounds like even though the character has three words in the entire book.’

If you want a quick and done mystery, give this a pass. If you enjoy reading someone who not only enjoys writing but enjoys writing well, you will like Old Flames.

Mike Lawrence