A compelling read
Two ministers are murdered on the eve of a gathering of world powers and Senior Inspector Alex Soong takes on the case.
Emperors Once More is set in the Hong Kong of 2017. And moves at a gratifyingly brisk pace. When two Methodist ministers are murdered on the eve of a gathering of dignitaries and officials of world powers, Senior Inspector Alex Soong takes on the case.
He’s a man of drive and East-meets-West eclecticism: keen on traditional martial arts and a Chinese history buff, who motors around in an imported Mustang, and loves jazz. Shockingly, Soong is invited by the killer to join him in a conspiracy to reassert China’s global supremacy. After rebuffing this apparently crazy offer twice, Soong notices historical linkages, particularly to the Boxer Rebellion, concerning the case.
The relationship between East and West is central to this thriller, propelled by a disturbed individual’s demons spawned by China’s humiliations at the hands of the Western colonial powers in the 19th century. With Hong Kong about to host a summit between the Chinese and the faltering G8 powers – who are massively in debt to Asia’s economic giant – the villain sees an opportunity for payback.
Jepson’s crisp prose, clever plotting and interweaving of Western and Eastern historical narratives all add up to a compelling read – albeit one that assumes some general knowledge on the reader’s part. This reviewer is glad the author avoided the temptation of penning another sepia-tinted tome set in 20th century China, and took on the challenge of crafting a near-future crime-thriller. He’s pulled it off well.