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Jack Shepherd is back after saving Thailand from a civil war. He’s more weary, if not cautious, at first. He’s not sure if he wants to investigate the triads. But the $10 000 deposit he receives from a Casino tycoon at least gets his attention. The first few pages finds Jack up to his neck in trouble, while trying to dodge bullets.

This is Macau on a normal day.

In the course of a day, Jack is offered two cases. He doesn’t want either, at first. But he leaves an opening. Will he get that ferry to Hong Kong from Macau before changing his mind?

Either way, his services are needed. And Jack needs the cash. He’s been in worse situations before.

Mr. Needham says in some ways, this book has been lighter than previous ones, but what’s surprised him is that readers have liked this book the most.

The heady themes of past Jack Shepherd books, riots in Bangkok, and ex-arm dealers looking for redemption — takes a back seat. It’s a novel theme, North Korea infiltrating the Macau casinos and money laundering. Or are the triad taking a second pick from the cherry, and leaving something less valuable in the cargo hold of the plane heading to the capital of North Korea.

The first chapter opens up with some  rich rich travelogue writing weaved into the plot. The locations are Hong Kong and Macau.  Corruption never left Macau, writes Needham, it just got carried over with the Chinese when they took over this Portuguese territory in 1999. Gambling expanded.

That’s the back drop for the King of Macau, and Needham makes it very contemporary with his realistic dialogue and off the cuff remarks that at times go in cynical overdrive.

Jack Shepherd seems comfortable in Hong Kong and Macau, despite dodging bullets from Triad or North Korean agents. Archie, a shadowy fellow, a good guy and probably an ex- ASIS agent, who appeared in previous Shepherd books, takes a leading role in The King of Macau.He’s a bit of an ugly Australian but well-meaning at heart. Someone you can really relate too.

Thown in the mix is the brother of the North Korean president. He’s summoned home. Pine, an American national, who  stalks Jack, and will eventually  kidnap the Korean. But Jack has a favour to repay his friend who owns a restaurant in Macau – to get the North Korean safely in America. Jack’s honour is tested here, again, and there’s nothing in it for him. But somehow the case he’s taken on is intrinsically linked up with his friend’s case. It’s pro bono. But what the heck, Jack probably thinks, in his good natured way, he’s being paid well by the daughter of the King of Macau.

Pine, who is working for the North Korean government, poses as a contractor, is almost a likeable rogue.  But he  hasn’t got a clue that Jack will be meshing out some  of his own  justice soon.What is good for the goose is good for the gander. There’s no resistance when Jack administers him a shot  Rhophynal. They are on a plane heading to North Korea, with the kidnaped Korean, and a cargo apparently washed from the casinos of Macau. Towards the end of the book Jack Shepherd is relishing his role as the heavy guy. Until Archie tells him that there are guys out there who take care of that kind of stuff.

The King of Macau concludes at the airport. The plane continues on to North Korea.  The kidnapped Korean national  is free to live out his life away from his tyrannical  brother. And just maybe, Pine might face an uncertain death himself. As to Jack’s future in Kong Kong. There’s a hint that he may just find the love of his life, the daughter of the King of Macau. A romance, at this stage in Jack’s life,  would be very much welcomed. Didn’t he just save her arse, you can hear Jack think. Besides, she’s very rich and sexy.Life is looking much better now, far away from the Land of Smiles.

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