Put Singapore and Thailand on hold, this is Macau and Hong Kong territory, and in some ways, it’s one of the more quirkier books in the Jack Shepherd series.
‘Plunged into a modern-day Casablanca on the South China Sea — a bubbling caldron of gangsters, gunrunners, money launderers, hustlers, gamblers, con men, and spies…’ and if Jack moves too fast ‘he’ll lose control of everything,’ and ‘if he moves too slow Macau just might kill him.’
Some wonderful characters and wonderful dialogue, The King of Macau is a benchmark of intrigue set in the foggy former Portuguese colony.
The portrayal of the defected North Korean is pretty spot on, even down to the way he dresses to his motivations for defection. Hawai is his Promised Land. Makes me wonder if South Korea would ever get a spot in a future Jack Sheperd novels, as it’s obvious that Jake has nailed the Korean character pretty effectively.
The former or current Australian ASIS spy comes out of the dark shadowy world of espionage to help Jack out. They exchange information on a long ferry ride with Hong Kong as a backdrop. Archie is the equivalent to John August in the Inspector Tay series. And according to Jake, he does exist, ‘but as the cliche goes, I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you…’
I hope never to run into him.
Another nefarious charater, is a Canadian who says he’s a contractor. He eventually has the cockiness shaken out of him. He’ll think twice about monitoring Jack in a coffee shop. That’s a real no-no. He’s real and nasty and tries to ingratiate himself to Jack to get valuable information, that will make or break his covert operations. The only thing he’ll get from Jack is a nice surprise. Karma is too slow for the kind of retribution Jack has in mind.
The French restaurant owner – another character I wonder who Jake has based him on (‘The restaurant and its owner are both all too real. I know both well…’ says Jake.) – serves great food and booze too. But when he asks for a favor, Jack has reservations at first. But when he discovers that two intrinsically different cases he’s decided to take dovetail, the story really does get interesting.
I have no doubt that this kind of shit really happens.
The King of Macau does exist, according to the Gambling Insider. ‘Ho has been accused over the years of having links to organised crime in Macau. While the triads’ historic involvement in the region’s casino sector is undeniable, Ho has described his supposed connections as a “misconception”.
The ending may seem simple and clean, but take the long ride to the destination, and it all makes perfect sense.
Has Ho, the King of Macau, outwitted the pack again while keeping his reputation intact?
Inspector Tay covers the Singapore beat, and Jack Sheperd covers Macau and Hong Kong just as well. And when the fog lifts, the shit hit the fans in Macau in the most delightful way.
Jake Needham is writing about real characters. I’m just hoping Pansy Ho is an ally, otherwise Jake and Jack might be banished from the Vegas of the East.
He already is persona non grata in Singapore for writing his fictional, some say factional, Tay series on Singapore. You can’t fault the writer on keeping his material real. In the name of entertainment, Jake goes the full nine yards — stumbling over a few dead bodies along the way.