The mood, hustle, power and immense growing pains of today’s China bleed through Jan-Philipp Sendker’s superlative suspense novel, Whispering Shadows, which delves into the explosion of big business following China’s Cultural Revolution. The juggernaut of change reaches from high places to the mean streets and local officials of Shenzhen, southern China’s economic hub, where burgeoning growth, financial windfalls and corruption are often out of control. German-born author Sendker served as an Asian correspondent for Stern news magazine for nearly five years and writes with a wealth of knowledge about all things China.
Three years after the death of his young son to leukemia, former journalist Paul Leibovitz is still trying to hang onto the past so his memory of Justin will never fade. After living nearly 30 years in Hong Kong, the expat American is now holed up on an outlying island, limiting his trips to the mainland, hoping that nothing in his daily life will erase Justin’s image from his troubled mind. The boy’s raincoat and yellow boots still hang near the door, and Paul is permanently estranged from his wife, who couldn’t persuade him that life must go on.
Paul painfully discovers that he is unable to ward off the changes that time brings like a pebble breaking the surface of a pond. On one of his infrequent trips off-island, Paul is thrown into contact with an American couple whose adult son, Michael Owen, has gone missing and is soon found murdered. Paul and his longtime close friend, Detective Zhang, are drawn into the search for his killer.
Owen, an enterprising and rich entrepreneur with far-reaching family business interests in China, was closely enmeshed with Victor Tang, a businessman of immense wealth and influence who operates at the center of Shenzhen’s grab for a uniquely Chinese version of capitalism. Paul and Zhang walk a knife’s edge of danger as they begin to investigate these titans of corporate power.
The finely tuned Whispering Shadows, the first book in a planned trilogy, reveals each character’s back story, from Owen’s parents to Paul’s troubled lover, Christine; from Zhang’s violent past to the hubris of the ambitious, implacable Tang. Each story is expertly woven into the whole cloth of this chilling book.