"Still charming, but more serious Hunt comes out on top."
Reviewed by Sabrina Marino
Posted September 7, 2010
Mystery | Action
Gabriel Hunt's sister secretly contacts him to bail out a
friend, Michelle, who is being charged with her sister's
death; thus saving Gabriel from the boring responsibility
of writing an account of his latest escapades and
acquisitions. Once Gabriel does, he learns that a man named
Cheung killed Michelle's sister because she knew about his
plans for some "ethnographic Chinese antiquities,"
something right up Gabriel's alley.
When Michelle decides to confront Cheung on her own and
skips to China, Gabriel's sister, Lucy, begs him to save
Michelle. Not able to turn his sister down, Gabriel jets
off to China under his brother's identity. He arrives just
as Michelle is about to shoot Cheung. A woman named
Qingzhao beats her to it, but misses and chaos erupts.
Gabriel grabs an injured Michelle and runs with her right
off the boat into the river. Gabriel reaches the surface
without Michelle and Qingzhao, who shoots Gabriel and gives
him a superficial head wound, allowing him to accompany her
to her hiding place. Gabriel soon learns that the very
treasures Cheung is seeking are located in the leaning
pagoda that Qingzhao calls home.
Gabriel agrees to help Qingzhao take on Cheung. After
several attempts, betrayal and double-crossing among
thieves, Gabriel must show Cheung where the treasure he
seeks is hidden and make a trade as Cheung has captured
Gabriel's brother, Michael.
HUNT AMONG THE KILLERS OF MEN has a little less of the
regular Gabriel Hunt charm I usually find through
dialogue. However, while I did miss his charming and quippy
comments, it is so packed with action, you can forgive him
and root for him just as much, if not more, for the pain he
endures. The story as always moves quickly through the
action to the culmination. Gabriel Hunt books are a
most entertaining series for sure!
A killing in New York sends Gabriel Hunt on a mission to the
wharves and alleyways of Shanghai, where he finds himself on
the trail of a mad Russian who believes he's the
reincarnation of an ancient Chinese warlord. Original.
ExcerptThe sign was in eleven languages including Arabic, German,
Dutch, English, Russian, and both Mandarin and Cantonese
variants for the locals. The English interpretation read:
The Chinese Cooperative Confederation
Welcomes Its Honored Guests
In any language the message was clear: Keep Out.
If this polite suggestion was vague, the men keeping watch
over all ingress and egress were heavy with implied threat.
They were all uniformed members of the People’s Armed Police
Force, carrying the authority of the Central Military
Committee. Dressed in tightly belted army greens, they bore
both sidearms and automatic weapons; in comportment they
looked the same as the officer directing the hectic traffic
mere blocks away, not far from the world-famous bronze
statue of Mao Tse-Tung pointing boldly toward the future.
The statue still stood outside the Peace Hotel on the Bund,
though Mao’s historical significance had lately been
overshadowed by the political and economic reforms of his
At night the Bund is brilliant with golden light, presently
competing with an ever-increasing array of garish neon
advertisements in all languages. The most unusual building
found on the Bund sits in Pudong Park in Lujiazui. It is
called "the Pearl"—short for the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. It
looks like a recently landed spaceship from another planet.
A massive tripod base supports three nine-meter-wide columns
of stainless steel that encase a variety of metallic spheres
and globes. The topmost globe, at an elevation of nearly
1,500 feet, is called the "space module." From the large
lower sphere, one can see all the way to the Yangtze River.
The design aesthetic was to create "twin dragons playing
with pearls," derived from the presence of the Yangpu Bridge
to the northeast and the Nanpu Bridge to the southwest.
The Pearl is home to commerce, recreation, and history. The
Shanghai Municipal History Museum is housed in its pedestal.
The topmost sphere features a revolving restaurant. In
between are shops, more restaurants, hotel facilities and
the transmission headquarters for nearly two dozen
television channels and FM radio stations. The Pearl is so
dominant on the Bund that it can be seen from twenty miles
inland; lit up at nighttime, it is a truly eerie,
Zhongshan Road was seething with traffic—everything from
skate-sized diesel automobiles to pedicabs and bicycles
(thousands of bicycles)—binding and blending with
pedestrians (thousands more). Every twenty minutes the Sin
Shan Ferry brought more people, more vehicles. A roiling,
complex sea of humanity.
At night the abundance of artificial light from the Bund,
and from the Pearl, makes the Huangpu River appear almost black.
Qingzhao Wai Chiu, whose given name meant "clear
illumination and understanding," understood appearances and
how to manipulate them. Klaxons sounded for the docking
ferry, and she debarked, pulling her little wheeled suitcase
There was a beggar trying to negotiate the upward slope of
the ferry ramp. It was a legless old woman, hauling herself
along on a wheeled platform by means of wooden blocks,
totally alone on the concrete ramp until the steel mesh
gates withdrew and the complement of ferry passengers surged
toward her in an unbroken wave. She kept her eyes down, as
is common for beggars. Inevitably her cup was jostled and a
few meager coins pinwheeled down the ramp or disappeared
beneath the shoes of the incoming.
The disparity between the old wretch and Qingzhao could not
have been more striking. Qingzhao was tall for a Chinese
woman—five foot nine, rendered even taller by expensive
spike heels so new the soles were barely scuffed. Unlike
many women, she knew how to walk in those heels. Her stride
itself could be a weapon, a statement. Her full, lush fall
of ebony-black hair concealed many scars. Her gaze could be
as steely dark as espresso but it was shielded now behind
tinted glasses. She walked with a purpose.
She tucked a one hundred-yuan note into the beggar’s cup,
noticing the depth of the ragged woman’s platform. It was
designed to conceal her lower legs. She was a fake. She
looked skyward and off-center at the sound of paper rustling
in the cup and Qingzhao saw her milky, cataracted eyes. She
probably was not really blind, either. No matter. Qingzhao
was faking, too.
The beggar was swallowed by the crowd as Qingzhao made her
way toward the rocketship, the TV tower—the Pearl.
The policemen flanking the sign ate her up head-to-toe with
expressions just shy of leering. She knew what they were
thinking: An entertainer, probably a prostitute. That was
what she needed them to think.
First hurdle cleared.
In the Tower lobby there was more security on behalf of the
reception for the CCC—double guards and a walk-through booth
twice the size of an airport scanner. Qingzhong knew this
was a recently emplaced piece of Japanese technology that
could present a body scan in X-ray schematic.
The scan of her trolley case revealed that it contained,
among other things, a flamboyant, metallic wig—the sort of
thing a dancer might wear. Or a stripper.
The guards made her open the case anyway, mostly so they
could sneak peeks down her cleavage. Her silk blouse and
leather jacket had been strategically chosen and just as
strategically deployed. These baboons would never see the
big X of scar tissue beneath her left breast, or care.
Qingzhao was waved toward a lift with brushed aluminum
doors. The car shot up just shy of a quarter mile; she felt
her ears pop.
Second hurdle cleared.
The Chinese Cooperative Confederation was the brainchild of
a financier who had changed his name to Kuan-Ku Tak Cheung,
although Qingzhao knew the man was Russian by birth. It
represented a new sociopolitical horizon for 21st Century
China, which irritated all the traditionalists and old Party
members but represented an enticing commercial future for
China’s so-called "new generation." As far as the old school
was concerned, giving Cheung a political foothold would be
akin to the Mafia fielding a presidential candidate in the
United States. But it did not really matter as long as the
correct palms were silvered. And Cheung, ever the tactician,
was perpetually developing inroads to curry the favor of his
Of course, politics had nothing to do with the reasons
Qingzhao had come to kill Cheung, whose real name was
The noise level was painfully high in the midsection of the
Moire Club, overlooking the Huangpu from the midsection of
On a revolving chromium stage, expressionless dancers in
white bodystockings and face-paint moved like robots,
tracking the gyrations of naked men and women being
projected onto them from hidden lenses.
At least five hundred guests and noteworthies were portioned
into pie-wedge areas sectioned by hanging panes of
soundproof karaoke glass. In the midst of chaos, silence
could be had. The glass was also bulletproof, grade six,
arranged to accommodate any sized group and isolate them in
plain sight. Each alcove of glass was a different projected
color. The support wires could also transmit billing
information from any of the glass-topped scanner tables.
The servers were all Takarazuka—female Japanese exotics
dressed as tuxedoed men, supervised by a matron dolled up in
an elaborate fringed gown and a mile-high pile of spangled
hair, himself a transplant from a Dallas, Texas drag show
where he had specialized in Liza Minnelli.
At the mâitre d’ station there was another body scanner.
Even an amateur could have picked out guest from bodyguard.
The watchdogs were too confident, too arrogant, too
chest-puffy. They had seen too much Western television and
been inspired by too many Western films.
Ivory was disappointed by this crew, but it was not his
place to say so. His job was not only to watch the crowd,
but to watch the watchers. He was a dark-haired, sharp-eyed
son of Heilongjiang Province—although those records had been
erased long ago. His current name was Longwei Sze Xie—
nickname, "Ivory," source unknown—and he looked like he was
in charge of everything.
An immaculate, six-foot blonde Caucasian woman had just
raised the hackles of the mâitre d’ at the scanner. She was
packing a sleek .380 in a spine retention holster just below
the elaborate calligraphy of the tattoo on the small of her
back. Vistas of exposed flesh, yards of leg, a good weight
of ample bosom, and yet she could still artfully hide a
firearm inside the slippery, veiled thing she was almost
Ivory quickly interceded: "She’s one of Cheung’s." Meaning:
Her gun is permitted. Just like the similar gun concealed
amidst the charms of her opposite number, an equally
statuesque African goddess named Shukuma—Cheung’s other arm
doily for the evening.
Kuan-Ku Tak Cheung, a.k.a. Anatoly Dragunov, was holding
forth from a VIP area near the center of the swirling
carnival. Ivory put the man to be in his mid-fifties; barrel
chest, huge hands, a face like unfinished sculpture. From
his vantage Ivory could see that Shukuma had Cheung’s back
at all times. Good. Either she or the blonde, Valentina,
would signal if Ivory needed to be called into play.
Down in the VIP pit, Cheung placed a denominational bill on
the glass table before each of his honored guests, four in
focus: Japanese yen for Mr. Igarishi, a new Euro for Mr.
Beschorner, modern rubles for Mr. Oktyabrina, and good old
U.S. of A. dollars for Mr. Reynaldo.
Mr. Igarishi said, "We are equally honored." He spoke with a
Cheung said, "I respect the charm of a gesture." Turning to
Beschorner, he added, "True wealth is invisible, ja?" in
Frankfurt German. To Mr. Oktyabrina he added, "Ones and
zeros are what we are really after," and completed the
sentence in English for the benefit of Mr. Reynaldo: "…so we
cannot deny the purity." He had just delivered an unbroken
speech in four languages. He was showing off. They were all
multilingual. But it helped to choose a negotiative tongue
that could not be readily comprehended by, say, the average
"Paper currency is almost extinct," he told his familiars.
"What you see is the last gasp of that outmoded idiom, and I
guarantee it will pass muster anywhere in the world. Paper
currency will erect our economical siege machine. In the
aftermath of what we do, digital currency will make us all
wealthy beyond the belief of ordinary human beings."
"If you can deliver China as promised," said Beschorner.
"I anticipate all phases complete within the next two
years," said Cheung.
Ivory monitored all this via earbud. New dancers, tricked
out in painfully complex PVC fetishwear, had taken the
circular chrome stage.
Then somebody opened fire on Cheung, Ivory’s boss, and
people started diving for cover. Except for Ivory, still
standing, eyes unfazed, gun already drawn.
Qingzhao quickly approached the backstage corral as the
white-bodystockinged dancers hustled off. She smiled as her
"fellow performers" passed. Half of them returned her
expression, no doubt thinking: What was her name again? I’m
sure I’ve met her. The men got deferential avoidance of eye
contact, otherwise they might spend too much time later
trying to place her face.
The hosed and goggled PVC outfits had been wheeled to the
prep floor on a giant mobile rack whose casters creaked with
the weight of the gear. All the evening’s entertainments had
been calculatedly androgynous, and this would work to
Qingzhao’s advantage when she blended into the troupe that
was to go on in another ten minutes.
The only privacy backstage was found in the staff toilets.
Performers had a splendid nonchalance about nudity, which
meant that Qingzhao could use her breasts, ass, and
million-watt smile as further distractions from the fact
that she was not supposed to be there at all. She stripped
off her wrap skirt, her jacket, her blouse, while striding
purposefully toward her destination. On the way, she lifted
one of the PVC costumes from the rack.
In the loo she cracked open her little wheeled suitcase. The
wig inside matched the gear for the PVC dancers.
After opening the case handle, popping the hidden seam on
the heavy-duty hinges, and unclicking a concealed hatch on
the wig mount, Qingzhao assembled the components for her
pistol—a big AutoMag IV frame jazzed up to resemble the prop
space guns that were also part of the forthcoming
presentation. A steel tube disgorged a full magazine’s worth
of specialty ammunition. They were heavy-caliber loads with
black and yellow hazard striping on the cartridge casings.
Miraculously, the assembled gun actually fit the holster
that was part of the stage costume—an unanticipated plus, there.
The white facial pancake and black lipstick and liner she
rapidly applied made her indistinguishable from the others,
male or female. This, she had counted on.
Feeling like an ingénue in a chorus line, she filed onstage
with the rest, having no idea whatsoever about marks,
timing, position, or the number to which they were
supposedly herky-jerking around. It did not matter. She
needed five seconds, tops, before she was blown.
Outside the Pearl, a dirigible bloated with neon circled the
In a single liquid move, Qingzhao pivoted, crouched,
sighted, and fired.
The bullet rocketed across the room and hit the plexi about
a foot away from Kuan-Ku Tak Cheung’s head. The tempered
material spiderwebbed but did not shatter. The round left a
broad, opaque splatter like a paintball round.
Which began to effervesce. Acid.
Immediately, Ivory, Shukuma and Valentina triangulated to
shield Cheung, guns out.
The highly paid bodyguards of Cheung’s international guests
lacked such reaction time. They were still unholstering
their weaponry and trying to acquire a target. By the time
they found their senses, Qingzhao had fired twice more.
The compromised plexi disintegrated and the unfortunate Mr.
Igarishi took a round in the head that nearly vaporized his
Ivory brought up his pistol in a leading arc and returned
auto-rapidfire through the breached glass
single-handedly—something not many men could do with a sense
of control. The OTs-33 "Pernach" in his grasp stuttered,
instantly reducing its double-stack 27-round mag by half in
the first burst. "Pernach" meant "multivaned mace" in
Russian, and a jagged line of Parabellum rounds chased
Qingzhao’s wake as she dived off the stage.
Ivory did not pause in astonishment as Qingzhao hit the
circular lip of the stage, shooting back while in mid-fall.
Valentina’s shooting arm violently parted company with her
body, the spray causing everyone to duck. The hanging plexi
all around the club was jigging now with bullet hits as
other enforcers tried to determine what threat, from where,
and filled the night with panic fire.
Ivory broadsided Cheung and caught two hits in the chest. He
did not go down. It took him less than a tenth of a second
to register the acid and he quickly stripped his jacket,
which was lined with whisper-thin body armor of Japanese
manufacture. Spotlights exploded above him.
Ivory and Shukuma bulldogged Cheung into the body scanner at
the mâitre d’ station and slid the emergency panels shut,
enclosing him. Cheung’s skeleton showed on the screen in
blue, but no bullet could harm him there. The less-lucky
mâitre d’ was slumped across the dais, having interrupted
the travel of several conventional rounds fired by other
Ivory only had eyes for Qingzhao, who was now boxed in near
the panoramic windows with no place to run. The blimp
cruised past behind her, flashing advertising in polyglot:
CortCom. Vivitrac. Eat Nirasawa-Mega-Output Beverage!
Qingzhao brought an entire framework of glass panels down on
Ivory’s head. Then she put the rest of her clip into the big
curved window, which disassembled itself and succumbed to
Ivory had her dead in his sights as she jumped. He spent the
rest of his clip trying to wing her on the way out.
He ran to the window, icy night air scything inward. From
this high up, the light of the Bund made it impossible to
see the river. No parachute, no falling body, just blackness.
Qingzhao, Ivory knew, would have counted on that.
Copyright © 2009 by Winterfall LLC.
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