Blood Runs East by S.H. Stratman

Blood Runs EastBlood Runs East by S.H. Stratman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this sanguine romp through the Hong Kong of the early 1990s. Jonah, a journalist at a small-time newspaper in mid-West USA, finds a job in a minor newspaper in Hong Kong. The newspaper is owned as a hobby business by a billionaire; run by Kim, who we meet a few times without ever getting to know, and their star reporter and sole other member of staff is Vic, a hard-nosed crime reporter, whom we get to know very well (and who, as other reviewers observe, gets all the best one-liners).

A series of gory crimes and murders take place. It soon becomes apparent that these are not ordinary but ritualistic in nature. As the mystery develops, dark powers and ancient forces emerge, and Jonah finds that he himself has something in common with those powers and forces: he starts to avoid light; he starts to crave raw meat. He confronts deep ethical questions about good and evil; in one brilliant and compelling scene, he finds himself pursuing a young man through the night and, when he hunts down his prey – but you’ll have to read that yourself.

This would be a five-star rating were it not for the minor but very annoying flaws. The book is full of typos. “[d]rying retching” was distracting, but a sentence that began with “Their” when the author meant “They’re” and another with “Whose” when it should have been “Who’s” forced me to re-read: the spell was broken. There were a couple of threads that got broken: Betty, a paramedic, is in an ambulance crash in which two people die and blood is stolen, but she and the accident enter the narrative once and are never heard from or of again – but I did want to find out what became of her. There are errors of geography – the container ports face Tsing Yi, not Lantau, and, while there is a bridge over Aberdeen Harbour, that bridge seemed to have been written in over Victoria Harbour. Some of the action happens in the container terminals: a bonded area with strict security, but which the characters wander into without hindrance.

This may seem like nit-picking, but when you want the reader to believe in the supernatural, it is all the more convincing when the real-world the reader knows is depicted with utmost fidelity.

I have a feeling that this is intended as the first book of a series. The chase scene I referred to above is classic, and if the later books build on that, I’d be first in the line to buy signed copies.

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