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HIS name is Liu Chiang-hsin: "a mind as sharp as a sword." But "Chinaman" is the name his friends and contacts use. Chinaman grew up in Beijing during the Mao era and was traumatized by seeing Red Guards beat his scholar-father and drag him off; never to return. Three decades later, the one woman who managed to penetrate his emotional defenses has been found murdered in the New York Palace Hotel. And Chinaman won't rest until he finds the killer.
Chinaman is a 35-year-old private detective living in New York City's East Village. He is unlucky enough to have, as an ex-father-in-law, Manhattan's Chief of Detectives. Worse yet, Chinaman finds himself in the position of trying to enlist his ex-wife's help in solving the murder of the woman she found in bed with him -- just before their marriage ended.
The search for the killer takes him to Harlem, Hell's Kitchen, Greenwich Village, Jackson Heights, Forest Hills, Brooklyn Heights and, finally, Red Hook. Along the way, he enlists the aid of an American friend in an intelligence agency, a street junkie, an ex-girlfriend, an ex-wife, and a cop at One Police Plaza.
By using his computer, his fists, his wits, his contacts and his knowledge of the streets, Chinaman tracks down the murderers. The denouement takes place in Brooklyn's sinister and bleak Red Hook area at night among the loading cranes, transit sheds, canine-guarded warehouses and chain-linked fences topped with barbed wire. And, if Chinaman can prevent the memories of his Beijing boyhood from overwhelming him, he might just have a Chinaman's chance of coming out alive.
In what little night light reached the doorway, the gun glinted like a small caliber, most likely a .22; probably a Beretta. Chinaman remembered hearing of one private detective taken out of action for over a month by a teenage girl firing "only" a .22 caliber. At close range, a well-aimed .22 caliber round was more than sufficient to take one out of action permanently.
Chinaman did his best to smile. He hoped it was a disarming one. "Evening, ma'am. I'm here to see Ms. Rita Cesar." Chinaman had always believed there were two types of people in this world: those who have had to make conversation while a gun was pointing at them and those who haven't. He was certain that those who had shared the experience would appreciate how little quaver had crept into his voice.
He had smiled his best smile, he had spoken politely and he had even remembered to use the liberated form of address for a woman. Yet, despite all that, the gun still pointed exactly where it had before he'd spoken.
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