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auspex

Novel Tease

Random meanderings about the books I love—or don't. 

Interspersed with observations about my hobbies: Beer & Wine, Bridge, Bikes and Bow-wows.

Currently reading

The Book Thief
Markus Zusak
Pontypool Changes Everything
Tony Burgess

The Last Six Million Seconds: A Thriller

The Last Six Million Seconds - John Burdett The title refers to the time left, at the start of the novel, to the official handover of Hong Kong to China by the British. As a thriller set in the politics of the period, it's great. The author obviously understands the political and cultural environment of the period, and one can only desperately hope that he's exaggerating (though I suspect not...).

Unfortunately, his understanding of some of the technical details of his plot seem a bit weak. Our hero, Chief Inspector "Charlie" Chan, discovers a cache of "pure" Uranium 235, but fortunately leaves its actual recovery to others - who die gruesomely of radiation burns within a couple of days. Well, I grew up immersed in nuclear physics - my father taught it to nuclear plant operators - and I was pretty sure that couldn't happen. No less an authority than the US Centers for Disease Control agrees with me. Without generating too much of a spoiler, suffice it to say that earlier he accepts personal testimony as definitive without apparently back-checking the facts, and later he has to send evidence to Scotland Yard for analysis, which surely any competent lab could have handled in Hong Kong.

Still, if you're not overly worried by a few little incongruities, the story is fascinating (and scary - more for its depiction of China, and what China's growing economy means for the rest of the world in the future, than for the actual criminal acts that are ostensibly being investigated.