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The Last Six Million Seconds

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It is April 1997, and all of Hong Kong is counting down to July 1, when Britain will hand over rule of the country to China. Public anxiety about the transfer of power is running high, but “Charlie” Chan Siu-kai’s biggest concern is a gruesome triple murder case, with no solid leads. Chan, a half-Chinese, half-Irish Hong Kong native and chief inspector with the Royal Hong Kong police, thinks he’s found a breakthrough when three mutilated heads are found floating in Chinese waters. But he grows increasingly frustrated as the Chinese police actively hinder—and the English bureaucrats pointedly ignore—his investigation. As Chan tracks the killers, he discovers cover-ups and conspiracies running deeper than even he had imagined. All the while, in the background, the clock ticks down to the day the British leave . . .

From Publishers Weekly

Feb 02, 1997 – Six million seconds are, in Burdett's second novel (after A Personal History of Thirst, 1995), all the time left until Hong Kong is subsumed by the People's Republic of China. Burdett means his book to be a scary cautionary tale as well as an enthralling thriller, and it is both. During the 10 weeks before June 30, 1997, Hong Kong Chief Inspector "Charlie" Chan Siu-kai--33, half-Irish, half-Chinese--attempts to solve a horrific triple murder. His investigation, which Burdett bolsters with much forensic detail (the victims were minced alive), takes Chan into an astonishingly complex power struggle over the future of Hong Kong waged by cynical British diplomats trying to hide the bloodstains on their three-piece suits, American mafiosi scheming to exploit a China ripe for anarchy and, most malevolently, a Chinese warlord planning to establish Hong Kong as his fiefdom, in part by purchasing a black-market A-bomb. It's a far-fetched scenario, but Burdett, who once practiced law in Hong Kong, lacquers it with the realism of intense local color and encyclopedic knowledge of the soon-to-be-former colony and its ways. His prose marches rather than flows, and a few of his characters verge on stereotype. But a strong and moral hero, intricate plotting, fierce dashes of violence and sex and, above all, the looming--if crassly portrayed--menace of Communist masters ("monsters who have been spawned by monsters to govern monsters") will keep readers attentive right through the novel's bitter conclusion. Film rights sold to 20th Century-Fox for $1 million.

Customer Reviews

The Last Six Million Seconds

I have enjoyed John Burdett's writing since the initial appearance of Bangkok 8, but somehow overlooked this release. It is as good as any of the "Sonchai" novels as it follows "Charlie" Chan, homicide investigator for the Royal Hong Kong Police, in the period of the British handover to China.

Chan is assigned to investigate the gruesome murder of three decapitated individuals, and as the details of the case are revealed, he finds himself entwined by the forces pulling on the Colony itself.

It's a great story and while Chan manages to avoid Thai sticks and prostitutes, his morality is challenged by temptations to which others in the Colony succumb. Of course, his parents' backgrounds are the essence of the tensions engulfing Hong Kong at the time, and Charlie finds himself torn between the fading and emerging empires as the facts of the case become clear.

The Last Six Million Seconds
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Mysteries & Thrillers
  • Published: May 29, 2012
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 400 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings