July 11, 1997 at 04:00 AM EDT

Kowloon Tong

Current Status
In Season
Paul Theroux
Historical, Fiction, Fiction
We gave it a B+

No one knows what will happen now that Hong Kong has finally returned to Chinese rule this summer, but in this chiseled, menacing tale, Paul Theroux supposes the worst. In Kowloon Tong, Bunt, a mild-mannered Brit, lives with his nagging racist mother in Hong Kong, where he oversees the family textile factory and gets his furtive thrills in the red-light district. Enter a Chinese soldier-turned-businessman, Mr. Hung, who wants to take ownership of the factory and so wages a chilling campaign of blackmail against Bunt — designed, ultimately, to force him to abandon Hong Kong forever. Theroux focuses on the fight for survival among these emblematic characters with unnerving, Orwellian intensity. B+

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