Chan Ho-Kei’s The Borrowed was one of the most acclaimed international crime novels of recent years, a vivid and compelling tale of power, corruption, and the law spanning five decades of the history of Hong Kong. Now he delivers Second Sister, an up-to-the-minute tale of a Darwinian digital city where everyone from tech entrepreneurs to teenagers is struggling for the top.
A schoolgirl—Siu-Man—has committed suicide, leaping from her twenty-second floor window to the pavement below. Siu-Man is an orphan and the librarian older sister who’s been raising her refuses to believe there was no foul play—nothing seemed amiss. She contacts a man known only as N.—a hacker, and an expert in cybersecurity and manipulating human behavior. But can Nga-Yee interest him sufficiently to take her case, and can she afford it if he says yes?
What follows is a cat and mouse game through the city of Hong Kong and its digital underground, especially an online gossip platform, where someone has been slandering Siu-Man. The novel is also populated by a man harassing girls on mass transit; high school kids, with their competing agendas and social dramas; a Hong Kong digital company courting an American venture capitalist; and the Triads, market women and noodle shop proprietors who frequent N.’s neighborhood of Sai Wan. In the end it all comes together to tell us who caused Siu-Man’s death and why, and to ask, in a world where online and offline dialogue has increasingly forgotten about the real people on the other end, what the proper punishment is.
Praise for The Borrowed
“The Borrowed manages to combine the pleasures of many types of crime story. One story will remind you of Ed McBain, another of Agatha Christie, another of Raymond Chandler’s evocations of the city. It is indeed rare for a novel demonstrating so much artistic skill, operating on many social and psychological levels, and with so much mastery of what might be called classical tropes to be so consistently entertaining.”—World Literature Today
“This is an ambitious narrative brilliantly executed. It hands us the living history of Hong Kong through the gripping prism of crime and politics—told backwards. What an achievement!”—John Burdett, author of Bangkok 8
“Five decades of Hong Kong policing stand behind the wise Inspector Kwan as he helps his protégé, Detective Lok, confound murderers and reveal much about life in their unique homeland.”—Sunday Times (Crime Club) (UK)
“This naturally reminded me of Soji Shimada, and the strength of his detective Takeshi Yoshiki’s passion and determination to unravel clues. I also thought of . . . the American novelist Ed McBain, whose 87th Precinct series examines the intersections between police work and the individual lives of those in the force. The strong sense of social responsibility in the books by the Swedish Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö came to mind too.”—OKAPI
“With the police force and social conflicts as its background, covering 50 years of politics, history and economics, intertwined with clever detective fiction, [The Borrowed] fits peculiarly with the current social situation in Hong Kong, and will surely stir up readers’ emotions.”—Macau Closer
“This unusual collection of linked stories spans more than four decades, each of them set at a significant date in Hong Kong’s history . . . [starring] Inspector Kwan as an old-fashioned, omniscient . . . detective.”—Sunday Times (UK)
“[Chan’s] latest award-winning book is about the evolution of the police force and graft-busting in the city . . . [It] spans 50 years and is a tale about a prominent local policeman that takes in watershed events in Hong Kong . . . It is likely to strike a chord.”—South China Morning Post
“In the eternal search for something new in the crime genre, varieties from other countries other than the Nordic countries are undergoing forensic examination. . . The success of [The Borrowed] suggests that Hong Kong may be fertile territory . . . An innovative novel with a complex structure”—Barry Forshaw, CrimeTime (online)
“Chan Ho-kei’s The Borrowed is full of surprises . . . A brilliant detective novel.”—Taiwanese novelist and crime editor extraordinaire Wolf Hsu