The Borrowedby Chan Ho-Kei
An epic and award-winning crime novel, The Borrowed follows a preternaturally gifted Hong Kong police detective’s eventful career, delving deep into the city’s momentous history over the past fifty years.
From award-winning Hong Kong writer Chan Ho-kei, The Borrowed tells the story of Kwan Chun-dok, a Hong Kong detective whose career spans fifty years of the territory’s history. A deductive powerhouse, Kwan becomes a legend in the force, nicknamed “the Eye of Heaven” by his awe-struck colleagues. Divided into six sections told in reverse chronological order—each of which covers an important case in Kwan’s career and takes place at a pivotal moment in Hong Kong history from the 1960s to the present day—The Borrowed follows Kwan from his experiences during the Leftist Riot in 1967, when a bombing plot threatens many lives; the conflict between the HK Police and ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) in 1977; the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989 to the Handover in 1997; and the present day of 2013, when Kwan is called on to solve his final case, the murder of a local billionaire, while Hong Kong increasingly resembles a police state. Along the way we meet Communist rioters, ultra-violent gangsters, stallholders at the city’s many covered markets, pop singers enmeshed in the high-stakes machinery of star-making, and a people always caught in the shifting balance of political power, whether in London or Beijing–all coalescing into a dynamic portrait of this fascinating city.
Tracing a broad historical arc, The Borrowed reveals just how closely everything is connected, how history always repeats itself, and how we have come full circle to repeat the political upheaval and societal unrest of the past. It is a gripping, brilliantly constructed novel from a talented new voice.
“[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, including the leftist riots in the 1960s, the Sino-British negotiations, the 1997 handover and the Sars outbreak in 2003. It is likely to strike a chord.” —South China Morning Post
“With the police force and social conflicts as its background, covering fifty 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 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 . . . American novelist Ed McBain . . . The strong sense of social responsibility in the books by the Swedish Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö came to mind too.” —OKAPI
After Mrs. Kwan departed, Sonny Lok settled in to wait for his mentor. He paced around the living room several times, and then went into Kwan’s study.
The wall was covered in framed photos, many of them faded, quite a few in black and white. The oldest one was by the window, showing Kwan Chun-dok in his twenties – Sonny knew this had been taken in 1970, when his mentor was in England for training. It was said that his outstanding performance in preventing a bomb blast during the ’67 unrest had caught the attention of his British superior, and that started him on his career as “genius detective.” Yet Lok had never heard Kwan mention those riots.
Kwan’s desk was covered in random objects, a confusion of documents and notebooks. There were ink brushes, a magnifying glass, a microscope, test tubes, lock picks, fingerprint dust, pinhole cameras, a recording device disguised as a ballpoint pen, putty for copying keys . . . It seemed more like the setup of a private detective or spy than a police investigator.
Lok sat down in his mentor’s chair.
Crossing his legs, in the position Kwan assumed when he was thinking. Picking up a glass vial containing a single bullet, he played with it idly, again just as his mentor did. As Sonny rotated the vial, the bullet tinkled clearly against the glass walls. His gaze drifted aimlessly across the mess on the desk, but was abruptly arrested by the name on a manila folder, which pulled him back to full attention: Yam Tak-ngok.
Although nosing around in his mentor’s papers would probably earn him a scolding, Lok didn’t think twice.
And below Uncle Ngok’s folder lay an envelope stamped “Top Secret.”