“It has been said that thought makes one wise. In hand to hand combat, however, thinking kills.”
You can tell from the opening line that The Chinese Spymaster is not going to disappoint. From the very beginning Tjoa grabs readers attention and draws them with an implied promise of action and suspense. When the Chinese Intelligence Agency finds out that the Pashtuns are trying to secure nuclear device from the North Koreans and five other nuclear arms dealers, Spymaster Wang is on the case to find out why.
After years of having their villages terrorized by the Pakistani Army and Intelligence units, the Pashtuns are ready to fight for their political freedom in an uprising (Pashtun Spring) that had been brewing for a while now. What does this have to do with China? Well, the Spymaster’s concern is that with six nuclear devices at their disposable the Pashtun could not only use those devices to intimidate their current government into giving them their political independence and diminishing the Durand Line but also set their sights on invading other surrounding territories as well. There is also the fear that other villages will who seek independence and to govern their own citizens will rise up as well and there will be all out war in the quest for freedom, nationhood and land.
On top of trying to figure out how to prevent the Pashtuns from getting the nuclear device, Spymaster Wang and his team (agents Hu and Tang) must navigate the own the troubles within the different Chinese government agencies. Some feel that the Pashtuns’ efforts to gain independence through securing nuclear devices is none of China’s business while others side with Wang and know that a domino affect is sure to happen if they just stand by and watch.
Then Wang has to deal with knowledge of old friends turned foes like Comrade Commissar Jiang trying to have him ‘accidentally’ murdered! There’s also the fact that his friends feel like it’s beyond time for Wang to settle down and find a wife. Wang is in his early fifties and they feel it’s about time he’s found someone to enjoy the rest of life with. But will he?
In my opinion Tjoa has done a great job of crafting an amazing storyline and creating characters who are complex but believable. I like that Tjoa didn’t overkill on the amount of action or fight scenes in the novel. They are strategically placed and written so that a picture is painted in the reader’s mind. I love that we don’t just get to the professional side of Spymaster Wang, but Tjoa takes us into his personal life a bit with General Chen and his wife trying to kind of urge him to find love.
I feel that in so, I was able to connect and understand Spymaster Wang’s character a little bit more. In addition, I appreciate the fact that he put just as much effort into developing secondary characters like the Shopkeeper, the Soldier and Ail as he did with main characters. I could also tell that Tjoa did his research when it came to the difference political agencies and groups, government structure and procedures as well as the geography of different locations used in the book.
I couldn’t put this book down and recommend it to anyone who enjoys tales of espionage and political drama. You can check out Tjoa’s novel yourself by purchasing a copy on Amazon and Smashwords. You can also click here to enter for a chance to win a copy of The Chinese Spymaster. Be sure to check out my interview with Tjoa below and find out what his inspiration behind writing The Chinese Spymaster was.
Interview With Author Hock Tjoa
What inspired you write The Chinese Spymaster?
I had seen a spy movie and thought it would be interesting and challenging to write a spy novel–so many things I have not done or written: fight scenes, bureaucratic in-fighting, interrogations,etc.
all centered on an organization and a spymaster in China.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Many years ago I thought about a novel but unfortunately it was not until six year ago that I did something about it and wrote “The Battle of Chibi.”
Are any of the characters inspired by real life people?
No. But I hope they appear realistic as people living today.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Be sure you enjoy what you are doing and be sure you have something worth saying.
What other project/books do you have in the works?
When I was in college, I was assigned to read what was billed as the beginning of Western Drama (it was a Greek play) and my reaction was “what is so great about this?” Now I am trying again, but also taking the parts that are known to be “true” and re-imagining the drama.
I have posted some early drafts on authonomy.com as “Agamemnon Must Die.”
Hock G. Tjoa was born to Chinese parents and studied history at Brandeis and Harvard. He taught European history and Asian political thought at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur and has published George Henry Lewes, a Victorian Mind, “The social and political ideas of Tan Cheng Lock” and various articles in the Newsletter of the China History Forum. He is married and lives with his family in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California. He published in 2010 “The Battle of Chibi (Selections from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms)” that he had translated, and in 2011, “Heaven is High and the Emperor Far Away, A Play” that he translated and adapted from Lao She’s Teahouse. Both are part of his project to make more widely known traditional Chinese values.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Hock Tjoa, you can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and check out his blog here. You can also find him on GoodReads and Amazon. And if you’re interested in winning your own copy of her latest book, The Banovic Siblings, be sure to enter the giveaway below:
Disclosure: I received a of copy of The Chinese Spymaster to faciliate this review. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.
Until next time,