Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Deep Night by Caroline Petit

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Deep Night by Caroline Petit. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Deep Night by Caroline Petit

 A Leah Kolbe Mystery

Soho Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-530-X (156947530X)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-530-0 (9781569475300)
Publication Date: December 2008
List Price: $24.00

Review: Set during the middle of the Second Sino-Japanese War in the late 1930s, antiques dealer Leah Kolbe flees her home in Hong Kong for the relative safety of Macau and becomes embroiled in espionage in Deep Night, the second book in this series by Caroline Petit.

Arriving in Macau penniless, Leah seeks assistance from the British consulate. She's given a secretarial position, but her past quickly catches up with her. Though Macau is formally neutral territory, it is teeming with Japanese and Chinese officials seeking an advantage in their war with each other. A former antique trade contact from China coerces Leah into acting as a conduit of information and cash between Britain and China all the while she's acting as an informal spy for her own government. To complicate matters, she's taken on a Japanese lover though she's engaged to be married to a British officer who's being held in a detention camp by the Japanese. The war seems endless and Leah doesn't see any relief from the complex situations in which she is involved.

The overview of Deep Night suggests it might be a suspense novel, or a novel of international intrigue, but it is neither nor is it a mystery in any way. To be fair, it's not listed as such; still, potential readers may be led to believe it to be. Setting aside its genre classification, it is not all that compelling of a novel. One might think the reader would sympathize with Leah who lost everything when she fled Hong Kong. Yet she is a distinctly unlikeable character, petulant and self-centered. Her only redeeming feature is that everyone around her is comparatively worse.

The author takes great care in describing Macau during this turbulent time and in retrospect Deep Night seems to be more of a fictional study of this period and place than a plot-driven novel. It's well written and historically interesting in its own way, but the somewhat aimless storyline involving Leah, spies and counterspies, set over a 7 year or so time frame, is disappointing. On a positive note, the book ends in such a way that the next in the series will give Leah a fresh start following the end of World War II.

Special thanks to Soho Press for providing an ARC of Deep Night for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Leah Kolbe escapes to Macao as the Japanese occupy Hong Kong. Her fiancé is interned in a prisoner of war camp. She becomes a spy for the British and takes a Japanese lover. When she returns with provisions to her beloved Hong Kong on the first boat, she finds the surviving English, including her fiancé, totally altered. He cannot bear to stay in Hong Kong; she chooses to remain and rebuild.

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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