Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 18, 2018

Deep Night, by Caroline Petit

*chuckle* I think that ‘Deep Trouble’ might have been a better title for this book than Deep Night!

A sequel to The Fat Man’s Daughter (2005), Deep Night is the story of attractive, sexy Leah Kolbe, who runs her Hong Kong antiques business according to the somewhat dubious principles of her father, who died in mysterious circumstances.  In this sequel, the Sino-Japanese War, under the radar of great powers preoccupied by the war in Europe,  suddenly escalates in significance with the bombing of Pearl Harbour and the start of the Pacific War.  Hong Kong is a British colony, not then thought to be at risk from the Japanese who have occupied Manchuria, while China, beset by internal struggles, is trying to ward off territorial ambitions that threaten its independence even further.  It’s not a good time to be in a business that depends on exports to wealthy westerners.

It’s also not a good time to rush into an engagement but Leah decides to stop fending off Jonathan (who is also sexy and attractive but is undesirably more interested in settling down with a family than in her business), only to have him captured by the invading Japanese and sent off to an uncertain fate.  Using her contacts, Leah decamps to Macau, now part of China, but then a Portuguese colony and at this stage of the war, the sole remaining European possession in Asia. Its status, however, is tentative, as a translator explains to Leah:

“Macau is only free because there is a large Japanese community in Brazil (a Portuguese colony in the 19th century).  Portugal threatened to freeze the bank accounts of these wealthy Japanese. Japanese officers are crawling all over Macau. They swagger about like they own the place. We are still afraid that they might blockade Macau or take us over.” (p.75)

Leah arrives, like so many other refugees, with nothing, because (conveniently within swimming distance of Macau) she was unceremoniously dumped out of the junk she’d hired and loses everything from her passport to her shoes.  She is taken in by the British Consul Stephen Albemarle (who is middle-aged but fancies her) and he invents a job for her at the consulate, which is (as you’d expect) involved in transmitting intelligence.

Before long Leah is invited to become a spy too, and the reader needs to keep her wits about her to follow the tangled threads of her activities.  Negotiating the competing agendas of undercover operatives from the west (UK and US); communist and nationalist Chinese; a Russian (not very convincingly) purporting to be British; and the swaggering, malevolent Japanese, Leah takes a Japanese lover who is an arms dealer and passes on his unsuspecting bedroom chatter to her contacts.  But she’s no James Bond: people get killed, and she is lucky to escape assassination herself.  (That’s not really a spoiler, it is obvious that she’s a survivor, and I suspect that there might even be a Book Three one day).

This kind of historical novel/political thriller is not my usual reading fare, but the book was interesting because I knew next to nothing about this aspect of the Pacific War. The setting is a convincing representation of colonial life, complete with its stratified society and the social changes that emerged as European power waned.

According to the blurb, Caroline Petit is an American living in Australia but the book was published ten years ago and her website (which says she is working on her third novel) needs updating.

Author: Caroline Petit
Title: Deep Night
Publisher: Soho Press USA, 2008, 276 pages
ISBN: 9781569475300 (hbk).
Source: Kingston Library

You can buy the book from Amazon.


Responses

  1. I was going to say that this is not your usual sort of read. Did you pick it up on a whim?

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    • Yes… it was on the display shelf at the library and the cover looked interesting:)

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  2. I think I’ve caught up now. I hadn’t thought about Japan being under the radar in 1939-42, I suppose it’s true. Most of what I know about this period has come from reading Ballard’s Empire of the Sun and Chinese accounts.

    You write “who is middle-aged but fancies her”; but I’m afraid it is nearly always the opposite which is true – middle-aged and therefore fancies her. We men are never realistic about who we fancy!

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