I came to Peter May via his rather bleak “Lewis” trilogy, with a dour Hebridean detective returning to his home island and uncovering dark deeds. It all seemed so authentically Scottish that I couldn’t really imagine him writing anything else.
Then I discovered that, more than a decade earlier, he’d written a set of thrillers set in China in the late nineties, in which none of the characters is Scottish. I was intrigued, picked up a copy of “The Firemaker” and discovered a whole new side to Peter May.
In “The FIremaker”, Peter May shows great skill in merging genres and tropes to produce something new and interesting.
It has many of the hallmarks of a RomCom; a cute-meet between the two principals that set them at odds, a plot that keeps forcing them back together, and a finely paced set of will-they? won’t-they? moments that stoke up the unresolved sexual tension in the best tradition of such things.
This is overlaid with massive culture clashes as the small, blonde, female American pathologist, running from her troubled past to her first assignment in China, meets ambitious and newly promoted Chinese Policeman who is dedicated to his work and wants to help build the new China.
Wrap all of that around political intrigue and a set of gruesome murders that seem connected but make no sense together and you have the makings of a very good book indeed.
This was the art of the exotic thriller being practised at its best. The research was used to add an authentic sense of place without ending up feeling like a lecture on China and its recent history. Neither the American nor the Chinese culture walks away unscathed or undefended. The people seem real and the plot unfolds with enough surprises to keep me turning the pages. The ending… well see for yourself. It works but is perhaps more RomCOm than Thriller.
I’cw already downloaded the next book in the series and hope to be returning to Peter May’s China very soon.