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The Master of Rain Hardcover – April 16, 2002

3.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Tom Bradby's third novel (though his first to be published in the U.S.) is a feverish work of historical noir, a labyrinthine thriller set in a vicious world where everyone--as in Bogart's Casablanca--has a reason for hiding. The year is 1926; the city is Shanghai, a swamp of organized crime, corruption, turf wars between British intelligence and street-level law enforcement, Communist sympathizers, and East European refugees from Bolshevik atrocities. Into this sweltering, cutthroat port city steps Richard Field, an idealistic policeman from Yorkshire looking to distance himself from a painful past. Ill-suited to Shanghai's heat and shocking violence, Field nevertheless throws himself into investigating the grisly murder of a Russian prostitute, the latest in a line of dead women who lived in the orbit of a powerful Chinese mobster. Slowed by official roadblocks, Field learns that the only man in his department he can trust is a tough Chicago detective, Caprisi, a touchstone of sanity even as Field loses his rookie head over another doomed Russian call girl.

Bradby, a seasoned correspondent for Britain's ITN television network, has obviously spent considerable time researching 1920s Shanghai. His feel for the city's Byzantine society and exotic textures is matched by his accessible vision of Shanghai as a junction of international fallout and internal intrigue. Less compelling, if not outright distracting, is Bradby's more contemporary emphasis on ghastly serial killings with a sex-crime edge. But in the end, the book's remarkable prose and density of experience are uniquely rewarding. --Tom Keogh

From Publishers Weekly

British TV newsman Bradby used his time in Hong Kong to do some research on 1920s-era Shanghai, the result of which is this hefty first novel of corruption, debauchery and decaying colonialism. Richard Field, a young policeman from Yorkshire, lands a job in the Special Branch of Shanghai's police department circa 1926. Honest but naeve, the Englishman falls into a snake pit of corruption and rivalry, revealed when a Russian prostitute is savagely murdered by a maniac. The trail leads to local gangster "Pockmark" Lu Huang, a powerful opium smuggler; when evidence begins disappearing and mysterious cash deposits are made to his bank account, Field knows the department is dirty, but can't get support from anyone except his sidekick Caprisi (a pugnacious American transplant who cut his teeth fighting Capone in Chicago). What's more, Field falls hard for the dead Russian's neighbor, Natasha Medvedev, who is one of "Lu's girls" and therefore, as Field discovers, highly likely to meet a fate similar to her neighbor's, which Field learns is only one in a string of such homicides. But when Field's investigation threatens Lu's opium ring, Lu lashes out at the foreign police force and the body count rises precipitously. The novel works better as a multilayered mystery than as a period piece, as the background historical issues are obscured by the more modern focus on frenzied sex and death. Likewise, the obvious film noir look the author goes for is undermined by the late 20th-century serial-killer shtick he injects into the plot. Despite the periodic glimpse of Western elitism and building Chinese sympathy for communism, there is remarkably little use of local color (language, food, local customs) to satisfy readers of historical thrillers, though the mystery plot doesn't disappoint. Major ad/promo; author tour.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (April 16, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385503970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385503976
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,296,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was totally caught up in "The Master of Rain." For hundreds of pages I shared with the young hero the confusion of literally not knowing what was going on, who if anyone could be trusted. I've read the publishers' reviews Amazon has posted, and know that they criticize the book for flawed/hackneyed writing in spots and for a failure to capture Shanghai's atmosphere in any detail. But for me, Tom Bradby did a fantastic job of capturing the atmosphere of the EXPATRIATE's Shanghai, quite a different matter, and sustaining an almost unbearable tension to the very last paragraph. This is one gripping book!!
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Format: Hardcover
Reading "The Master of Rain" is a bit like immersing yourself in a really good and gripping black and white American noir flick from the '40s. The ingredients are all there: a prostitute is found brutally murdered, and the young policeman (Richard Field, fresh off the boat from Yorkshire) assigned to this his first major murder case, is determined to prove himself and to discover who perpetrated this heinous crime, no matter what. But then there is the complication of the murdered woman's beautiful neighbour (Natasha Medvedev), with whom Field finds himself perilously drawn to, and who has her own share of painful and dangerous secrets to hide...
Field soon finds himself trying to navigate through waters he doesn't quite understand. To begin, the police department (a multinational concern) is split up into two rival departments -- Special Branch that deals mainly with the communist threat, and the Criminal Division which deals with all other types of crime, like murder, theft, etc -- that are at odds with each other. Neither division quite trusts the other, and each suspects the other of consorting with the local crime lord, Lu Huang. Field has been assigned to Special Branch, but finds himself seconded to the Criminal Branch for the duration of this investigation into the murder of Lena Orlov. The ritualistic and savage manner with which the murder was carried out suggests that the murderer has struck before, and that he will strike again. In the face of public apathy (after all the victim was only another Russian prostitute), Field soon finds that his only allies to solving this murder happen to be the two detectives he's currently working with, Caprisi and Chen. But the more they investigate, the more evidence they uncover of corruption and criminal activity. No one seems above board.
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Format: Hardcover
What a page turner! Very much reminded me of the excitement present in Caleb Carr's work. This book abounds with all of the ingredients that make up a good murder mystery: politics, greed, and sex. Set in Shanghai during the 20's, Bradby brings the reader on a journey of intrigue and fast paced drama. You will walk away with a keen sense of the social climate of China before it fell to Communism but you will not quite understand how you got it, for the message is subtle. Bradby does not drown you with pages of detail but gently weaves it through out the story.
Not knowing much of China myself, I felt a weird sense of sympathy for the country and could almost see the purpose that communism served there. Through his diverse characters, you will obtain insight into the impact of foreigners on the country, the division of classes within its borders, the skin trade, drug smuggling, and the brutality inherent in organized crime.
A brilliant book! A history lesson on a subject rarely talked about with the bonus of a solid mystery. A little slow in starting out but stick with it, once it takes off it is worth it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoy thrillers that take place in exotic locations, and in other eras. This excellent work does both, the action taking place in the foreign Concessions of Shainghai in 1926. We see a varied cast of characters, and the plot leaves the reader guessing as to the motives and loyalties of each one. The author successfully invokes the moral ambiguity of the period, and the tale moves along fairly swiftly. This is one book well worth reading, and I recommend it highly!
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Format: Hardcover
Tom Bradby is the author of two previous thrillers in Great Britain. Ironically, his first book published in the US is actually a bold sweeping historical mystery most noted for it's dead on detail of Shanghai in 1926.
Richard Field is a young Englishman, recently trained police officer, who is working in Shanghai in the pre-Communist days. Shanghai is a city of contrasts with a French section, an International section and the Chinese section. Each have their own authority in policing their regions. Field works in the International Settlement with his English speaking colleagues. In his first case, he finds himself investigating the brutal stabbing of a Russian prostitute. It seems she was the property of a local crime lord, Lu Huang. Field wants to work the case but he meets resistance along the way. Most would rather not go up against Lu and his umbrella of fear. Field, therefore, faces much difficulty. To complicate matters, he falls in love with another of Lu's Russian women, Natasha Medvedev. This, of course, places him directly into the path of Lu's wrath. Danger abounds as Field tries to solve the crime and very possibly save the woman he loves.
Tom Bradby has done copious research in his attempt to bring to life the exotic locale of Shanghai in the year 1926. A detailed map is found in the inside cover of the book thereby setting out the sheer depth that the author will use to tell his story. Characters, both the elegant and the poor are carefully crafted and frequently enter and exit the complex stage as Field goes about his investigation. As is so often the case in these epic detail rich historical novels, pacing suffers as a result. Yet, the exotic locale, the fine writing and the superior characterizations make up for the leisurely pace. THE MASTER OF THE RAIN is well worth the readers full attention.
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