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War Machine

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Someone, or something, is taking pot shots at the men of the Yellowthread Street Police Station and other “uniformed forces of colonial repression.” The police and the Hong Kong government can handle the prospect of someone, but the “something” has everyone’s “knickers in a twist.” It appears that the ammunition being used in the various attacks comes from an experimental assault rifle designed for use by the Japanese army in the 1930’s. Moreover, other evidence recovered indicates that the assailants are members of the 38th Division of the Japanese Imperial Army--all of whom were killed in the defense of Guadalcanal in 1943.

The civil authorities do not wish to jeopardize the relations with Japan with what is undoubtedly a false report of Japanese holdouts suddenly resuming World War II after a forty-year intermission. At the same time, people are being killed, and the Hong Kong Police Department is less concerned about international relations than survival. Japanese holdouts, contemporary villains, or ghosts, someone must pay--and soon, before the butcher’s bill gets any longer.

William Marshall has spent years traveling throughout East Asia, and he knows the locale and the people. WAR MACHINE is the ninth in a continuing series and one of his most imaginative novels. The Yellowthread Street stories are police procedurals, but with a peculiar twist--partly because they are located in Hong Kong and partly because of Marshall’s puckish sense of humor. His prose is so concise that each and every word must be read and the various implications thoroughly digested, while he moves from character to character with a wonderful facility. The result is a workable union of Stephen King and Donald Westlake.