A Novel of Old and New China – Review of Whispering Shadows


Whispering Shadows

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. Jan-Phillip Sendker did not disappoint me.

Whispering Shadows is a thriller – murder mystery. A thirty-year old, a Cathay Heavy Metals executive, Michael Owen winds up dead in Shenzhen, China, Shenzhenlocated across the border from Hong Kong. Speculation quickly leads to a worker who witnesses say got into an argument and then a fight with Owen over the unjust firing of another worker. Chinese authorities arrest, interrogate, and lo and behold get the worker to sign a confession. The date of a show trial is rushed up with execution of the accused expected to follow soon thereafter.

During all this, two sleuths – one amateur, Paul Leibovitz—a hermit, and one professional, a Hong Kong homicide detective, Zhang Lin conduct their own, unauthorized, investigation, which picks up steam after they learn of the worker’s air-tight alibi. As with anything connected with China, the past seeps in, intrudes and threatens to derail not only the investigation, but friendships and love.

Bits and pieces of life during Mao’s Cultural Revolution are the whisperings of memories that haunt Zhang and Paul’s girlfriend –Christine Wu, among others. Paul is likewise troubled by the death of his young son from leukemia many years earlier.  It is Paul’s story, of his gradual, nearly forced awakening that hangs like fog over the investigation, his relationships with Zhang and Christine, and which leads him to befriend Owen’s mother and then continue despite his own misgivings, warnings from Christine, and veiled threats from Owen’s father and Owen’s associate to cease and desist, to partner with Zhang to find the truth behind Owen’s death. They learn that the past is often not content to remain hidden, out of sight, tucked away in a box. Each must deal with the past, either like Zhang and Christine, by acknowledging through giving voice to the past or as in Paul, by setting the past free, in order to live. This is the story of Whispering Shadows.

As far as the narrative, there are two quirks. Remember the fog I mentioned? Well that starts the story, an odd start yes as it is not the typical in your face kidnapping, murder, or assault. It is the story behind the story—what drives Paul Leibovitz, and in that sense, works. The other thing which I found disconcerting was how Christine was introduced into the narrative–it doesn’t fit quite right–a bit of a bumpy start, which in a way symbolizes Paul’s rocky reintroduction to the world.

Read Whispering Shadows. You will not be disappointed.