HANGMAN’S POINT is an historical tale set on the British Island of Hong Kong during a continuous period of a little more than two weeks, in the year 1857. It has everything you need to keep your interest: A tavern named the Bee Hive with an actual bee hive nailed above the door, drunken sailors – who break out in song at times, an opium addicted Chinese baker, a high society Chinese pawn broker, British women in their colonial dress, romance aplenty, harbour views, harbored criminals, ships of all shapes and sizes, cannons real and made of wood, pirate battles, a lengthy murder trial presided over by a cigar chomping judge and one of the better one-sided cat-fights I can ever recall reading. Mixed in are the various classes of British Hong Kong – upper, lower and everything in-between – Chinese, British, American and more, all done with meticulous detail for historical accuracy; I learned a lot. The narrative is mostly told through the central character of Andrew Adams, an American tavern keeper, weapons smuggler, non-conformist and gambler whom is wrongly accused of murder in the course of his fortnight adventure. HANGMAN’S POINT is narrative rich and character rich, which makes it a dense but enjoyable read, even at 540 pages. Author Dean Barrett seems to be in touch with his masculine side, feminine side and “foreign devil” side as the narrative is told from many colorful and believable points of view. An example of the Barrett narrative as told by the conniving British widow as she describes her on-the-side lover who doubles as the antagonist, Ryker:
He could be the most attentive man she had ever known and within minutes, his dark thoughts could transform him into a cold-blooded killer with no more feelings for a woman than a lost anchor.
This is exactly the kind of book I would normally not read, which makes the enjoyment of the ride all the better. What I want at the end of a long read like HANGMAN’S POINT is a satisfying conclusion with no loose ends. I got that and more. This is a smart book with smart writing, written by a smart author. It will, no doubt, be read 100 years from now, causing readers of the future to GoogleX Dean Barrett in their searchable wraparound eye-glasses. Won’t that be fun for them what they find? This was a Kindle bargain at $2.99 but I later sought out the hardcover as this one belongs on a bookshelf, preferably made of thick plank wood. And that is where my copy stands now. I look forward to the sequel, THIEVES HAMLET, which should be out in early 2014 if not sooner.