Blake, Robin. (1993). The Gwailo. London: Penguin.

The Gwailo is a thriller which promises a typical espionage plot involving big business interests and world politics. However, it thwarts readerly expectations with an anti-climatic ending which reduces the intrigue to a family feud. The novel is set in the fictional village of Moxon in Lancashire and Hong Kong, with Hong Kong predictably being the site of intrigue and crime which intervenes and disturbs the quasi-pastoral life of Moxon.

When Maurice Fielding, Sim Fielding’s prodigal father returns to England seeking his son after decades without contact, Sim finds himself drawn into his father’s seedy life. Maurice Fielding has been contracted to abduct the grandchild of C.P. Cotton, a televangelist media moghul based in Hong Kong, but botches the job and ends up killing the mother and the two year old child. Maurice returns to England and briefly re-integrates himself into village life in Moxon only to disappear with Kevin, the son of a British-Chinese man living in the village.

Sim pursues his father to Hong Kong and becomes entangled in a series of events that ends with the deaths of several people including his father and C. P. Cotton; Cotton is also  discovered as the architect of the kidnapping plot. Sim discovers that Cotton ordered the kidnapping because he hates his daughter-in-law and wants to reunite the grandchild with his psychologically unstable son, Chuck. However, when the kidnapping goes wrong, Cotton  hires a private investigator named Craike to investigate the death of his daughterinlaw.  Craike’s preliminary inquiries through Madeline, his assistant, lead him to believe that Mainland China is plotting against Cotton as he is perceived to be anti-Beijing. But as Craike’s investigation progresses, he realizes the Beijing angle is a red herring and that Maurice Fielding had been hired for the job by a triad intermediary working for Cotton. Craike’s investigation is constantly shadowed by a British intelligence agent named Venteel who also suspects a Chinese espionage plot.   

Having accidentally killed Cotton’s grandson, Maurice Fielding, attempts to use the child he kidnaps from Moxon to gain ransom money from Cotton. But his plan is thwarted when his Filipino housekeeper stabs  and fatally wounds him . The child is then discovered by Lee Hung, the triad figure working for Cotton, and taken into the uninhabited Walled City in Kowloon which is facing imminent demolition. The story climaxes when Sim, Madeline, Cotton, and Craike converge upon the house where the child is held. The story then takes a bizarre twist because Lee Hung is killed by his two sons who hate him and Chuck, we discover, is in league with Lee Hung’s sons and wants to kill his father for interfering in his life. Though Cotton senior pleads that he acted in his son’s best interests Chuck tries to stab him but is prevented by the entry of Venteel. A chase over Kowloon rooftops ensues with Chuck falling down to his death and the child being saved. Sim takes the child back to Moxon with Madeline, whom he has fallen in love with, but discovers that the child is actually his father’s illegal love child from a Chinese prostitute in Lancashire. (HR)

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