Crane, Frances. (1965). Three Days in Hong Kong: A Thriller. London:  Hammond and Co.

Straightforward love and murder mystery with a bit of Chinese communism thrown in for local colour. The novel opens with what is set up as a murder scene with the main protagonist, Philip Farran, as the suspect., Farran, an American Civil Engineer, is in Hong Kong on his way  to Bombay for work. He is the sensible younger brother of Dane, the brilliant, tearaway golden boy of his family, who works with their father in the international antiques trade. Philip’s mother has asked Philip to look up Dane who is thought to be in Hong Kong. He meets up with Cleo Lombard, an antiques dealer who has spent most of her life in China, and whose relationship with his father  seems to have been somewhat amorous in the past.

Cleo introduces Philip to the beautiful young widow, Louise Barkley, whom he falls in love with at first sight. However, his moves on Louise are disrupted by the appearance of his alcoholic wife, Iris, from the US. Philip had thought she agreed to a divorce; however, she appears to have changed her mind and causes no end of trouble for Philip.

Meanwhile, Philip finds his brother Dane who is hiding from the immigration authorities rather improbably in a coffin maker’s workshop. Dane is in love with a communist extremist, Maya, a young and beautiful Chinese protégé of Cleo. Cleo is against the liaison and has forced a separation. Dane’s life seems to be in danger because of the relationship too – the police have received death threats on Dane’s life. Philip then finds he is being followed and, by doing the usual dumb-American-kid thing of going off on his own into an unfamiliar place at night, is attacked.

It turns out that Iris has tried to have Philip murdered in her jealousy/alcoholic insanity. The novel concludes with an explanation and resolution of the murder scene – Iris has gone wild in Cleo’s flat, where she was being looked after, and appears to have died falling down the stairs. Philip is therefore exculpated (the mess of the beginning is in fact all Iris’s fault – she has smashed up Cleo’s house, and Philip’s disarray has in fact been caused by the attack on him arranged by Iris in the dark unknown of Hong Kong mentioned above). He ends up getting the girl, Louise.

Hong Kong appears as a gothic backdrop to the narrative, particularly at night. Even scenes of romance between Philip and Louise are disrupted by the presence of the police or unidentified pursuers. However, the whole story is peopled with eccentric characters and grotesques whose physical and vocal appearance is unsettling and unsettled. (KB)

All entries and data copyright © The Hong Kong English Literature Database