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book cover of Thieves Hamlet

Thieves Hamlet

A novel by

Thieves Hamlet, the sequel to Hangman's Point, is set in Hong Kong in late 1857 less than a year after the closing of Hangman's Point. As in Hangman's Point, although a few chapters are set in southern China, and a brief opening in Peking, most of the novel takes place in British-ruled Hong Kong.

Thieves Hamlet will once again involve Andrew Adams and his girlfriend, Anne Sutherland, and his friends at the Beehive Tavern. There will be other characters who first appeared in Hangman's Point including Charles May, Police Commissioner; Ian McKenna, the Bee Hive tavern concertina player; Duck Foot, the leader of a rebel band in southern China; Yuen Wai-Man, Triad leader and friend of Adams; Peter Robinson, aging seaman and friend of Adams; Sir John Bowring, fourth governor of Hong Kong; William Bridges, solicitor, and, Mathew Drinker, harpooner. As with Hangman's Point, various subplots will affect and reflect upon one another as well as link to the principal plots.

There are three intertwined plots in Thieves Hamlet. The first is the gruesome realization by Police Commissioner Charles May that someone is systematically killing British prostitutes in Hong Kong. He has on his hands what we would in modern times call a serial killer. The serial killer paints romantic poetry and beautiful ships in full sail on the whalebone stays (busks) that he gives to his victims shortly before he kills them. Commissioner of Police May is trying to track him down while not alarming the community. Adams's own girlfriend will be abducted by the killer and placed in great danger.

The second is the discovery of a plot by an Englishman and his Chinese workers to tunnel under the Union Chapel to kill the Hong Kong-based cousin of the rebellious Taiping leader in Nanjing. They will partly use the existing drainage system. This plot is based on various bank robberies and one jail escape successfully carried out through drains in the early 1860's. The Chinese cousin is a student of and assistant to Rev. James Legge (as he actually was in history).

The third plot involves a woman purporting to be escaping the wrath of Manchu government assassins sent from the Forbidden City. She is a Chinese who killed a vicious but high-ranking Manchu (she says) and had to flee to Hong Kong. Adams will become romantically involved with the woman while remaining in his prickly relationship with his girlfriend. But the woman is actually a former inhabitant of the Forbidden City who has escaped with the real child of the Hsien Feng Emperor; a girl who was destined to be killed and has been replaced by a male-child. Her cover story is false but that is because she is trying to protect the baby. (Chinese speculated during this period about exactly this kind of substitution.)

Adams will get involved in all this because of the actions of a hapless Chinese thief who steals slippers of bound feet women for his sexual pleasure. When the thief stumbles upon bodies, he flees in panic but is caught by the police who suspect him of being the murderer.

Adams is still living over the Chinese medicine shop in the notorious area known as Thieves Hamlet. Adams's landlord is Dr. Chang who is also the brother-in-law of the thief. Against his will and at his wife's urging, Chang finds it necessary to enlist the aid of Adams. Adams is several months late with the rent and when his landlord is willing to forego payment for many months if Adams can clear his brother-in-law, a hard-up Adams has no choice but to try to help. This decision will involve him in far greater danger than he realizes.


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Used availability for Dean Barrett's Thieves Hamlet

Kindle Editions

May 2014 : USA, Canada, UK Kindle edition

Title: Thieves Hamlet: A Novel of Hong Kong
Author(s): Dean Barrett
Publisher: Village East Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA