2015 Taipei Book Fair Award
"THE BORROWED by Chan Ho-Kei s a unique crime novel from Hong Kong, not only telling the life of an exceptional detective by going backwards in time, but also telling the history of Hong Kong itself. A profund masterpiece on humanity, history and murder." -Tim Jung, Publishing Director at Atrium Verlag AG
The Borrowed is the story of Kwan Chun-Dok, a Hong Kong police officer who rises from constable to senior superintendent over the span of forty-six years (1967-2013), becoming a legend in the force as he does so. The book is divided into six chapters, each a stand-alone novella dealing with an important case in Kwan’s career and taking place at a pivotal time in Hong Kong history: the riots of 1967, the conflict between the HK Police and the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) in 1977, the Handover in 1997, the SARS epidemic in 2003 and one last case in 2013, when Hong Kong is turning into a police state, a chillingly accurate portrait seemingly foreshadowing the Occupy Central movement.
What makes The Borrowed unique is not just the structure, but the way the story is told in reverse-chronological order. The novel begins in 2013, with Kwan solving his final case on his deathbed, and goes back in time, finally reaching 1967, when he defuses a bomb plot and saves the life of a British inspector. The six chapters are linked in ways big and small. The novel’s real twist, however, comes at the end of the novel, in the very last line. Only then do the connections reveal themselves, that history is destined to repeat itself and how we have come full circle.
The Borrowed is the portrait of a brilliant, Holmes-esque detective, as well as a chronicle of Hong Kong over the past fifty years. Although each chapter is a self-sustained, carefully constructed mystery, the book is greater than the sum of its parts and it is on this level that it truly shines; a sweeping, ambitious crime drama that offers a startling insight into one of Asia’s greatest cities.