This fiction, built around the history of the British Empire's long Far Eastern flirtation with drug running, is a terrific and informative read.
Jardine and Mathieson, the now respectable Hong Kong banking house, got its start in the banking business: shipping boatloads of opium from British India, to the Chinese, against the wishes of their emperor, but with the support of the British government.
Pablo Escobar, eat your heart out.Poor old Pablo had to fight a bloody war with the Columbian government and its ally the US DEA, to stay in business and eventually bit the dust in a bloody shoot-out with Columbian and US government agents.
A hundred years earlier, all J & M had to do was have a quiet word with the British Foreign Minister, Palmerston and the Royal Navy did J and M's dirty work to ensure that the product got through to their Chinese customers, blasting ancient Chinese junks out of the way in the process.
This is Leasor at his best, combining fact and fiction to give the reader a good page turning read and some historical insight into the bargain.
The fictional and historical characters are interwoven seamlessly as are social structures, making an excellent plot ring true.
The stultifying power structure of Chinese society at the time is excellently represented.
Buy and enjoy it. Its an absolute steal at the price.