January 19, 2004

Eight Skilled Gentlemen, by Barry Hughart

This the third and (to date) final volume in Hughart's tales of Number Ten Ox and Master Li Kao. There won't be any more as Hughart got little support from his publishers and gave up writing novels in disgust. This an extreme pity, as he'd originally planned on writing a series of seven books. Agony!

This particular story begins in Peking, where a vampire-ghoul interrupts a public execution and causes the official headsman to miss his stroke, thus losing his chance to break the standing record for the longest run of consecutive clean kills. So sad, especially as it led to a temporary reprieve for Sixth Degree Hosteler Tu, a loathsome murderer and gourmand. The vampire-ghoul leads Master Li to yet another murder, a series of strange encounters with ancient demons, and a dragon boat race on whose outcome the fate of the world rests.

Stylistically, this one is close to its predecessor, The Story of the Stone; it's both interesting and funny, though for different reasons. Overall I think I prefer it.

Posted by Will Duquette at January 19, 2004 05:04 PM