99 Ways To Die

Mysterious Book Report No. 380

by John Dwaine McKenna

After the end of World War II in 1945, China was in total disarray; weakened for decades by the lack of a functioning central government, the vast areas controlled by individual warlords, and devastated by years of savage mistreatment by the occupation of Imperial Japanese armed forces in the 1920s, ‘30, and ‘40s.  After WWII the strongest of the warlords, Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Kuomintang (National People’s Party), and his former ally, Mao Tse-tung, founder of the Chinese Communist Party, fought a civil war.  With the defeat of the Nationalists the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949,  the  surviving Nationalists fled to the island of Formosa . . . which is now called Taiwan . . . and set up what they called a government-in-exile known as the Republic of China.  And just so you know, the Chinese claim the island, forty miles off of the coast as their own, while the United States and about twenty others recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation and have signed defense treaties with them.

Which is all background material for this week’s MBR No. 380.  It takes place in the capitol city of the controversial island, home of a mish-mash of different identities and cultures.

99 Ways To Die, (Soho Press, $26.95, 273 pages, ISBN 978-1-61695-968-5) by Ed Lin is the third in his acclaimed Taipei Night Market series which features a sidewalk food stall that’s run by a man named Chen Jing-nan, who inherited it from his father and grandfather.  He’s assisted by a pair of employees named Dwayne, who supplies the muscle, and Frankie the cat, an older gent with a dubious past who has all kinds of underworld connections.  The action begins when a business tycoon and billionaire named Thomas Lee Tong-ming is kidnapped and held for ransom.  Know familiarly as “Tong-tong,” he’s a vehemently outspoken opponent of immigration, one of the richest men in Taiwan, with family and business ties back on mainland China, and he’s also Jing-nan’s landlord, as he owns most of the real estate that underlies the Taipei Night Market.  His kidnapping causes a media sensation because of Tong-ton’s notoriety, and the ransom demand for a secret computer chip design.  So, when Peggy Lee, Tong-tong’s spoiled daughter . . . who’s a classmate and lifelong friend of Jing-nan, calls and begs for help rescuing her father . . . because, “The police are incompetent, uncaring idiots,” in her words, he can’t refuse.  And, just like that, Jing-nan finds himself neck-deep in hi-tech crime and conspiracy, murder and mayhem with roots going back generations to the pre-communist days on the mainland.

99 Ways To Die will bring you so deep into the insights and sounds, the culture and character of the breakaway island nation, you’ll think you’ve actually been there!

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John Dwaine Mckenna