Renowned British author, Graham Greene, used to refer to many of his novels as “entertainments.” This book has many of the ingredients that made Greene’s work so interesting. There’s an expat living in the stifling heat and humidity of a faraway country. There are multiple secret liaisons. There is a bit of treachery, a dollop of tragedy, a whiff of intrigue, and enough introspection to make it all seem very personal.
Clarke is a young Englishman doing a stint in Hong Kong. By day, Clarke helps his firm arrange deals between different business interests. By nights, and on weekends, he lives a relatively sedate existence—until he decides to get off the beaten path surrounding his corporately antiseptic neighborhood. Then, his world starts to change dramatically. In relatively short order, he’s bedding a shantytown prostitute, his housekeeper, and a beautiful attorney. In addition, he becomes somewhat embroiled in the geopolitical struggle between Hong Kong and Mainland China and very involved in a potential swindle of international proportions.
The author has created a series of interludes nestled throughout a plot that doesn’t really take wing until near the end of the story. An abundance of architectural observation and meal descriptions tend to slow the pace, as do frequent and meticulously detailed sexual couplings. However, once the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place, the action moves relentlessly to a suspenseful ending. In addition to spinning an interesting yarn, the writer also draws readers’ attention to the ticking time bomb of environmental hazards. To his credit, he does so without pious preaching and totally within the confines of the story. There is much to like and learn in The Age of Water.