Review: The Chinese Assassin (Anthony Grey)

The Chinese Assassin is a spy thriller set in the early 1970s in the backdrop of the Cold War. The plot revolves around the death of the Chinese defence minister and the attempt of Soviet and American Secret Services to uncover the mystery after a Chinese defector contacts a well known sinologist offering him information about the incident.

The first few chapters are a mixture of first- and third person narratives with the description of the events leading to the death of the Chinese defence minister presented as a series of folios written by the defector. This alternates with the events of five years later, when the defector meets the British sinologist. The rest of the book deals with the activities of spies from three countries as they try to outmaneuver each other. At the same time there is a plan to assassinate the Chinese head of state, although this isn't explained clearly until the end of the book.

The reason I didn't like this book all that much was because it was difficult to follow the political aspects of the story. Usually when you read a spy thriller from the Cold War period, you have two clearly marked sides - it's always the Soviet Union and the eastern European countries against the US or UK. In this book, it's difficult to understand who is fighting whom, because China is involved and its relationship with the US and the Soviet Union isn't fully explained.

The book is your average spy thriller which could have been better if the author had give more details of the international political situation of that time. This shortcoming is especially disappointing coming from Anthony Grey who was a correspondent in Eastern Europe and China and therefore would know quite a bit about politics in China.

Rating. 3/10


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