Hong Kong, 1954. The British colony was not yet ready to hear about a Eurasian policeman having an affair with the police commissioner’s daughter. Twenty-two-year-old Simon Lee tasted swift punishment. He was banished to the outer fringes of the territory, to the far tip of a wild and distant island a stone’s throw from Chinese waters — to Tai O, the ancient and murky trading post where fishermen, salt-farmers and refugees were thrown together with spies, pirates and triads. Pink dolphins swam the waters, eagles fished the sea, and some still believed that a tiger prowled the hills at night. It was a place haunted by history, where everybody had a secret about what they did during the war.
Life was unpredictable for the band of beer-swilling misfits that staffed Tai O Police Station. Some said they needed reining in. But when a stranger was murdered on a beach, accused of being a Communist spy, Lee found himself on an unexpected collision course with his own masters in Central. Who had the dead man been working for? What did the secret agents know? Why was Central so eager to brush the execution aside? And who or what really was the ‘tiger’?
“Saeki paints a colourful portrait of Hong Kong in the 1950s, capturing the spirit of the times in this page-turning police thriller. Sometimes hilarious, and sometimes deadly serious, readers will be fascinated by the intrigue and politics of the era. Though Hong Kong — especially Tai O — has certainly changed over the past century, local readers will find Simon Lee’s world a familiar place, and yet also learn many secrets of the former colony…” — Ray Hecht, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal
John Saeki talked to RTHK’s Phil Whelan about his new Hong Kong novel
Read more: John Saeki – How I wrote The Tiger Hunters of Tai O
“The author brilliantly pieces together these rich historical materials to give each character a legend of their own. Saeki pays as much attention to side characters as he does to his main protagonist, Simon Lee. Looking into different characters provides readers with not only the many aspects of the story, but also the different facets of everyday life in Hong Kong in the 1950s. For example, Madam Li, the former Communist member who fled to the colony as a refugee, helps to link the local history to political turmoil during China’s long twentieth century. Another character worth mentioning is Simon’s partner Jagan Singh, whose Indian heritage leads to him suffering serious episodes of racism. Nonetheless, the huge variety of characters on display and the drama between them reflect just how much diversity this geographically small city has to offer.” — Jason Chu, Hong Kong Review of Books
“Simon Lee, as a Eurasian, is a brilliant choice as the main protagonist, since he sees issues from both sides. He is a part of the colonial police force, yet is treated dismissively by so many of his British colleagues. The abusive language is shocking to our 21st century ears, as is the attitude towards not only Simon but also his friend and fellow cop, the very likeable Sergeant Jagan Singh. The story opens with a violent death, and as Simon Lee’s investigation gathers pace, the authorities from HQ in Hong Kong swoop in to try and hush things up, which makes the two policemen only more determined to get to the bottom of the case.” — Christine’s Book Reviews
“Author of The Tiger Hunters of Tai O, John Saeki, describes Tai O as a “murky and fascinating outpost… a place that positively reeks of character, tenacity and rugged independence.” John chose to base his book in Tai O after visiting the Tai O Heritage Hotel, previously the 1902-built Tai O Marine Police Station. Set in 1954, Tiger Hunters sees Eurasian police officer Simon Lee banished from the comforts of Central to a wild and rugged land (Tai O), for having an affair with the police commissioner’s daughter.” — Around DB