Cover image of "Last Days in Shanghai," a thriller that doesn't quite thrill

At 24, Luke Slade is mourning the end of his relationship with his girlfriend, Alex, when his boss takes him on a trip to China. Luke is a top aide to Republican Congressman Leonard (Leo) Fillmore, whose questionable ethics have allowed him to make the journey courtesy of a shadowy billionaire, a principal in a Chinese-American joint venture in real estate, Bund International. Soon after arriving in Beijing, Leo wanders off in a drunken stupor, supposedly to his hotel room, but he cannot be found the following day. Left adrift, Luke sticks to his boss’s schedule, representing the Congressman, in hopes of minimizing the damage from Leo’s disappearance. Soon, everything goes badly awry.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

This book is another in a very long list of novels to come from the talented graduates of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. It shows. The prose in Last Days in Shanghai is consistently elegant and distinctive. The author, Casey Walker, is clearly intimately familiar with the Chinese setting of the book. Without doubt, he has spent a lot of time in China. And the plot contains the makings of an exciting story. Unfortunately, it disappoints. I expected . . . more. The action doesn’t add up to the suspenseful tale I anticipated. It’s a thriller that doesn’t quite thrill. Too bad. But I’ll be looking out for something better from Casey Walker in the future.

Last Days in Shanghai by Casey Walker ★★★☆☆

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