The novel opens in Kingston, Jamaica in 1938. Fourteen-year-old Yang Pao arrives from China with his mother and brother. They live with Zhang, the “godfather” of Chinatown, who runs a series of criminal enterprises. Over the years Pao takes over the empire and becomes a powerful man in Chinatown. Although involved in a long-term relationship with Gloria Campbell, a black prostitute, craving respectability he marries Fay Wong, the headstrong daughter of a Chinese merchant. However, Jamaica is changing, and Pao finds that his own beliefs are challenged, not least by those closest to him, and even the wisdom of Sun Tzu cannot provide answers.
The book is written in the first person, which gives it a strong, immediate impact. The voice of Pao is so powerfully Jamaican it is easy to forget that he is in fact Chinese, and this gives a unique insight into 20th century Jamaica. A fascinating book from start to finish, this is an exceptional debut novel from a talented writer. Packed full of colourful characters, the book also provides a unique insight into the impact of colonialism, capitalism, and endemic racism based on shades of colour. Highly recommended.