Book review: 'House of 8 Orchids' a compelling novel
James Thayer delivers a vivid and compelling thriller set in 1937 China in his new novel, "House of 8 Orchids."
Readers will travel to a time and place unfamiliar yet also strikingly real. The story jumps right in with the kidnapping of two American brothers in 1912. Twenty-five years later, they are living in the House of 8 Orchids run by a eunuch who has trained them in the criminal arts. Younger brother, William, is a forger. Older brother, John, has become an assassin and the eunuch's favorite son.
Since neither has any memory of their lives before the kidnapping, they have no concept of life beyond their "family." That changes when the eunuch is hired by a wealthy businessman to deliver a famous Chinese actress for his personal use.
John is forced to make a critical decision when he learns that William and the actress are in love, and he's asked to help them escape. Can he betray the man he considers his father for his brother's sake? What will happen if he turns in his brother — or if he lets him go? Family dynamics are torn asunder as the decisions William and John make have unforeseen consequences.
Thayer has created a gripping portrayal of loyalty and treachery in a rarely seen world of China at war. The finale doesn't deliver the comeuppance one expects in a historical thriller, but it fits the tale.
"House of 8 Orchids" (Thomas & Mercer), by James Thayer
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