Title: The White Tiger
Author: Robert Stuart Nathan
Nathan, Robert Stuart (1987). The White Tiger. New York: Simon and Schuster
Date Updated: October 8, 2015
Judging by this densely textured and exciting suspense novel, China after Mao is still a dangerous place to be, especially for those in power. I lived in China 1987-89 and can attest that nothing is what it seems to be. No one is secure in power, no matter at what level.
The book’s protagonist, Assistant Deputy Director for Public Security Lu Hong, is a high-ranking policeman of stubborn honest. He becomes suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the death of his esteemed mentor and boss, Sun Sheng, shortly before the Director of Investigations orders Hong to keep an eye on visiting American doctor (and purported spy) Peter Ostrander.
Hong investigates, unofficially and at growing personal risk, the mysterious death of his friend and mentor, while at the same time he is officially tailing a visiting American psychiatrist presumed to be a spy.
Hong’s investigations take him on a journey through the past that ends with his expose of treachery and crime among Mao’s closest associates, the “tigers” of the Revolution. The novel’s chief strengths are its intensely realistic depiction of a Beijing bureaucracy, wherein those with the strongest noses for “spiritual pollution” appear to be the most corrupt, and Hong himself, a sympathetic and credible figure caught in the toils of sordid events. Its weaknesses are a pedestrian style and characterization that, Hong aside, is somewhat lacking in depth and vibrancy
Sheng’s death inevitably ties in with the Ostrander case, as do many other people and events dating back to the early 1940s.