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Reviews of Chinese Take-out

Chinese Take-out

A selection of reviews appear below; for more reader's comments on Chinese Take-out go to amazon.co.uk.

"Ian Mathie is a well-established author of non-fiction. He has published several volumes of memoir, based on his work in the 1970s in Africa, where he developed water resources. Chinese Take-Out is his first novel. It is a spy thriller, based however on the true story of Fanng Lizhi, a Chinese astrophysicist, who with his wife was offered sanctuary in the United States at the time of the Tienanmen massacre.

Fact weighs strongly in the first chapters as the interwoven politics of China, America, Russia and Britain are set down, fixing the reader in time and place. The story opens with Green, a US government agent, being pulled off an operation on the Chinese/North Korean frontier, his preferred area of focus in Asia, to investigate a claim concerning smuggled arms and the possible export of nuclear secrets. A United States senator may be implicated. Green and his team carry out enquiries, bug the senator’s private hunting lodge and set up decoys to delay the operations until definite charges can be brought.

Meanwhile, in China, the protests in Tienanmen Square and demands for less rigid control by the government are turning nasty. The army is brought in, biding its time, while Chong (the fictional equivalent of Fanng Lizhi) seeks refuge with his wife in the American Embassy in Beijing. From there, they are airlifted out to safety under the nose of suspicious Chinese officials, in a daring rescue operation.

With two complex interwoven stories, the book maintains suspense, switching between story lines. The reader moves between high-flying naval and air force personnel, government agents, wire-tapping experts and the President himself. Between the defecting Chinese couple and the shady senator’s devious operations, the stories merge via the keen-nosed Green, who scents irregularity with unfailing instinct.

Readers of spy thrillers will not be disappointed in the author’s first book in this genre. It is a complex, fast-moving story with numerous twists and turns and deserves 5 star rating. However, Ian Mathie prefers not to be pigeonholed in any one genre. Who knows what he may surprise us with next? "

Margaret Sutherland, Australian Author


"I’m a huge fan of spy thrillers and a huge fan of Ian Mathie’s African Memoir series. Chinese Takeout combines the best of both. This work of fiction rings as true to me as any of Mathie’s memoirs. As with his memoirs, I had the sense I was watching the action live, with the story narrator as my personal tour guide.

In an introductory Author’s Note, Mathie explains that the book is loosely based on the true story of Chinese physicist Fanng Lizhi (character Chong Tse Do), who took refuge in the Untied States Embassy in Beijing in 1989. Although the characters and story line are fictional, Mathie remains true to historical fact. His keen insight into political dynamics of the time forms an enlightening thread. He also gives American readers plenty to ponder with regard to how much the government knew about us twenty-five years ago, framing today’s mushrooming concern about personal privacy in a larger perspective.

The most compelling stories have multiple challenges. This one is no exception. “Nose” Green, a veteran agent in the Company (an insider euphemism for the CIA), is an expert on Asian affairs. To his dismay, he’s diverted from a critical Chinese operation to investigate a potential arms scandal unearthed by a senator. As the story unfolds, the senator comes under suspicion, and Green must manage that investigation while also directing Chong’s rescue. While I never doubted it would work out, the final solution was a surprise.

Knowing that Mathie is a British citizen had me curious to see how he could credibly set a spy story inside the CIA. He did it, spot on. If it weren’t for the occasional colloquialism such as “cool box” referring to those ice chests we take on picnics, I would believe the author was an agent himself. Hold on — maybe he was! Who really knows? If he told us, he might have to kill us. As the story attests, the CIA has operatives all over the world. Perhaps he does have inside knowledge of the lingo, procedures, protocol, mindsets and more that make the story consistently credible. And humorous. While the topic is generally grim, Mathie’s wit lightens the tone.

If the book has a flaw, it’s an editorial one reflecting even more on the publisher than the author. Someone apparently forgot to run grammar and spellcheck one final time. If I could deduct half a star for that, I would. But don’t let that deter you. This historical spy thriller novel has wide appeal that’s sure to delight any reader."

Sharon Lippincott, Author of Adventures of a Chilehead

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