A. S. FLEISCHMAN – Shanghai Flame. Gold Medal #181, paperback original, 1951.

   Time out for a history lesson. At the time of this story, Shanghai was settling down under the rule of the Communists, and in this tale, the pursuit of a not-so-ordinary pack of playing cards takes place across a city increasingly dangerous to be a foreigner in, much less an American. Whites had not yet become a novelty, however, and displaced European refugees and all sorts of unsavory soldiers of fortune were still playing significant roles in the commerce and life of one of the Orient’s most exotic cities.

   What Cloud does is to smuggle himself into Shanghai, hoping to regain the love of a woman he’d once walked out on, but in these surroundings all that will take is a single spark for the volatile romance to burn itself away in a spectacular flash of unrequited love.

   To the intrigue in which the couple find themselves securely entangled, add a deadline for being able to safely leave the city, Chinese pirates scouring the coastline, and the several sides of a labyrinthic double-cross, and you have the kind of book that’s increasingly difficult to find these days when the whole world’s but a step away — the pure adventure thriller written for the fun of it.

Rating:   B.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 2, No. 4, July 1978 (slightly revised).