Before becoming a luxury good, dim sum was an everyday food. Mak combined the best of both those worlds: he sells high-end dumplings that aren’t expensive. But as affordable as his restaurants are, he’s not a rebel Robin Hood figure: he’s a top dumpling master who started an immensely successful restaurant chain. Like any capitalist, he wants businesses here to be able to run smoothly.
“I’m in the middle,” as he puts it. “I respect both sides.” After all, Hong Kong hasn’t held him back. Quite the opposite: there are already branches of Tim Ho Wan in Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and New York. Mak represents the complicated face of Hong Kong today. By figuring out how to democratize Michelin-level dim sum and make it accessible to the masses, he started a multinational craze, just as democracy itself looked to crash-land in the vicinity of Victoria Harbor.
Several years back, I read a book that was unlike nearly any other I’d read before in one striking way: nothing particularly bad happened in it. The protagonist experienced minor internal struggles and dilemmas, but basically, everything came up roses. This felt like a major departure from Great Literature as I knew it, the purview of suffering and loss and existential pain on a grand scale. I loved it unreservedly.
Ms. Harper throws out so many teasing possibilities that it’s hard to believe this is her first novel. And even harder to believe that she learned to write fiction via a literary agency’s online writing course. (She had already been a print journalist for more than a decade.) One trick the course clearly taught her was a basic of the crime genre: Make sure that nothing is what it looks like at first sight. People trying to solve the Hadler murder case — and to deal with many other troubles that erupt in Kiewarra during Falk’s stay — are reliably quick to jump to the wrong conclusions.