Victor Li is devastated by his father’s murder, and shocked by a confessional letter he finds among his father’s things. In it, his father admits that he was part of a vast international crime syndicate that formed during China’s leanest communist years. Victor travels to Beijing, where he navigates his father’s secret criminal life, confronting decades-old grudges, violent spats, and a shocking new enterprise that the organization wants to undertake.
... a propulsive first novel that aims to entertain ... There are some interesting ideas about identity and privilege here ... In the lulls between high-octane fight scenes, Nieh uses the gaps in Victor’s fluency to lend realism to the experience of straddling these two worlds ... The second half of Beijing Payback rushes through a few final action scenes, then slows down for a clever plot twist and a brooding ending. And it sets up a sequel, one that I very much look forward to reading.
Happily, Nieh leaves the door open for a sequel to this staccato-paced, character-driven thriller, and readers will welcome the opportunity to follow good-guy Victor’s path of retribution and self-discovery.
Nieh’s Beijing will be instantly recognisable to anyone who has spent a night out in the Chinese capital in the past 15 years ... Nieh opts for real violence rather than wuxia trickery; hard-core Beijing beatings. Beijing Payback itself morphs from murder mystery into revenge tragedy, and they’ve been a good read for centuries ... Nieh’s writing holds up as beat perfect. This is no formulaically concocted and knocked-out thriller, but a crafted piece of genre writing. What Nieh also never forgets is to maintain the plausibility of Victor’s slip from privileged San Gabriel Valley Boy to beating down Beijing gangsters. Extraordinary circumstances in extraordinary places bring out the extraordinary in people.