John Polly enters Shanghai in 1948 on a muggy, velvet evening, just in time for the Communist takeover of China. It marks only his fourth month in America's newly formed Central Intelligence Agency. Over the next two decades, Polly will become The White Mandarin, a double agent buried so deep within the inner circle of the People's Republic as to shape the futures of both that nation and his own.
Dan Sherman's intricate, superbly crafted spy thriller follows Polly as he walks a dangerous tightrope of intrigue and suspense. As China rebuilds itself, Polly attempts to start a family in the intersection between the American intelligence system and the Asian drug trade. Can Polly keep his wife and daughter safe? Can he keep track of the shifting stories and changing allegiances in the CIA? Will his emotion get in the way of his mission?
Only pages into this stunning novel, listeners will easily understand why Sherman has earned comparison to the great John le Carré and Graham Greene. It is both a story of very personal love and loss and an insightful history of China between the rise of Chairman Mao and the 1972 visit by President Nixon. Anyone looking to understand the China of yesterday and today - its power, its flaws, its beauty - need look no further than The White Mandarin.
Well written book which gives insight into what really goes on in the world of espionage. Recommended to those interested in espionage and intelligence. It is at the same time an engaging account of the history of China from the late 1940s to President Nixon's historical China visit in 1972.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
At first this book was a bit annoying with the Chinese accents but overall it was eye opening & fascinating.
Where does The White Mandarin rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
The Best! It's the number one spy story I ever read. This does not include Shakespeare, of course. I have a special affinity to his work. However, Jules Verne, was also extremely fun to listen to, so I'd have to rate him at the top as well. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea put me to sleep every night in a wonderful way. Still, Dan Sherman is becoming my number one go to author for spy stories. He is a wonderful writer.
Who was your favorite character and why?
John Polly, I believe, because he was a gentle soul in the midst of all the outrageous goings on in the secret world. Spies were dealing not only with US, Russian and Asian relations, but with the drug trade.
Which scene was your favorite?
The one in which John Polly first meets Kim and falls in love with her. After she is killed, I love the way he goes after the guy who did it and kills him right there in the street, without a thought for himself or what will happen to him. He is a very likable character.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
YES! But I also wanted to savor it, so I listened to it slowly over the course of a few days. I also listened to it more than once.
Any additional comments?
It was really well researched. It is almost as if the author, Dan Sherman, is Chinese himself, but he isn't. He is an American. The book has so much Asian flavor, and it really puts you there, right in the midst of the world of spies and espionage. It also is told over a span of 50 years, so you get the gist of the history too. What is really amazing is that The White Mandarin hasn't yet been made into a movie. It deserves to be.