Penguin China (Viking)


True crime

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Nury Vittachi, Simon J. Blake

Reminiscent of both Midnight in Peking by Paul French and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, Witchhunters is a vivid portrait of a Hong Kong from the not-too-distant past, and re-examines a case that many saw as instrumental in the decriminalization of homosexuality in Hong Kong.

The apparent suicide of police officer, John Maclennan, a Scotsman working in Hong Kong in the 1970s, has fascinated many over the past decades.

On the morning of 15 January 1980, a young Hong Kong police officer is found dead in his locked apartment, shortly before he is to be arrested by a special police unit charged with investigating homosexuals. The case is hastily ruled a suicide. The investigations that follow uncover the existence of a secret paedophile ring servicing the city’s most powerful men but fail to quell whispers of foul play. In Witchhunters, former officer Simon J Blake and journalist Nury Vittachi reopen the case many say was instrumental in the decriminalization of homosexuality in Hong Kong, detailing how crime and vice at the highest levels of society, when abetted by the government’s frantic desire to save face during its talks with Deng Xiaoping on the Handover, may have led to a botched investigation and the murder of a young police officer.

Simon J. Blake is the pen name of a veteran law enforcement and security expert who served in the then Royal Hong Kong Police Force prior to the change of sovereignty between Great Britain and China in 1997. Simon is currently based in Hong Kong.

Nury Vittachi is an author and journalist based in Hong Kong. His publications include The Feng Shui Detective Series, The Curious Diary of Mr Jam and Hong Kong: The City of Dreams. He is a founding director of the Asia Literary Review and a key driving force behind the Man Asian Literary Prize and the Hong Kong International Literary Festival.

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