Spiderline Imprint Logo

The Borrowed

Written by Chan Ho-Kei

Translated by Jeremy Tiang

  • 496 Pages
  • 9781487000608
  • 8.5" x 5.5"
  • FICTION / Mystery & Detective / General
  • FICTION / Mystery & Detective / Police Procedural



Publication Date February 18, 2017

From award-winning Hong Kong writer Chan Ho-kei, The Borrowed tells the story of Kwan Chun-dok, a Hong Kong detective who rises from constable to senior inspector over the span of several decades, from the 1960s to the present day, and becomes a legend in the force, nicknamed “the Eye of Heaven” by his amazed colleagues. Divided into six sections told in reverse chronological order — each of which covers an important case in Kwan’s career and takes place at a pivotal moment in Hong Kong history — the novel follows Kwan from his experiences during the Leftist Riot in 1967, when a bombing plot threatens many lives; the conflict between the HK Police and ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) in 1977; the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989; the Handover in 1997; and the present day of 2013, when Kwan is called on to solve his final case, the murder of a local billionaire, while Hong Kong increasingly resembles a police state. Along the way we meet Communist rioters, ultraviolent gangsters, stallholders at the city’s many covered markets, pop singers enmeshed in the high-stakes machinery of star-making, and a people always caught in the shifting balance of political power, whether in London or Beijing.

The Borrowed reveals just how closely everything is connected, how history always repeats itself, and how we have come full circle to repeat the political upheaval and societal unrest of the past. It is a gripping, brilliantly constructed novel from a talented new voice.


Chan Ho-Kei

CHAN HO-KEI was raised in Hong Kong. He has won the Mystery Writers of Taiwan Award for his short stories, and in 2011, his debut novel, The Man Who Sold the World, won the Soji Shimada Mystery Award, the most prestigious mystery award in the Chinese-speaking world. It has been published in five countries.

Jeremy Tiang
JEREMY TIANG has translated seven books from Chinese, including novels by Zhang Yueran, Yeng Pway Ngon, and Su Wei-chen. He also writes plays and short stories. He lives in New York City


"In the eternal search for something new in the crime genre, varieties from other countries other than the Nordic countries are undergoing forensic examination. One result of this serendipity? THE BORROWED by Chan Ho-Kei, translated by Jeremy Tiang (Head of Zeus, £18.99). The success of the book suggests that Hong Kong may be fertile territory. The author was born and still lives there, and this is an innovative novel with a complex structure involving six interlocking murder cases (set over five decades) in the Hong Kong police force. It has to be admitted that Ho-Kei's novel takes quite some time to exert a grip, but those who've stuck with it will find that when it does, it does so comprehensively. The translation is an accomplished and idiomatic one." CrimeTime

""Chan's strong suit is procedural plotting: the meat of the book is Detective Kwan's crime-solving, and the author displays a formidable mastery of wrangling complex exposition in scenarios involving such calumny as an escaped nemesis bent on revenge, a kidnapping, and a series of terrorist bombings . . . This novel will satisfy your procedural jones.”" Kirkus Reviews

"This is an ambitious narrative brilliantly executed. It hands us the living history of Hong Kong through the gripping prism of crime and politics - told backwards. What an achievement!" John Burdett, author of Bangkok 8

"Five decades of Hong Kong policing stand behind the wise Inspector Kwan as he helps his protégé, Detective Lok, confound murderers and reveal much about life in their unique homeland." Sunday Times

"An amazing and important cultural zoetrope — disguised as a brilliant puzzle-box of mysteries." Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

"Chan Ho-Kei’s The Borrowed is full of surprises . . . A brilliant detective novel." Wolf Hsu, author of Boulevard of Broken Dreams

"With the police force and social conflict as its background, covering 50 years of politics, history, and economics, intertwined with clever detective fiction, [The Borrowed] fits peculiarly with the current social situation in Hong Kong, and will surely stir up readers’ emotions." Macau Closer

"The Borrowed breathes and bleeds Hong Kong. It is crime noire with an Asian twist — a place where the present is dominated by the past, and the future couldn’t be more uncertain. A terrific read for anyone from anywhere." Ian Hamilton, author of the Ava Lee series

"House of Anansi Press and its Spiderline imprint do well bringing various cultures and styles to Western doorsteps in the form of crime fiction. There’s nothing small about the value of that, nor in the twisty trails of The Borrowed." London Free Press

"The Chinese author Chan Ho-kei takes on the staggering task of covering 50 years of Hong Kong’s criminal past" The New York Times

"A brilliant book from an award-winning Hong Kong writer . . . This one is great fun, as well as highly informative." The Globe and Mail

"This is a remarkable book, truly brilliant . . . The Borrowed manages to combine the pleasures of many types of crime story. One story will remind you of Ed McBain, another of Agatha Christie, another of Raymond Chandler's evocations of the city. It is indeed rare for a novel demonstrating so much artistic skill, operating on many social and psychological levels, and with so much mastery of what might be called classical tropes to be so consistently entertaining." World Literature Today