The Third Messiah [NOOK Book]


Anzhuang Wang, a detective in the Beijing police department, starts investigating a cult - the New Church of the Heavenly Kingdom - when his sister-in-law "Julie" gets involved with the group. The church has ties that lead back to the 19th century Taiping Rebellion and maintains a strictly non-political stance. Still, given the current climate in Beijing, the recent crackdown on the Fa Lun Gong, and the current initiation from above against ...
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The Third Messiah

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Anzhuang Wang, a detective in the Beijing police department, starts investigating a cult - the New Church of the Heavenly Kingdom - when his sister-in-law "Julie" gets involved with the group. The church has ties that lead back to the 19th century Taiping Rebellion and maintains a strictly non-political stance. Still, given the current climate in Beijing, the recent crackdown on the Fa Lun Gong, and the current initiation from above against nuisance crime, there is much about the situation to make Wang nervous.

As a cloud of death and danger begins to surround the church, Wang must now find a way to protect his family, defy the pressure from somewhere high above him in the party structure, and uncover the truth before it is too late.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312276300
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2011
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • File size: 275 KB

Meet the Author

Christopher West has traveled in and studied China for more than twenty years. He is the author of three previous novels in this series including Death of a Blue Lantern, a finalist for the 1998 Anthony Award. He lives in London, England.

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The Third Messiah
1The peasants stood by the statue of Colonel Sanders and grinned. One of them put an arm around the white plastic waist; another tickled the Colonel's white plastic beard. The one with the camera stepped back, fiddled with the machine--he'd just bought it today, off a market stall, and still wasn't sure how it worked."Big smile!" he told them, and pressed the button. Several times."Tamade!" he cursed."Take it back!""No, let Lao Wu have a go." Lao Wu, Old Wu, the expert on everything."I want to be in the picture," a man in a bright red jacket protested--but in vain. If anyone could make the thing work, he could.So they all changed places, and while Lao Wu was examining the camera it gave a great flash of light, almost blinding him."Ai, we'll get a big photograph of your nose now!" said one member of the group."That's not the worst we could get," said another.Inside the KFC, which had been the first in China--they were now springing up in every city--a young woman stared out at the scene with distaste. "Julie" Lin was as urban and late-nineties as the peasants were rural and timeless. She was thin and nervous-looking; she wore makeup and a fashionably short skirt; every now and then she glanced down at her slim, shiny watch--Carter, Genève , it said on the face--or dug into her Guci, Milano handbag. From the latter she would produce a prop to both show her statusand hide her nervousness: a mirror, or an embroidered handkerchief, or a "neon light" romantic novel, of which she would read a few pages before getting agitated again."This is too humiliating," she muttered.Julie--an assumed Western name, of course: her real name was Xianghua, Fragrant Flower--got to her feet and clacked downstairs, her high-heeled shoes sounding uncannily like peasant clogs. She ordered a second low-fat chocolate shake, which she took back up to her table and sat drinking as slowly as she could. When she could consume no more without making embarrassing sucking noises, she pushed the carton aside, glanced yet again at her Carter, Genève watch, fiddled with the handle of her Guci, Milano handbag, and grimaced."Five more minutes," she told herself."Miss Lin?"A young man, looking even more nervous than she did, was approaching her. He wore a suit, brown shoes, and a shiny silver tie."Julie" ran her eyes over him and his outfit. "Yes," she replied contemptuously.The boy--for that was all he was, really--blinked. "I, er, have a message from Wei Zhou. He says he's very sorry, but he's having to work late.""Oh. He couldn't call?" One might have guessed there'd be a mobile in the Guci, Milano bag--even if it had recently developed an intermittent fault."His meeting is continuing much longer than expected.""When will it be finished?""It is not known." The boy grinned. "He says he'll ring you tomorrow.""Oh. Well ... thank you.""No problem." The lad grinned again and began to walk away. Julie seemed on the point of summoning him back, but instead she just watched him go, out past the ever-jovial Coloneland into the mass of busy Beijingers bustling up and down Qianmen West Street.Only when he was well out of view did she produce the mobile, dial, press it to her ear, then curse as the same old recorded message began."Meeting ..." she said, with scorn in her voice, both for Wei and herself. Then she stalked out of the restaurant and into the twilight.The summer city air was hot and damp; heavy with diesel fumes, dust, and smoke. It was noisy with bike bells, car horns, engines, and distorted Cantopop from the nearby tourist market. In the distance, a police siren proclaimed an emergency in someone else's life ... . Beijing. A big, booming, contemporary Pacific Rim capital, as remote from the exotic, sinister Chinoiserie of its Imperial or Maoist past as "Julie" was from those peasant visitors."I'll get a taxi," the young woman told herself. But even the tinny yellow "bread vans" cost ten kuai minimum: to take a taxi when nobody was watching was an extravagance Julie knew she couldn't afford.The underground circle line would take her some of the way home, but she hated the noise and the trapped feeling she got whenever it stopped between stations. So Julie headed for the bus stop: with any luck, one of those 800s with proper seats and air con would come along. After about ten clammy, exhausting minutes, a Mao-era trolleybus came hissing up, crammed with passengers despite the late hour. Julie took one look at the human zoo and knew she couldn't face joining them. Which left only one option.Actually, she began by enjoying the walk. Back up Qianmen Main Street, around the crescent and through the cool, marblewalled underpass onto Tiananmen Square--or at least onto the side of Tiananmen Square, as the square itself was barricaded off while being prepared for the celebrations on October 1. The People's Republic of China, 1949 to 1999! a poster declaimed, but Juliefelt no excitement at this backward-looking anniversary: for her, the arrival of the new millennium, just a few months off now, was the big upcoming event.By the time she reached Tiananmen Gate, the walk was beginning to seem less sensible. Her feet were starting to hurt--she would have been better off in peasant clogs--and she began to feel angry at herself for making a wrong decision. Turning onto Nanchang Street, her discomfort was increased by the bustle of the narrower pavements. All those evening people: vendors, cops, restaurant-goers, businessmen. Julie felt small, suddenly, and envious, for they all seemed to have purpose while she had none. Then she caught her toe on a raised paving stone and was down on her hands and knees.A young man was by her side in a moment."Fuck off!" she hissed at him involuntarily. He merely held out a hand, and she grabbed it and helped herself back up to her feet."Are you okay?" he asked.Julie, embarrassed at her anger, gave him a smile. He was young. Quite handsome, too. Long hair, which made guys look either silly or rebellious and romantic."Here." The young man reached into a pocket and produced a handkerchief. "It's clean," he added with a grin."Thanks." She brushed the horrible, defiling dirt off herself."Come and sit down," said the young man.She was about to say, No, look, I'm really okay, but suddenly she felt faint, so she followed him across to a little canvas stool he'd set up in front of a shop."You live here?""I sit and watch people.""Young female people?""All kinds of people."This guy was weird. But nice. Julie sat down. A brief silence fell--between them, anyway: a street in central Beijing was not a place to seek overall silence."Do you ever think about life?" said the young man."What d'you mean?""Its purpose. What it's all for?"Julie grinned to cover a sudden embarrassment. "Make money?" she suggested flippantly. "Have fun?""That's all?"Julie paused. "Yes," she said finally and with much more seriousness. "I think it probably is. You don't believe all this Socialist Spiritual Civilization stuff, do you?""I'm not sure about the Socialist, but the Spiritual ..."Julie resumed her flippant tone. "Ah, you're from the Fa Lun Gong, then!" In the spring, the center of booming, contemporary Beijing had been brought to a halt by a demonstration of thousands of devotees of the new religious cult. They had filled this very street, and all the others around Zhongnanhai, the "New Forbidden City" where China's leaders lived, chanting messages of protest at modernity: at Western music, at television, at homosexuality, at drug-taking. Since July, the authorities had been clamping down on them, and America protesting the clamp-down.The young man laughed. "I'm not. Promise. But I do share their belief that human beings are more than machines, more than animals."Julie frowned."Every human being has a piece of the divine in them," the young man went on."You, me, that guy over there--" He pointed at a beggar going through a rubbish bin behind a shop front."I see very little evidence of that.""Modern society isn't designed to keep us in contact with our true selves." He shook his head. "It's too materialistic. Buy this, buy that; look like this, look like that; don't stop, don't think ...""You are from the Fa Lun Gong!" said Julie, adding a grin. The young man smiled back. There was an ease to his manner that was absent from Julie's.A brief silence fell--then suddenly Julie felt a rush of nervousness.She gave another grin, the Chinese cover for so many feelings, including embarrassment, glanced rather obviously at the Carter, Genève watch (and felt an odd tremor of embarrassment at it, too), and said, "I must go. It's been ... nice talking to you. And thanks for helping me up."The young man simply kept smiling. "Please take one of these." He took a small pack off his back and dug a booklet out of it. "Have a read, when you feel like it, and come and talk again.""Thanks," said Julie."My name's Yong," the young man said. "Yong, as in 'valiant.'"Julie nodded. A Chinese syllable can have a number of meanings: even spoken with the third tone, as Valiant's name was, yong could have meant eternal, incantation, a figurine, to pour, a chrysalis, enthusiastic, the city of Ningbo ..."I'm Julie," she said.Valiant looked impressed. "A Western name.""Yeah. I chose it myself.""Ku," said Valiant.Julie grinned again, but this time with pleasure--there could be no higher term of approbation in late-nineties Beijing than ku, cool--and began to walk off, putting the booklet carefully into the Guci, Milano bag. 
Julie lived with her aged parents in one of the capital's hutong alleyways. The hutongs were the real, old Beijing: narrow, angular back lanes where single-story courtyards hid behind tall grey brick walls and ancient wooden doors. Though cars sometimes barged down them, the hutongs belonged to cyclists and pedestrians: at night the old alleys were quiet apart from tinkling bike bells, the conversation of old people, a songbird in a cage, someone's TV up a bit loud, and a baby too hot to sleep.Julie, of course, hated the hutongs. She wanted a proper modernflat in a proper modern high-rise. What she did like about living at home was that Mama and Baba kept themselves to themselves. Julie could go for days in which the only time she was aware of her fast-aging parents was when she woke early and heard them shuffling about. By the time she was up, they'd be off to Houhai Lake to do those funny old tai chi exercises; when she got back from work, they'd either be immersed in that ridiculous Beijing opera on TV, asleep, or round at Professor Li's drinking tea and complaining about some aspect of the contemporary world.The latter looked to be the case tonight. Julie kicked off those shoes--at last!--and sank down, as much as you could, onto the stiff, old-fashioned sofa. Her encounter with Valiant had calmed her, despite her sudden bout of nerves at the end, but she still had to talk to Big Sister about Wei Zhou. That bastard ... She took out the mobile and punched in the number.No answer."Fuck its mother!" said Julie. It was so nineties for a young woman to swear like that. Mama had probably never said "fuck its mother" in her life.She threw the phone down onto the sofa, then stared round the room. The calligraphy scrolls, the heavy furniture, the photos on the dresser--Mama and Baba at some academic ceremony, grinning inanely; Rosina at her wedding to that police "dog" she'd had to accept because nobody else would marry her. Julie suddenly felt a great weight pressing down on her. Was this what life had lined up for her? A series of roles in a costume drama as absurd as Beijing opera, staged purely for the benefit of other people?She certainly didn't seem to be very good at creating workable alternatives.She frowned, and began rummaging through that everpresent source of solace, her handbag. The mirror? No, she'd be looking a state now. The novel? No, not in the mood. Her fingers found the booklet that Valiant had given her, and she pulled it out.The Enigma of Human Suffering, it was called.Julie found this ironic, given her current state. She began to read.A new millennium is about to begin.Yes! she thought at once. The young man was of her generation : he knew instinctively, as she did, that the future was what mattered. Not some stupid historical anniversary.A new millennium is about to begin, on an abundant planet, surrounded by the fruits of a technology that has apparently been designed to fulfill every human need. Yet even in the super-rich West, people are not happy. Why?A new millennium is about to begin, in a world that believes science can answer any questions we ask it. Yet that world is ravaged by wars and injustice, just as it always has been. Why?Julie nodded. Actually, she did ask herself these sorts of questions sometimes, though she would never admit the fact to anyone. People might think she was stupid or, even worse, clever. She read on.We think we understand ourselves, our society, our world, our nature. The evidence all around us shows that we don't. It shows that we are deceiving ourselves. What can we do? Very little, it seems.But there is help available for us.The source of this help is not new. It is a set of teachings that has been understood in the West for two thousand years, a set of teachings whose power made the West powerful and rich.Julie nodded again. The West was a source of novelty, change, excitement, truth.It is a simple, well-known fact that the West grew strong by following the teachings of Ye Su, first son of the Lord Ye Huo Hua. What is less well known is that Ye Huo Hua sent a second son to the world, this time to China. He has brought us a message by which we can transform ourselves, our society, and our world."I'd be happy if it could transform my love life!" said Julie in her flippant voice. But she read on.Hong Xiuquan. was born into a peasant family, and grew up in a rural community like hundreds of millions do today. But he was noordinary man: by the end of his life he was an Emperor, providing southern China with a benevolent and radical government. He abolished the cruel binding of women's feet, he returned land to those who worked it, above all he restored to China's then downtrodden people a pride in themselves ... .Julie had never let on, but she'd actually rather enjoyed history at school. And particularly the Taiping Rebellion. Its leader, Hong Xiuquan, had sounded charismatic and romantic; his interest in the West had seemed forward-looking rather than reactionary--which was what the teacher had called him, as anything that wasn't Marx or Mao was "reactionary."So Julie read the booklet to its end, then sat staring at it. She'd never had any time for religion--Mama and Baba were, of course, convinced atheists--but was this because religion was all lies, or because what she had been told about it was all lies? She'd been deceived by so many other parental and schoolroom "truths."She pondered this question for a while, then the hurt of Wei's "meeting" came back to her. She slipped the booklet back in her bag and redialed. This time, her sister answered."Everything okay?" Rosina asked. Julie's older sister had chosen a name, too. A few years ahead of Julie, actually. But--typical--she'd got it all wrong, sounding more like a Cantonese than a proper Westerner."No.""Oh, what's up? Tell me all about it." 
Wang Anzhuang wheeled his black, three-speed Flying Pigeon bicycle into the yard of his apartment block. He was in his late forties, brown-eyed and black-haired like almost all his countrymen--though he was balding a little and wore an old cap to cycle to and from his work. He was also wearing a Western-style suit. Wang was a middle-ranking detective in the City Xing Zhen Ke, or Criminal Investigations Department, and preferred to wear a uniform to work. But suits were now being encouraged for officerson desk assignments, officially to create a "friendlier" image, but also, cynics suspected, to save money on uniform allowances.He glanced up at the tenth floor. It was getting dark--he had just finished another excessively long day's work--but there didn't seem to be a light on in the flat. Rosina was probably watching that silly What Is Love? thing on TV."Good evening!"The detective started at the voice, so close to him, then gathered himself and turned to face the speaker. "Mrs. Zeng! How are you?" He smiled politely, then added, "I haven't forgotten." Awhile ago, Mrs. Zeng and her husband had asked Wang and Rosina to join them at a restaurant for dinner, but he had had to back out because of a round-the-clock surveillance operation. "Things are still so busy!""Let's try and make it some time this millennium!" Mrs. Zeng replied good-naturedly.Wang nodded agreement. He was not a man to turn down good food, and the Zengs had been kind in the past. His regret at having to turn down the invitation was genuine. He locked the bike in its rack and began the long climb up to the flat. There was a lift and it was reliable, but he liked to keep fit. He hoped his next job would be away from his desk.Puffing more than he cared to admit, he reached his door. He turned the key in the new lock that had recently been fitted to all the flats in the block (concerns about crime were growing in booming, late-nineties Beijing). On entering his tiny hall, his nose twitched, not from the smells that a Westerner's would--soy sauce, garlic, mothballs, that vague drainy smell from the plumbing--but unusual smells, of cheap imported perfume and, strangest of all, wine. On entering the lounge he found two glasses and a bottle of Great Wall, three-quarters empty."Julie!" he said.He crossed to the window and opened it to let the stink of his sister-in-law's perfume out, then took off his bicycle clips and sank down on his sofa, where he sat eyeing the bottle. Young yapi business-types paid hundreds of yuan for Western wine, just to impress other ya pi. This Chinese-made stuff was more affordable, but still a waste of money.Still, Rosina liked it occasionally, and she didn't drink it in public. Rosina had too much grace ever to do that.Wang Anzhuang secretly, quietly, adored his wife. He knew why she had married him--to escape a shameful incident in her earlier life--but this did not seem to affect his feelings at all. Quite the contrary, he still couldn't really believe that someone as beautiful and intelligent as she had accepted the offer of a peasant's son like him. Not that he was ashamed of his background, but he'd learned how the world works. Sometimes on hot summer nights he'd lie awake and look at her, naked beside him, and want to cry with happiness.They had no children; that was a sadness. He had a son by a disastrous first marriage, who had been taken away to Shanghai by his son's well-connected mother. He felt Zhengyi's loss keenly, albeit sporadically nowadays. About his current childlessness, he consoled himself in different ways at different times, at one time imagining things might change, at another reminding himself that at least he had a child--Rosina was the one with the real burden--and at a third by simply being grateful for the joys they did have. These joys were many: the official in charge at the Bureau of Human Happiness on the day their case had come up for consideration had been Maoist enough to add some sorrow, but had been fundamentally generous.He stuck the cork back in the wine bottle and looked up at the clock, a fine picture of the real Great Wall in mother-of-pearl, mounted in a box of traditional Chinese rosewood. He and Rosina had bought it at Badaling on their honeymoon. The ornate hands, also of mother-of-pearl, said it was nearly nine. How long would he have to wait till the sisters returned? An hour? He crossed to the home entertainment center and selected some music from the CDs shelved neatly above it.Music from Shandong Province.Wang hadn't quite got used to all the buttons on the center's remote control--they'd only had the thing six months--but finally music emerged from the futuristic, pyramid-shaped speakers. A Qin zither and an Erhu violin; the music of his home province; timeless, superficially simple and actually very complex, slightly melancholy and deeply stoical. In other words, quintessentially Chinese.To perfect the experience, Wang took out a Panda cigarette and lit it, drawing the rich, tarry smoke long and deep into his lungs.Pleasure!About ten minutes later, there came the sound of tramping footsteps outside, a key rattling in the lock, and a familiar voice."Pig! Monster! Bu shi ren!" Bu shi ren--inhuman--the ultimate insult.A tearstained Julie strode into the room, threw herself down onto a chair, hurled a pillow across the room, then ran into the bedroom."Aiya," Wang muttered.Rosina followed. She came up to her husband and put her arms around him. This was a Western habit--Rosina had copied it from the TV--which he had initially found embarrassing but had come to take secret pleasure in."What in heaven has happened?" he asked.Rosina gave a snort of disgust. "It was horrible!" She held him even closer, then let go and crossed to the table where she popped the bottle open and poured herself a glass of Great Wall."Tell me the story," he said.Rosina did so, pacing up and down the room and taking swills from the glass. "Julie phoned up, with the usual complaint: another rejection from another man. So I told her to come 'round here, which she did. We opened a bottle of wine, and she cried a bit, then she suddenly said she had to find out the truth, and that she knew where they would be. A place called Café 2000."Wang couldn't help grimacing. Places like that were not for the likes of him or his family."We didn't have to eat anything," said Rosina, noticing his expression. "We just needed to walk in and see what was happening. So we headed over there and Julie talked her way in. And we found him sitting at a table surrounded by bowls of food and a bottle of Champagne; and opposite him--well, she was no more than a kid."Wang grimaced again, this time with vicarious embarrassment."And that was just the start, Anzhuang. We should have left at once, of course. Julie could have called him next day and told him to go to hell. But she was so angry, she walked up to him and began shouting at him. I couldn't stop her!"Wang's grimace grew worse. Loss of temper meant loss of face for all involved."And he began shouting back. He stood up and launched into a kind of speech, to the whole restaurant. 'Fellow diners, may I present "Julie" Lin ...' He said such awful things of her: that she was silly and vain and superficial and materialistic--out loud, to a room full of people! And poor Julie just stood there, too shocked to reply. I had to drag her away in the end."The policeman's expression was turning to one of anger--humiliation such as this could extend to family members not present--but Rosina came and put her arms around him again and laid her head gently on his shoulder. Instead of rebuking her for allowing such embarrassment to occur, as a Chinese husband should have done, he simply leaned his head against hers.Meanwhile, from the bedroom, the sobs continued unabated."You'd better go and see to her," he said.Rosina did so, leaving her husband slightly aroused by her proximity and very confused at the ways of city people. He sat down and let the Qin zither and the Erhu violin take him back to Shandong province.THE THIRD MESSIAH. Copyright © 2000 by Christopher West. All rights reserved. . No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent Chinese police procedural

    Since the western invasion led by Colonel Sanders and his frying KFCs, the natural order of things in Beijing seems off kilter. To police detective Anzhuang Wang, the change in morals, not always good, turns personal when his sister-in-law Xianhua goes American, even adopting the name of Julie. However, to make matters worse for Wang, Julie vanishes after a shameless public brawl with some man just outside the western style bars. <P>Knowing his career as a cop may be in jeopardy due to his being related to Julie plus his wife worrying about her, Wang begins searching for his missing relative. He soon connects her disappearance to the dangerous Church of the Heavenly Kingdom, but to Wang and her family¿s chagrin Julie seems to have voluntarily join the sect. A desperate Wang penetrates the deadly Christian cult in order to try to rescue Julie even though his life could be forfeited by doing this. <P> THE THIRD MESSIAH is an exciting modern day China police procedural that will excite sub-genre fans because Christopher West, ignoring his name, provides a deep look inside the country. The story line is fast-paced, Wang is a great character, and the support cast adds depth to the plot. Still this novel fully belongs to the Chinese people, customs, bureaucracy, and the western influence on tradition. <P>Harriet Klausner

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