Picks and Pans Review: Fire in Heaven

updated 03/17/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/17/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Malcolm Bosse

This saga is a sequel to The Warlord. The hero of that novel—Philip Embree, a young American missionary turned soldier for a Chinese general—has become a drunk. Lost in India, he is full of guilt. Embree and Vera, the warlord's Russian mistress, have escaped, married and then parted. Fire in Heaven opens in Bangkok with a young girl who is the daughter of Vera and the warlord. The opening section seems to echo the haunting erotic simmer of Marguerite Duras' The Lover. The next part, set in India, may remind readers of Paul Scott's Raj Quartet in the air of rot that sets in as the colonials must confront India's coming independence. The best part of the book, however, takes place in China as the characters become caught up with the advancing Communist army. For years fictional China seemed to belong to James Clavell (Tai-Pan, Noble House), but Bosse is the better writer. His Embree is an unusually complex character for this kind of entertainment. Only rarely does Bosse slip into the sort of pop-Confucianisms used by many authors of fiction set in China—a villager tells the hero, "When your wife's angry, beat her. When you're angry, beat her. That's the way to happiness." Such lapses are few and shouldn't bother the reader of this finely wrought tale. (Simon and Schuster, $18.95)

From Our Partners