08 August 2013

Excerpt Thursday: The Nine Fold Heaven by Mingmei Yip

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Mingmei Yip, whose latest novel THE NINE FOLD HEAVEN is set in China during the 1930's. Join us on Sunday, when the author will offer a free copy of The Nine Fold Heaven to a lucky blog visitor. Here's the blurb:

In this mesmerizing new novel, Mingmei Yip draw readers deeper into the exotic world of 1930s Shanghai first explored in Skeleton Women, and into the lives of the unforgettable Camilla, Shadow, and Rainbow Chang.

When Shadow, a gifted, ambitious magician, competed with the beautiful singer spy Camilla for the affections of organized crime leader Master Lung, she almost lost everything. Hiding out in Hong Kong, performing in a run-down circus, Shadow has no idea that Camilla, too, is on the run with her lover, Jinying – Lung’s son.

Yet while Camilla and Shadow were once enemies, now their only hope of freedom lies in joining forces to eliminate the ruthless gangster Big Brother Wang. Despite the danger, Shadow, Camilla, and Jinying return to Shanghai. Camilla also has her own secret agenda – she has heard a rumor that her baby son is alive. And in a city teeming with spies and rivals – including the vengeful gossip columnist Rainbow Chang – each battles for a future in a country on the verge of monumental change.

**An Excerpt from THE NINE FOLD HEAVEN**

Three months ago I was singing to loud applause in a Shanghai nightclub; a few days later I became unexpectedly wealthy. But immediately I fled Shanghai in a fusillade of bullets to hide out in a run-down apartment in Hong Kong.
In the British Crown Colony, my days were calm but my nights were troubled --  not by bullets but by dreams. When I slept my baby kept disturbing me – either running on his chubby little feet or babbling to himself. But I had never met him in this life, my little treasure whom I had named Jinjin, meaning Handsome Handsome. In my mind he looked just like his father Jinying, Handsome Hero, whom I had left behind in Shanghai and whose face rose up before me – bleeding, scared, abandoned.
As I looked back over my life, though I had known only twenty Springs and Autumns, it seemed to stretch out endlessly behind me, filled with  treachery and loss.
I’d led a double life, but not by my choosing. I was the singer Camilla, known to Shanghai’s beautiful people as the Heavenly Songbird. But while admired by my fans for my freshness and innocence, I was secretly a spy assigned to send the gangster boss Master Lung to the Yellow Springs.  For my real boss was Big Brother Wang, head of Shanghai’s Red Demon gang, who had “rescued” me from the Compassionate Grace Orphanage – but only to prepare me for this fatal mission.
Abandoned when I was four years old, the word “love” had been torn out from the dictionary of my life. From my first days with Big Brother Wang, I was trained to charm others but to have no emotions myself, as befits a cold-blooded murderess, assigned to eliminate Wang’s arch enemy, Master Lung of the Flying Dragon gang.
But despite all the effort put into my training, love had somehow tiptoed into my life. Whether this was heaven’s gift or punishment, I could not tell.
It happened because of Jinying, the son of the man I was to assassinate and the father of our little Jinjin. Now they had both vanished from my life. Was this heaven’s plan – to give me a taste of the sweetness of life, only to snatch it back?  Or was it karma for something I’d done in a forgotten past life?

In the months since I’d escaped from Shanghai, I’d had no news about my lover Jinying and our son little Jinjin – except in my tormented dreams. Jinjin would talk to me, sometimes with affection, at other times with bitterness. But he’d never let me touch him, let alone shower his small body with hugs and kisses to express a mother’s longing. He seemed to be saying that since we’d never really met, it’d be better for us to keep a distance. Sometimes his father would appear also, but he never said a word to me, just looked at me with mournful eyes.

Now that I was safe in Hong Kong, at least for the moment, I needed to figure out my next move. My heart was begging me to go back soon to find Jinjin and his father Jinying, but I knew that Big Brother Wang and Master Lung would have all their men on high alert looking for me. I had no choice but to stay here and lie low -- but for how long?
I had plenty of money, which I had helped myself to from Master Lung’s safe hidden in his secret villa. This was just in the nick of time, as moments later shooting broke out between the Flying Dragons and the Red Demons.
Though I was pretty certain that no one knew that I was in Hong Kong, a free-spending woman traveling by herself might attract attention. The tentacles of the Flying Dragon and Red Demon gangs extended everywhere Chinese was spoken.
In Shanghai, I was a multifaceted diamond glittering before my enthusiastic audiences, but now I felt like a street rat chased by people wielding sticks and knives….  I feared that I had stepped onto a path of no return.
I’d made not just one enemy, but two, and they were no ordinary enemies, but the two most notoriously relentless gangsters in lawless Shanghai.    
But making unexpected, risky moves in a seemingly hopeless situation was part of my training as a spy. So I could not help but think about the riskiest possible move – my potentially suicidal return to Shanghai. Of course not right now. Not until I’d had a chance to find out what was left of the two rival gangs after the shootout. Was the Flying Dragon’s Master Lung really dead at last -- or just nursing his wound somewhere awaiting his comeback? Had my boss the Red Demon’s Big Brother Wang finally been able to take over Lung’s place to be Shanghai’s number one gangster head?
Most of all, I was anxious to know the situation and whereabouts of my lover Jinying and our son Jinjin  -- if he was still in this life or already departed for the next. And too, there was Lung’s bodyguard and my other lover Gao – he had taken a bullet for me and, after the shoot out, brought me to the ship that had carried me to safety in Hong Kong. Had he survived – or had he lost everything because of me?
All these events in Shanghai were as in a past life. My twenty-year life now seemed unreal to me, like a movie. Was I about to leave the theater forever?

Visit Mingmei atwww.mingmeiyip.com