This brief summary leaves out the feelings that form the real unity of the book; a dramatic plot is clearly not the main organizing principal of this novel. Toussaint makes use of the devices of a plot-based narrative, yet he consistently leaves mysteries unresolved and continuously deflates any dramatic tension that may have built up. From the beginning, the generic elements of a thriller are put into play, but here they fizzle and fade out. The narrator’s “sort of mission” for Marie involves giving a manila envelope of cash to Zhang, whose dealings are possibly “dishonest and illicit” though the narrator “hadn’t heard anything about [him] being involved in organized crime.” At one point Zhang receives a phone call and drags the narrator and Li away from their bowling game (a scene not without some of Toussaint’s characteristically dry humor) and onto a motorbike for what is perhaps a furious chase scene. Or maybe it’s not, as nothing comes of it. The events of the plot point to pursuit and danger; Zhang drags Li and the narrator to the motorbike and they rush off, accompanied by the scream of sirens, taking a shortcut through a construction site. Yet, in the end, no one appears. Zhang delivers his package to a bar, and the narrator is left to return to his hotel.
By the way, check out the cover at one of the above links. Dunno if this will scare away potential readers or intrigue them . . . call it the extreme approach to book covers.