A mysterious voice from the telephone; a beautiful Chinese girl shot dead; a rich old man
With a troubled conscience; a private investigator involved in murder; a Chinese prostitute
Who talked too much; and a coffin. These are some of the intriguing ingredients of James
Hadley Chase’s splendid thriller. It is definitely a book to keep you awake long after your
A COFFIN FROM HONG KONG
JAMES HADLEY CHASE
I was just about to shut down the office for the night when the telephone bell rang. The
Time was ten minutes past six o’clock. It had been a dull, long and unprofitable day: no
Visitors, a mail I had dropped into the trash basket without even slitting an envelope, and now
This first telephone call.
I lifted the receiver and said, “Nelson Ryan.” My voice as alert and eager as I could make
There was a pause. Over the open line I could hear the sound of an aircraft engine start up.
The din beat against my ear for a brief moment, then faded to background noise as if the
Caller had closed the door of the telephone booth.
A man’s voice: deep toned and curt.
“You are a private investigator?”
There was another pause. I listened to his slow, heavy breathing: he was probably listening
To mine. Then he said: “I have only a few minutes. I’m at the airport. I want to hire you.”
I reached for a scratch pad.
“What’s your name and your address?” I asked.
“John Hardwick, 33 Connaught Boulevard.”
As I scribbled the address on the pad, I asked, “What is it you want me to do, Mr.
“I want you to watch my wife.” There was another pause as
another aircraft took off. He
Said something that was blotted out by the high whine of the jet’s engines.
“I didn’t get that, Mr. Hardwick.”
He waited until the jet had become airborne, then speaking rapidly, he said, “My business takes me regularly twice a month to New York. I have the idea that while I’m away, my wife
Isn’t behaving herself. I want you to watch her. I’ll be back the day after tomorrow – Friday. I
Want to know what she does while I’m away. What will it cost?”
This wasn’t the kind of business I welcomed, but at least it was better than nothing. “Just
What is your business, Mr. Hardwick?”
He spoke with a touch of impatience. “I’m with Herron, the plastic people.”
Herron Corporation was one of the biggest concerns on this strip of the Pacific Coast. A
Quarter of Pasadena City’s prosperity came from them.
“Fifty dollars a day and expenses,” I said, jacking up my usual fee by ten bucks.
“That’s all right. I’ll send you three hundred dollars right away as a retainer. I want you to
Follow my wife wherever she goes. If she doesn’t leave home, I want to know if anyone visits
Her. Will you do this?”
For three hundred dollars I would have done much harder things. I said, “I’ll do it, but
Couldn’t you come in and see me, Mr. Hardwick? I like to meet my clients.”
“I understand that but I have only just decided to take action. I’m on my way to New York,
But I’ll see you on Friday. I just want to be sure you will watch her while I’m away.”
“You can be sure of that,” I said, then paused to let another jet whine down the runway.
“I’ll need a description of your wife, Mr. Hardwick.”
“Thirty-three Connaught Boulevard,” he said. “They are calling me. I must go. I’ll see you