During the shooting of the 1946 Humphrey Bogart film “The Big Sleep” — a noir movie notorious for its convoluted plot — director Howard Hawks cabled Raymond Chandler, author of the book on which the screenplay was based, to ask if Owen Taylor, the chauffeur, was murdered or committed suicide. “Dammit I didn’t know either,” Chandler was said to have replied.

Upon reading this third novel in the saga of Inspector O, it occurred to me that Chandler may have served as James Church’s inspiration. In 294 intricately written pages, the who’s, what’s and wherefores of “Blood and Bamboo” are never fully revealed. Instead readers are presented with a puzzle from which key pieces are purposely withheld, leaving them to speculate why intelligence agents in Pakistan and Switzerland were killed, and by whom.

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