Johnny Mann, the bereaved Hong Kong police detective at the centre of THE TROPHY TAKER case, is sent to England to investigate the case of Amy Tang, a 12-year-old girl who has been kidnapped from her boarding school. Amy turns out to be the illegitimate daughter of Johnny's old enemy "CK", who controls the Hong Kong triads. Johnny is keen to undertake the case because he's had enough of his period of leave and wants to continue his work to break the corrupt sex trade between the Far East and the UK. He's convinced there is a connection with the Philippines, where he has been recuperating, and believes Amy's disappearance to be related to others. In the UK, Johnny acquires a partner, police detective Becky Sharp, who is both attractive and intelligent. Becky has a possessive husband, who loses no time in accompanying the couple to Hong Kong when the investigation leads them back there.
THE TRAFFICKED is fast-paced and readable. However, any book on the topic of the exploitation and brutalization of girls and young women is treading a difficult line between expose and entertainment. Although Lee Weeks writes with assurance about various grim and ghastly situations, and never fails to be sympathetic to the many victims in the pages of her books, the explicit, businesslike descriptions of violence and sexual abuse are hard to take. The core assumption is that the sex trade through Hong Kong and the Philippines to the UK is free to continue unabated as government and police forces are either corrupt or complicit – the Philippines are portrayed as truly awful: full of poverty and horrendous squalor, with government-backed death squads roaming the streets, killing boys and kidnapping girls (into prostitution) so that the place looks nice for the tourists, who are said to be blissfully unaware or uncaring in their quest for personal satisfaction in an environment less restrictive than at home. There seems to be an unending source of customers in the UK for these poor "trafficked" victims – can there really be so many men who would do these things to babies and girls? The fate of these children is dreadful – repeated scenes of torture and depravations are described, with the men involved enjoying and/or hardened to it. Cumulatively, the lack of official action and various nasty events lead up to a justification for Johnny and his team to take personal vengeance on the horrible villains – with one or two loose ends left over, doubtless for the next book. There is a mystery aspect to the plot – someone is betraying Johnny and co – but the resolution of that is not much of a surprise.
It is hard to sum up THE TRAFFICKED. It is a good thriller, racy and pacey, but for my taste the subject matter is too awful for entertainment. It would make a good movie, but not one I would watch. It is definitely not a comfortable read and will make you question why you are reading it at all; why you go on holidays to places in the world where poverty is rife and the local population is exploited; and why (if you believe the author) nobody other than the under-resourced Catholic missions is doing anything to halt these dreadful, entrenched practices.