‘On Java Road’ by Lawrence Osborne – Murder in Hong Kong


‘On Java Road’ by Lawrence Osborne    (2022) – 231 pages


This novel centers on Adrian Gyle, a middle-aged journalist originally from England but now living in Hong Kong. Jimmy Yang who has been Adrian’s best friend since their Cambridge University days lives there also. Jimmy’s family is one of the many wealthy families in Hong Kong, and Jimmy and Adrian frequent some of the more luxurious restaurants and bars in the city. Jimmy is rather a playful good-natured guy and brings the more serious Adrian out of his isolated shell. Although Jimmy is also middle-aged, his current girlfriend Rebecca To is still in college and actively involved in the huge pro-democracy protests against the Chinese government.

Although the time in which the events in the novel take place is not specifically stated, it is at the time when there were mass protests in Hong Kong and before the Covid pandemic which would place it around 2019.

In ‘On Java Road’, a murder occurs which may or may not be related to the tense political situation in Hong Kong.

As always, Lawrence Osborne captures the local situation in an exotic locale very well, which is why I consider him the heir apparent to Graham Greene. Although his main character Adrian is a journalist, Adrian does have a direct interest in the murder. One time Adrian takes a cynical fellow journalist Bawa out to lunch to get some inside information.

We are all in this shit show together, he seemed to be saying between the lines, and there’s little point pretending you are more moral than me, or vice versa.”

That seems to be the stance of this novel and this author.

The Sri Lankan (Bawa), for all his deviousness, was at least a truthful gossip, and truthful gossip is more salacious than the invented kind.”

Today China is still cracking down heavily on those people who were involved in the protests back then, and there have been more than a 1000 trials, some still ongoing, for those who were arrested during the mass protests. China also imposed a Hong Kong national security law in 2020 which deals severely with anyone who protests.

You could say that the whole society had become paranoid as it swayed on its no-longer-solid foundations and began to disintegrate.”

‘On Java Road’ started out rather slowly for me, but it really picked up speed in the second half. It is a murder mystery which ends without telling us the details of the murder or who the murderer for sure is.



Grade:   B




4 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Tony! I thought I’d read a novel or two by Osborne, but when I checked the list I discovered my mistake; I’ve only read reviews. I must admit that I’ve been quite tempted in the past to give him a try (I came the closest with “Beautiful Animals,” which was very favorably reviewed). As for Java Road, well, I’ve picked it up browsing a couple of times and almost, almost added it to the pile . . . maybe one day!
    I did get around to reading “The Shades,” by Citkowitz, which I placed on my list after your review (I was on a long trip and it was a perfect choice). I’ve a definite weakness for Gothic and, as you said, this one was better written than most.



    • Hi Janakay,
      Goodreads gave ‘The Shades’ a low score (3.0), and the reason I read it was that I was much impressed with her collection of short stories which I had read before. I guess you can’t always trust Goodreads as I really liked ‘The Shades’ also.

      This is the sixth Lawrence Osborne I’ve read and reviewed on this site. I notice that some I’ve liked more than others. I suppose the fact that his novels are always around 200 pages makes them easy to pick up and read. I must say that overall he doesn’t quite match my idol Graham Greene. But, who knows? Maybe the next one…

      Liked by 1 person


  2. Equalling Greene would be a fair achievement. This sounds quite interesting, it turns out I had him mixed up with another author that I didn’t take to so was ignoring him. Is this a good one to try as a starter? The Hong Kong setting appeals.

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Max,
      As often happens, the first book by an author that I read makes the strongest impression on me. Back in 2012, I read ‘The Forgiven’ by Lawrence Osborne and was greatly impressed. I see since then that I’ve given a couple of his other novels A- and a couple B.
      Since I gave ‘On Java Road’ a B, I would recommend you wait for his next novel. Osborne is very prolific writing about one novel a year and will one day soon have that blockbuster.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: