For Neville "Bunt" Mullard and his mother, Betty, Hong Kong is part of Britain -- one of the pleasanter parts; it is also cozy, monotonous, proftable and homely. It is big breakfasts and high tea and bad weather, the race meetings at Happy Valley, the roast beef at Fatty's Chophouse, and, for Bunt, the "blue hotels" of Kowloon Tong, where he eats his packed lunches and sometimes rents a room by the hour with a girl. Now ninety-nine years of colonial rule are about to end, and the British government is about to hand over Hong Kong to China. Betty and Bunt can see China from their parlor, but they have never been there. They detest Chinese food. "The Chinese take-away" as they call the hand-over, does not particularly concern them.
When Bunt first meets Mr. Hung, a well-spoken gentleman from the Chinese mainland, he pays him little heed. And when Mr. Hung offers the Mullards a handsome sum for their family business -- a fifty-year old textile factory, Imperial Stitching, that was cofounded by Bunt's late father -- Bunt refused him out of hand. Yet it soon grows clear that Mr. Hung is different from the Chinese the Mullards have lived alongside for years. For Mr. Hung will accept no refusals.
Then a young woman from the Mullards' factory vanishes, one of many disappearances. But this one is different. Ah Fu has last been seen in the company of Mr. Hung. And so Bunt is forced for the first time in his forty-three years to make decisions that matter. He even begins, maybe, to discover love. Yet against all of Bunt's good, if half formed, intentions are pitted the will of Mr. Hung and the looming threat of the ultimate betrayal. With incisively observed characters and perfect prose, in Kowloon Tong Paul Theroux has created one of his finest novels.