Andrew Woodward is back...


If there's one Hong Kong author who's embarked upon a series of crime thrillers who we've been following from day one, it's Andrew Woodward. And he's back with the third installment of his already successful Elements pentalogy, The Silverbird's Sign. Okay, it actually hit the shelves a few weeks ago – but now it's picking up speed as readers from across the world get into Woodward's third offering. Exciting times for the 42-year-old.

In the first book of the series, The Water Dragon, we see DI John Chambers on the hunt for a serial killer in Hong Kong, while the second installment, The Fire Walker, takes matters to Scotland, with plenty more twists and turns, Woodward-style. In this new addition, Hong Kong is again at centre-stage – with a real whodunnit theme to proceedings. However, HK isn't alone here. Interestingly, Uganda, in Africa, has an important role to play in the plot as well. When asked whether he's afraid that his readers may get lost by the alternation between the two very different countries, Woodward replies: "I did include a map of Uganda for the Kindle version. Maybe I should have included a map of Hong Kong…" He laughs. "You could look at it two ways: it's a work of fiction where, if you're not familiar with the background, you would just follow the story, but on the flipside, if you know Hong Kong, the details will add an extra dimension."

In Silverbird, DI Chambers investigates a mystery in Africa, while the other half of the story is told from the perspective of his partner, Detective Li, in Hong Kong. A sentiment exists between Woodward and this African nation, he says, as not only does part of his story take place there, the proceeds from The Fire Walker were also donated to Kitale School in Uganda. "I was very impressed by the genteel culture of the Ugandan people when I went there for a holiday a few years ago," he says. "I got involved with a group of people from the UK who set up a charity for orphans. I went back as the second book came out and wanted to give something back. It's really rewarding to know that electricity will soon be available in the village. The children will have access to computers and will be educated to be just as tech savvy as children from the city."

Woodward is not only fascinated by the change the information age can bring to Third World countries but also by how it is changing the publishing industry in general. "Selling books have become a very different beast from 10 years ago," he says. "The cost of selling my book in Kindle format is almost nothing, whereas the print version not only costs more to produce but there are also distribution costs. But even if you sell a hundred Kindle books, a paperback is a hundred times more visible than an ebook. A person reading on the MTR or a paperback sitting on a bookshelf gets noticed a lot more than a file in a Kindle."

Like it or not, authors still can't ignore print copies just yet as Woodward has encountered fans who insist on reading a good, old-fashioned book with 'real' pages. Actually, it was through talking to his fans that he found that his series has an appeal for the 'mature ladies' demographic. With that in mind, can readers look forward to a more salacious relationship line between DI Chambers and Li in this book? "Actually, one of the major characters will meet a grisly end in book three and that may put a damper in the relationship between Li and Chambers – or not, depending on who it is," he says. On that bombshell, we'll let you judge The Silverbird's Sign for yourself... Lisa Cam

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