The Chinaman (novel)

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The Chinaman
The Chinaman (Stephen Leather novel).jpg
First edition
AuthorStephen Leather
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherHodder & Stoughton
Publication date
Media typePrint
Preceded byHungry Ghost 
Followed byThe Vets 

The Chinaman is a thriller novel written by Stephen Leather, first published in 1992. Leather's fourth novel, the plot concerns a London-based Vietnamese restaurateur and skilled Vietnam War veteran who travels to Ireland to hunt the people responsible for a bombing that killed his family.[1][2][3]

The book was adapted into a 2017 film starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan, titled The Foreigner.


Nguyen Ngoc Minh is a Vietnamese restaurateur based in London, and is also a Vietnam War veteran who was trained as an assassin by both the Viet Cong and the US Army. One day he loses both his wife and daughter in a bombing by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). He seeks justice, first by going to London Chief Inspector Richard Bromley, who is investigating the bombings, but he rebuffs Nguyen.

In the meantime, a rogue cell of IRA continues to commit bombings throughout London. Ian "Woody" Wood, a freelance journalist, is assigned to investigate the IRA. He is approached by the desperate Nguyen, who offers him money for the names of the bombers. Lacking any information, Woody suggests that Nguyen talk to Sinn Féin member and former IRA operator, Liam Hennessey. Nguyen sells his restaurant to his best friend and decides to travel to Belfast to talk to Hennessey. Hennessey has his former weapon dumps investigated, believing a rogue cell is using Semtex from those dumps to create the explosives, but when confronted by Nguyen, he claims ignorance of the bombers' identities. Nguyen reacts to this by setting off a homemade bomb in the bathroom of Hennessey's office. By phone Nguyen threatens further reprisals if he is not given the names of the bombers.

Hennessey, secretly having ordered the bombings to boost his political needs, is in fact enraged that civilians were killed and that the bombings came without warnings. He summons his associate in the United States, Sean Morrison, to London to talk to Bromley about a plan to take down the bombers. Morrison tells Bromley about their plan, of which only the two of them will have knowledge.

Nguyen sets off bombs on Hennessey's farm, prompting him to send his wife Mary, who is secretly having an affair with Morrisson, to London. Hennessey also sends his men after Nguyen, who is positioned in the forest surrounding the farm. Nguyen, lethally skilled in jungle warfare, disables Hennessey's men with traps and fights them off before escaping into the forest.

When another bombing occurs, Hennessey's plan fails to identify the bombers. Elsewhere, Woody is writing about his meeting with Nguyen. A member of the rogue cell named Maggie seduces him, in order to plant a bomb on his laptop without his knowledge before he flies to a press conference.

Desperate to neutralize Nguyen, Hennessey hires a tracker, who is the daughter of a close friend and former IRA associate. Hennessey discovers that the mastermind behind the bombings is his political enforcer Hugh McGrath. He also discovers Morrison and Mary's affair, deducing that Mary and McGrath were responsible for the rogue cell, but decides to let Morrison off the hook to help in hunting down Nguyen.

Morrison and Hennessey interrogate McGrath for the names of the bombers, before executing him. In flashback, the story reveals that Nguyen fought for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War before joining the United States Army, which trained him in unarmed combat and jungle warfare. He was refused asylum in America before deciding to escape to Hong Kong, witnessing his eldest daughters raped and killed by Thai pirates.

Morrison, the tracker, and Hennesey's right-hand man, Kavanagh, hunt for Nguyen, but during this effort Kavanagh and three other enforcers are killed by Nguyen, and a confrontation between Nguyen and Morrison ends with Morrison giving the names of the bombers to Nguyen.

Hennessey gives the identities of the bombers to Bromley. A Special Air Service (SAS) team led by The Colonel and an operative codenamed Joker converge on the apartment building in which the bombers are residing. Nguyen manages to enter first, disguised as a delivery man, and ambushes the bombers. At the airport, Woody boards the plane, not knowing about the bomb in his laptop. The SAS team bursts into the apartment and guns down everyone, including Nguyen, though not Maggie. They fail to stop the bomb in time, which detonates, killing Woody and everyone aboard. Bromley, wanting no loose ends, has Maggie executed.

During a meeting about taking down the IRA, Hennessey and Morrison's names are brought up. Bromley decides not to mention Nguyen, knowing the life and death of the Chinaman will always be a mystery.

Film adaptation[edit]

On 5 June 2015, it was announced that Jackie Chan would star in a feature film adaptation of the novel, titled The Foreigner.[4] Directed by Martin Campbell, the film also stars Pierce Brosnan, and was distributed by STX Entertainment.


  1. ^ "The Chinaman". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  2. ^ "The Chinaman". Amazon. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  3. ^ "Bookseller 100". The Bookseller. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  4. ^ Busch, Anita; Fleming Jr, Mike (5 June 2015). "Jackie Chan To Star in 'The Foreigner' for STX Entertainment". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 16 July 2015.

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