Catch a Falling Knife

V.J. DeFil

Publisher: Arbor Books Pages: 445 Price: (paperback) $19.95 ISBN: Reviewed: January, 2021

Catch a Falling Knife is a contemporary corporate thriller set in Hong Kong’s financial district.

Valentina Vittorio, a high-flying Italian-American salesperson, is plucked from the Wall Street branch of JM Wen Limited and flown to Hong Kong to work in an elite sales team spearheaded by Jimmy Wen, the company’s ruthless CEO. Valentina holds Wen responsible for destroying her family and has been working toward establishing herself in her field for ten years to exact revenge.

Arriving in Hong Kong, Valentina wastes no time gathering intelligence on Wen’s nefarious dealings. However, as her investigation proceeds, she finds herself exposed, not only to murderous elements within Wen’s organization, but also to an organized crime group and an ethically ambiguous Interpol agent.

V.J. Defil’s novel is an insightful corporate thriller that offers an engagingly authentic depiction of the upper echelons of a morally corrupt corporation rife with villainy. It makes excellent use of its Hong Kong locale and the city’s socio-political unrest to relate its tale of corporate malfeasance.

However, while Defil skillfully profiles the consumerist world of JM Wen, it falters when straying into revenge-thriller territory, relying on pulpy avenging woman tropes and flamboyant action to move events along. Tonally, this makes for a jarring read. As the narrative shifts from financial thriller to pulp, it plays like two distinct stories, one set in the covetous, avaricious world of JM Wen, where stealth and subterfuge is all-pervasive, and one in the violent environs of a pulp action-thriller, replete with disposable characters, flashy punch-ups, knife fights and perilous, adrenalized Mission: Impossible set-pieces.

Thus, Valentina moves from a materialistic, sexualized femme-fatale who contemplates sleeping with the enemy to induce them to talk, to a vengeance-seeking manipulator with “ninja like reflexes and killer instincts.” This reflects the novel’s split personality and makes sympathizing with Valentina’s plight periodically problematic.

There is much to enjoy here, but the novel’s conflicted elements occasionally struggle to cohere, resulting in an uneven read overall.

Also available as an ebook.