Red Turtle Project, The
Author: Don Westenhaver
Publisher: Xlibris Corp (2001)
Binding: Paperback, 437 pages
The Red Turtle Project is an international thriller set primarily in Vietnam in the 1990's. Liang Weber is a beautiful Eurasian woman who inherits $500 million from her recently murdered father, Sing Han, a Singapore billionaire whose fortune is based on smuggling weapons and drugs.
She and her husband Sam learn that Sing Han has been assassinated by a ruthless secret society called the Mandarins. Led by a group of seven Chinese tycoons, the Mandarins have become incredibly wealthy and powerful using murder, kidnapping and theft on a global scale. They are furious when they find out that much of Sing Han's fortune was transferred to Liang just before they killed him.
After a worldwide manhunt for Sam and Liang, the Mandarins discover them in Vietnam, where she has donated her inheritance to the communist country, one of the poorest on earth, to transform it into a capitalist powerhouse, the newest "Asian Tiger". This grand economic experiment is dubbed the Red Turtle Project.
Five years later, the Red Turtle corporate logo, a smiling cartoon turtle, has become the symbol of the country's rapid improvement in the standard of living, an icon of nationalistic pride. Behind the scenes, however, the Mandarins gradually infiltrate the Red Turtle Corporation and are robbing the company through smuggling, stock manipulation, and other illegal activity. A reign of terror spreads, and anyone who protests against the crime and violence is immediately eliminated.
Finally the Mandarins' real plan is revealed. They're not merely taking over the Red Turtle Corporation, but the entire country of Vietnam. On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong, the bastion of capitalism and the home of the Mandarins, is reverting to the control of Communist China. The secret society is moving its base to Vietnam, to be feudal lords of the newly rich country.
Don Westenhaver's The Red Turtle Project, originally published in 2001, paints a complex picture of criminal enterprises, MIAs, and economic theory.
The novel centers around what a beautiful Eurasian woman named Liang Sing does with an inherited fortune of half a billion dollars -- the proceeds of her estranged fathers criminal enterprises. Complicating the issue is that Sing's fortune is claimed by a nefarious Chinese crime syndicate called "The Mandarins."
Unmindful of the true nature of her pursuers, Liang and her husband, Vietnam vet Sam Weber collect the money from the fourteen banks it has been stashed in with the Mandarins in pursuit.
Deciding that the fortune should be put to a worthy cause (after setting aside 20 million for themselves), they journey in 1990 to Liang's homeland Vietnam to invest the money in raising that country's standard of living and helping the common people. Rebuffed by several ministries whose behavior ranges from bureaucratic to bizarre to suspicious, they are finally welcomed, on their last day there, by the Minister of Agriculture, Doanh Minh.
Minh makes a strong case for investing the money in ways to improve a small village's agricultural production, thus boosting the entire market economy of the region and eventually the country and so was born the Red Turtle Project.
Liang and Sam return to California, pack up their belongings and kiss their daughter Gabriella, a straight A student at the University of California San Diego, goodbye. While her parents transform Vietnam, Gabriella degenerates into a party animal, eventually becoming seriously paralyzed following an abortive suicide attempt. In the meantime the Mandarins continue their fruitless pursuit of the couple, never quite catching up with them. Meanwhile back in 'Nam, Harry, an escapee from the Hanoi Hilton who spent 18 years hiding in the North Vietnamese countryside surfaces and with Sam and Minh's help is repatriated. Gabriella, now wheelchair bound from her suicide attempt unintended injuries moves to Vietnam and becomes a piano teacher of sorts.
The Mandarin eventually track the families to Vietnam, but to their dismay discover the money has been invested in the Red Turtle Project and effectively is unrecoverable. So they hatch a plot to take over the company and thus the country, thus providing them a safe haven to move to when the Chinese takeover Hong Kong.
The novel ends with an exciting, "can't put the book down" finish as Sam and Liang struggle to free the captured Minh, thwart the Mandarins and their lackeys, the "Hong Kong Heroes" and restore the project and its benefits to their rightful place, as the cornerstone of Vietnam's future successes towards a nearly capitalist economy and a place among the Asian Tigers.
Throughout the pages of The Red Turtle Project, Westenhaver demonstrates a deep understanding of the various subject matters he tackles. His insights into the drivers of economic growth and the bases of modern national economy are profound. His excellent grasp of history and Asian history, especially its criminal elements and their modus operandi. As the father of two daughters Westenhaver also demonstrates a exceptional understanding of the mind of a young woman and what makes her tick as he shows in his grasp and exposition of Gabriella's psyche.
Equally ingenious is his handling of the various plot elements and the ways by which he keeps them intertwined.
The stories he tells, both as main plot elements and as subplots are well thought out and pursue intriguing story lines.
The Red Turtle Project is an excellent choice for those who like their tales more than one dimensional and enjoy learning from a good yarn.
Reviewed by: Reviewer's name (date reviewed)