Shanghai in 1990. An ancient city in a country that despite the massacre of Tiananmen Square is still in the tight grip of communist control. Chief Inspector Chen, a poet with a sound instinct for self-preservation, knows the city like few others. When the body of a prominent Communist Party member is found, Chen is told to keep the party ...
Shanghai in 1990. An ancient city in a country that despite the massacre of Tiananmen Square is still in the tight grip of communist control. Chief Inspector Chen, a poet with a sound instinct for self-preservation, knows the city like few others. When the body of a prominent Communist Party member is found, Chen is told to keep the party authorities informed about every lead. Also, he must keep the young woman's murder out of the papers at all costs. When his investigation leads him to the decadent offspring of high-ranking officials, he finds himself instantly removed from the case and reassigned to another area. Chen has a choice: bend to the party's wishes and sacrifice his morals, or continue his investigation and risk dismissal from his job and from the party. Or worse ...
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I really enjoy mysteries set in different locations and this one is tops for its look at China of a certain period. The plot and characters are very good as well.
Jul 26, 2007
Works on Several Levels
Qiu Xiaolong's mysteries are excellent, well-constructed thrillers involving a Chinese detective in the 1990s who has to work in and between two worlds: China's growing consumer culture and the old Communist system's hierarchies. As Qiu unravels very convincing mysteries, he also instructs, but in a very involving, enjoyable way that is not at all heavy-handed, about Chinese culture. His detective is a poet and the poetry which interweaves each of the books is not intrusive but adds an intellectual level of emotion. A bonus for readers who like to eat: the food descriptions are enough to cause hunger pangs! Very good characterizations; you really get to know and understand the people in the story. Qiu's books are in the I can't put this down/I don't want this to end category!
Publishers Weekly, 2000-05-08 Set a decade ago in Shanghai, this political mystery offers a peek into the tightly sealed, often crooked world of post-Tiananmen Square China. Chen Cao, a poet and T.S. Eliot translator bureaucratically assigned to be chief inspector, has to investigate the murder of Guan Hongying, a young woman celebrated as a National Model Worker, but who kept her personal life strictly and mysteriously confidential. Chen and his comrade, Detective Yu, take turns interviewing Guan's neighbors and co-workers, but it seems most of them either know nothing or are afraid to talk openly about a deceased, highly regarded public figure. Maybe they shouldn't be so uneasy, some characters reason; after all, these are "modern times" and socialist China is taking great leaps toward free speech. Chen and Yu make headway when they stumble on Wu Xiaoming, senior editor of Red Star magazine, who apparently was involved with Guan before her death. Tiptoeing around touchy politics and using investigative tactics bordering on blackmail, Chen slowly pieces together the motives behind the crime. The author, himself a poet and critic, peppers the story with allusions to classical Chinese literature, juxtaposing poignant poetry with a gruesome murder so that the novel reads like the translation of an ancient text imposed over a modern tale of intrigue. This is an impressive and welcome respite from the typical crime novel. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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