Praise for Qiu Xiaolong:
"A sequel [to Death of a Red Heroine] that in many ways is even more impressive. . . . [Qiu] has moved from the poetic, exotic milieu of his first book (although plenty of elements remain) into a tougher, wider, probably more commercial and modern version of China as seen by America."-Chicago Tribune
"Another wonderful novel featuring Inspector Chen of the Shanghai Police Bureau . . . [for] Sinophiles like myself, who fantasize about taking an insider's tour of Shanghai."-Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air
"The travelogue aspects of the novel don't overwhelm it's critical intelligence. As in all hard-boiled [mysteries], the murder and mayhem provide a cover story for a larger investigation of social mysteries."-Chicago Sun-Times
Inspector Chen's mentor in the Shanghai Police Bureau has assigned him to escort U.S. Marshal Catherine Rohn. Her mission is to bring Wen, the wife of a witness in an important criminal trial, to the United States. Inspector Rohn is already en route when Chen learns that Wen has unaccountably vanished from her village in Fujian. Or is this just what he is supposed to believe? Chen resents his role; he would rather investigate the triad killing in Shanghai's beauteous Bund Park. But his boss insists that saving face with Inspector Rohn has priority. So Chen Cao, the ambitious son of a father who imbued him with Confucian precepts, must tread warily as he tries once again to be a good cop, a good man, and also a loyal Party member.
Anthony Prize-winner Qiu's second Inspector Chen mystery (after 2000's Death of a Red Heroine) offers an intriguing if somewhat labored glimpse of Chinese life in a period of evolution from communism to a more westernized culture. Former dancer and party loyalist Wen Liping has vanished just when she was to leave for the U.S. to join her husband, a key witness against a smuggling ring suspected of importing aliens to America. The same day higher authorities refer this case to Chen, who is a likable senior police agent with a love of literature, a badly mutilated body turns up in Shanghai's Bund Park. It takes many pages and train trips around China for Chen, in the company of visiting U.S. Marshal Catherine Rohn, before the two cases are finally linked, but the wait is worth it. Punctuated by proverbs from Confucius and ancient and modern Chinese poetry, Chen's reports show how he and Catherine gradually learn of Wen's unhappy past being programmed as a child to dance holding a "Loyalty" placard for Mao's Red Guards, later suffering brutal abuse by her husband. The more unsavory elements of modern Chinese society are revealed, from prostitution houses masking as karaoke clubs to vicious rival triads battling for turf, while materialism at its worst overcomes traditional values. Qiu's writing style can be somewhat stilted, and dialogue occasionally resembles "partyspeak," but the characters manage to achieve an engaging realism and charm, even while showing the underside of China in transition. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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August 31, 2003
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