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A Death in the Lucky Holiday Hotel: Murder, Money, and an Epic Power Struggle in China Hardcover – April 2, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Howard French, Wall Street Journal
“The most revealing work on the Bo episode to date. What emerges is an immensely complicated tale of behind-the-scenes power struggles as full of scandal, ambition and betrayal as anything that ancient history has to offer…. The authors’ account has the considerable merit of understanding that the surface plot built around Heywood’s murder isn't the most interesting element in this narrative. They show how Mr. Bo's undoing had its roots in the country's intense but normally invisible factional jousting…. The narrative is thrilling and believable, based as it is on the information that Chinese officials leak to the press as part of their infighting…. The overall picture of elite politics in China is a devastating one of wanton ambition and lawlessness.”

The Atlantic
“A gripping telling of the incident that would make for a great thriller novel—if it weren't all true.”

Maclean’s
“As a lurid tale of wealthy and powerful people behaving badly, the authors’ account of what has been unfolding in China since November 2011 can’t be beat.”

Kirkus
“A true-crime murder mystery from 2011 set in a remote Chinese city, with an outsized impact on governance of the vast nation…. The authors weave a fascinating, dark narrative web.”

Publishers Weekly
“This deeply knowledgeable account of the rise and fall of regional Communist Party boss Bo Xilai (whose wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of Heywood’s murder) by veteran journalists Ho and Huang reveals the weaknesses of top party leadership…. The authors unravel the myriad threads of politburo-level power struggles—which make the Borgias look like rank amateurs—weaving together a narrative that includes obscene wealth and corruption, orgies, and totaled Ferraris on the streets of Beijing. This expert account is bolstered by the authors’ willingness to admit that the story is so complex that ‘unless Heywood’s spirit can find a medium, the whole truth about the November 15 murder may never be known.’”

Winnipeg Free-Press
“The authors have done an admirable job of sorting through the contradictions, half-truths and outright lies perpetrated by all the players in this drama. Their careful research and meticulous explanations will help everyone from general readers to veteran China-watchers sort out the meaning of Bo Xilai's rise and fall.”

Library Journal
“The light this book shines on the secretive world of Chinese politics makes it an especially important work. A must read for all China watchers; those interested in real-life murder mysteries and complex political scheming will also find it fascinating."

Asian Review of Books
“The complicated tale is well-structured and a pleasure to read.”

About the Author

Pin Ho, a journalist and writer, is the founder of Mirror Media Groups and has covered Chinese politics for twenty-five years. He broke the news on leadership lineups for three consecutive Communist Party Congresses since 2002. His book, China’s Princelings, was the first to coin that phrase to describe the children of Chinese revolutionaries, and is the source for much that has appeared in the accounts of various Western journalists.

Wenguang Huang is a writer, journalist, and translator whose articles and translations have been published in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Paris Review, and the Christian Science Monitor. He is most recently the author of the memoir The Little Red Guard and the translator for Liao Yiwu’s For a Song and One Hundred Songs, The Corpse Walker, and God Is Red.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610392736
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610392730
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #504,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Seth Faison on April 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Political dynamics are the same everywhere. It is the high stakes and the culture of secrecy that make Chinese politics so particularly intriguing.

"A Death in the Lucky Holiday Hotel" is the best book so far on the political drama that riveted so many of us over the past year, by combining murder, stacks of money, sex and fast cars (and even, sex in fast cars), all at a time when the complex machinery of China's Communist Party was selecting its new leaders. The book's title makes it sound like a formulaic detective novel. But it is really an insightful account of this true political story, and it uses compelling profiles of the main players to explain the context and its tremendous implications for the world's most populous country.

I used to cover Chinese politics as a journalist, and I no longer follow the bland pronouncements made by Chinese bureaucrats, who look virtually indistinguishable from one another. But I got hooked on this story when the news broke that the chief of police in Chongqing had gone to the U.S. Consulate in Sichuan Province to ask for asylum, saying he had evidence that his boss's wife had murdered an Englishman. His boss was Bo Xilai, an ambitious and charismatic leader who had been building a left-leaning political brand that made his competitors in Beijing nervous. Right there, I knew there had to be a pretty interesting backstory.

Indeed, there was. And thank goodness, it takes some telling. A brawny power struggle always requires a good explanation of the political landscape and the main players in the drama. Pin Ho is an experienced journalist in Hong Kong, and his narrative is interspersed with moments when players in this drama called or texted him to leak information or try to get coverage furthering a particular viewpoint.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Steve Wong on April 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I visited Chongqing last year and many of my friends asked me about the Bo Xilai scandal because they didn't have access to media reports. Not too many people believed in the government propaganda. I wish I had the book then. Bought the book last week. It contains an incredible amount of information about the case. I have learned so much about the Chinese political system. The narratives are quite compelling and believable. Some stories, like the Ferrari accident, are appalling. Overall, I think the authors are quite objective and non-judgmental in presenting each character. I really enjoyed it.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Juno on April 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Mystery, intrigue, murder, betrayal -- all these are key components that flavor a political drama and make it so intensely irresistible, and no book portrays them better than "A Death in the Lucky Holiday Hotel". A whirlwind of plotting and corruption, the stunningly clear publication of China's dark and complex politics is a riveting masterpiece.

In today's world, China is an emerging world power, with a booming economy on the fast train to the top. Its leaders and government, naturally, are front and center in the lives of the media industry. With the 18th Party Congress drawing near at the time of the event, any and all imperfections and signs of disunity within the nation were expected to be covered up and hidden away. China was to present a united front, just like the images frequently seen on television--a uniform group of men all wearing dark suits and white shirts with jet-black hair. When the bombshell about the Bo Xilai scandal dropped just a few months before the publicized, yet still extremely secretive, transfer of power in China's government began, all eyes turned to the city of Chongqing and the shocking events that were taking place there.

Like zooming in on a mammoth spiderweb, the narrator slowly draws the reader in, beginning with the extra close-up view. With bits and pieces of leaked news and unverified information, the story gradually begins to unfold. A cryptic description of the hotel where the murder that changed numerous lives irrevocably took place is the reader's first insight into the whole debacle. The murder of Neil Heywood, an Englishman who would later prove to play a crucial role in the downfall of Bo Xilai and those connected to him, is briefly described, leaving the reader intrigued and desperately wanting to know more.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By eBuyer Dave on May 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a book is based inferences, assumptions, innuendo and gossip. Not a lot of facts. Nevertheless, it is interesting because of the insight it provides into the culture. If anyone thought Democracy was a hard system to work and lacked transparency, imagine a system where everything is decided behind closed doors based on insider maneuvering. That is the message of this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Mension on February 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not the best written, but a good effort assuming that the writers are working a second language and/or text was translated. The organization has a distinct non-English feel. Nevertheless, interesting reading. I would recommend it to someone interested in recent Chinese politics.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Teddy on April 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
A Death in the Lucky Holiday Hotel by Pin Ho and Wenguang Huang
Some might say that it was the murder of a prominent foreigner in residence that began the whole affair, the arousal and display of political power; others might consider the terrible loss of prestige caused by a slap in the face as the real provocation that caused the dire outcomes that followed.
The authors of this very recent book, Pin Ho and Wenguang Huang, are both journalists with extensive experience in analyzing and commenting on Chinese affairs. Pin Ho is the publisher of Chinese books and magazines, and is an active participant in blogs, chats, and email from internet sources on the mainland; Huang is a highly adept interpreter in his own right and has authored a number of books in English on diverse topics such as religion in China and life among the dispossessed or overlooked in society.
Early in 2012 alert China watchers were surprised by the seemingly inexplicable act of Wang Lijun, the police chief of Chongqing, the bustling metropolis in southwest China, of seeking refuge in the American consulate in Chengdu a neighboring metropolis. Speculation initially held that he was a defector to the United States.. Why else would he leave such an important position?
The co- authors, both skilled at reporting, have sifted through the numerous reasons people gave, and have concluded that readily available information was not what it claimed to be. Within these pages they build a more accurate explanation by investigating and describing the operations of the Communist system as it might have affected that situation, as well as activities of forces in the environment that shaped the events following Wang Lijun's exit from the American consulate.
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