Shanghai in the mid-1990s is a city caught between reverence for the past and fascination with a tantalizing, market-driven present. When the body of a young "national model worker," revered for her adherence to the principles of the Communist Party, turns up in a canal, Chen is thrown into the midst of these opposing forces. As he struggles to unravel the hidden threads of this paragon's life, he finds himself challenging the very political forces that have guided his life since birth. With party-line-spouting superiors above him and detectives who resent his quick promotion beneath him, Chen finds himself wondering whether justice is a concept at all meaningful in late-20th-century China.
Death of a Red Heroine is a book hovering uneasily between the spheres of fiction and fact, creativity and didacticism. For much of the novel, author Qiu Xiaolong seems more intent on driving home the actions and consequences of the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath than on the slowly unfolding plot. Tedious repetitions of the fates, under Mao, of "educated youths" joust with both the actions of the detectives and Chen's "poetic" ruminations, which, unfortunately, are infected by precisely the stiffness and arbitrariness Qiu is at pains to decry in his historical passages. The moving couplets Chen favors are potentially fascinating insights into the interaction between ancient and modern China, but instead of provoking the reader into reflection, Qiu offers reductive explanations of each and every poem.
The moments when Qiu concentrates on invoking atmosphere are both illuminating and rewarding: Detective Yu's wife's pride and pleasure in having brought home a dozen crabs at "state price" are movingly well crafted, all the more so because Qiu seems almost unaware of what he is doing. Rather than lecturing on the economic dilemmas of the modern worker, he lets Peiqin's simple happiness speak for itself. In the last quarter of the book, Qiu seems to find his stride, though his writing style remains undeniably awkward. Here Chen expands and relaxes, and with him, the novel. Qiu's debut, though anything but polished, holds the promise of better things to come. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
An excellent mystery, well written and concluded. The background and evolution of Chinese contemporary society and of Shanghai alone would make this an interesting novel; let alone... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Julio1fer
For several years now I have been expanding my universe of crime writers away from my longstanding UK and US staples and have read works by authors from Italy, Sweden, Norway,... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Nick Bruce
Insightful and fun - draws a great picture of dynamics, human and political, in modern China.Published 1 month ago by martha
A somewhat laborious tale of two Chinese plodders who through a lot of help from their friends solve a crime which the hierarchy really did not want to know about. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Graham Limburg
Book 1, in the Inspector Chen series
This novel is something more than a suspenseful whodunit crime story it is one that explore in some ways the old-socialist/new... Read more
Very interesting atmosphere and unusual political surroundings. The rhythm of the narration is strangely intermittent.Published 1 month ago by Mariano Maggiore
If you like mysteries set in foreign cultures, this is the book for you. In addition to the culture, the story line held my attention.Published 2 months ago by Erika S. heider
I didn't like the book at first because the characters are stilted, constantly saying things like " I serve the Party". Read morePublished 4 months ago by Qyler's Mom
An eye opener about life in china in the 1990's. Humorous, satirical ,well written, and thoroughly enjoyable. A good book for discussion.Published 5 months ago by judith levinson