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.
Excellent story set in a city of intrigue and sometimes special status. Qiu brings the nuances of living in a changing and conflicted society into focus for Westerners and expat... Read morePublished 26 days ago by Spud's Place
Disappointing as a crime novel. A couple of stars for the education on today's life in China. Read to understand the failures of socialism and Chinese poverty. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Gusto
I appreciated this book for the picture it painted of Shanghai in the 1990's, however the plot felt a little predictable and plodding at times. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Hannah R. Johnson
If you have any interest in contemporary China, classical Chinese aphorisms and poetry, Chinese food and culture, you will delight in any of Qiu Xiaolong's neatly plotted and... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Peter R. Ramsey
It's a nice book, but a little slow. The poetic digressions are sometimes too long.
It's not really a crime story, being the plot pretty simple. Read more
There are several stories revolving around the main character: his professional life, love life, family life, and the evolution of the Chinese Communist party. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Stefanie UWS
I joined a hardcore book club a couple of months ago and have consequently been reading up a storm--both the J.K. Rowlings thrillers, Great Expectations, Mudbound. Read morePublished 3 months ago by J. Bustillo
On finishing this book, I closed it feeling satisfied. This is generally all I ask of a book, but if I think back, I also remember that it took a good 200 pages for this book to... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Sadie Forsythe
This is a beautiful detective novel. It does what this kind of fiction is supposed to do -- uses the device of a murder mystery to bring together characters from different levels... Read morePublished 5 months ago by M. S. Turula