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Death of a Red Heroine (Soho Crime) Paperback – July 1, 2003
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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.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Communist China makes for an instantly compelling and intriguing setting, as the police must wend their way through labyrinthine political considerations in a country where one's standing in the Party is paramount but change is clearly underway. The mystery and investigation proceed in a leisurely fashion, and the true challenge is not identifying the murderer, but being able to gather the necessary evidence and piecing together a motive.
Inspector Chen and Detective Yu are instantly likable and deeply-drawn characters, as is their circle of friends and family. Woven into the story are the their personal lives, which the author uses to paint a vivid picture of China just a decade ago. Most memorable are the cramped housing conditions, the continued reverence for elders, and the many many mouthwatering descriptions of food. Hardest to imagine for Western readers will be the influence of Party standing and its intrusion into personal relationships, especially when it comes to love.
This is a long, but never boring story that deserves wide readership amongst mystery readers as well as those with an interest in China. A well-deserved winner of the Edgar for best first novel.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I did not find this very compelling. In fact, it was a little boring to me. That doesn't mean it wasn't a good book. I guess it was not to my taste. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Jean E. Terry
Although author Qiu Xiaolong has given us little to admire as a prose stylist - apparently written in English, the book often reads like a poor translation, with Chinese... Read morePublished 19 days ago by Paul Frandano
Imagine you are an intellectual in China just completing your Phd in English Literature. You write poetry and translate Ruth Rendell mysteries and other mysteries in English to... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Serena
This is the first book in the series. It hooked me totally. Inspector Chan is a fascinating character.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
I selected this book for a change of pace from the police procedural and detective/mystery I usually select which are based in the UK or Iteland. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Running Late
I must really enjoyed reading his mysteries because I am reading Death of a Red Heroine again as well as Loyal Character Dancer! Read morePublished 3 months ago by Jane K. Chang
Fascinating look at everyday life in Communist China in the 90s juxtaposed with Classical Chinese poetry. Interesting mysteries and likeable characters.Published 5 months ago by Allene Hansen
This is one of the first mysteries I have ever read being new to the genre. It was a great book and the story flowed very well. Read morePublished 5 months ago by JA