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The Eye of Jade: A Mei Wang Mystery (Mei Wang Mysteries) Hardcover – February 5, 2008

3.8 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Chinese exile Liang, who fled her country after participating in the Tiananmen Square protests, makes an impressive debut with this understated mystery set in the late 1990s, the first in a prospective series. After resigning from the ministry of public security, Mei Wang launches a private investigative agency, a technically illegal business in China, much to her family's dismay. After an old family friend, Uncle Chen Jitian, hires Mei to track down a jade seal from the Han dynasty, previously believed to be destroyed, Mei and her assistant, Gupin, follow slim leads to a shady dealer who might have connections to the same museum collection supposedly incinerated by the Red Guard. Readers familiar with Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs will find many parallels between that independent and unconventional PI and Mei. Mei's challenging family life nicely complements the puzzle of the missing jade and the shifting Chinese political climate. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


" We've all heard of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith's bestselling novels about a female private detective from Botswana. Now it's China's turn. On the surface The Eye of Jade is a classic detective fiction with lots of underworld contacts and hushed conversations in noodle bars, but underneath, Liang, who fled China after her involvement in the student protests in Tiananmen Square, is doing something much more than an examination of China old and new. There's an incredible tension between old Communist China and a new capitalist future; this tension is at the heart of the novel. This novel takes on subjects that in the past would have been censored." -- Mark Coles, BBC

"This may start out as a straightforward mystery but it expands to encompass a meditation on the nature of love and justice in extraordinary circumstances." -- Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia)

"An exquisitely written book, with the added bonus of a great plot and an engaging leading lady." -- The Sun-Herald (Sydney, Australia) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Mei Wang Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416549552
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416549550
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,236,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Diane was born in Beijing in 1966 and spent part of her childhood with her parents in a labour camp in a remote region of China. A graduate of Peking University, Diane joined the Student Democracy Movement and took part in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, which culminated in the massacre of hundreds of demonstrators by the People's Liberation Army. Diane has a PhD in Business Administration from Carnegie Mellon University, in the US, and was an award-winning business professor in the US and the UK for over 10 years.

Her first book, Lake With No Name, a memoir of Tiananmen and love, was published in 2003 and is reissued in 2009.
Diane is the author of two novels featuring Beijing private detective Mei Wang: The Eye of Jade (2007) and Paper Butterfly (2008). Her novels have been translated into over 20 languages.

Diane now writes full-time and lives in London.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
First Sentence: In the corner of an office in an old-fashioned building in Beijing's Chongyang District, the fan was humming loudly, like an elderly man angry at his own impotence.

Mei Wang had been dismissed from the Ministry for Public Security and has opened an office as a private investigator. "Uncle" Chen, a family friend, hires her to find an ancient, and extremely valuable, piece of jade looted from the Luoyang Museum during the Cultural Revolution. The case takes her into the back streets of Beijing, and into secrets of her family's past.

This was an unusual mystery and a fascinating book. It is a PI story, but very different from the typical American PI. The story focuses on people, interactions and relationships, yet still has some suspense.

I realized how little I know about China, past or present. There are vast differences between our cultures but enough similarities that the story really worked.

The sense of place is wonderful and the dialogue has just the right voice to it. I am interested to see where Mei Wang's story goes. You might want to give this a try.
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Format: Paperback
I gave this book three stars, because I found it has some wonderful elements and equal amount of flaws.

The Positives:
1. The author has a very natural way of weaving the daily scenes of Beijing into the story. It adds a layer of richness and gives the reader a true sense of the lives of the modern day China. There are other such novels on the market right now, but this particular one is written nicely about the details without being overly "educational" in tone. One such example will be in the book when Mei was meeting with her friend from the department of the motor vehicle. They chose to meet at a place where they could see all the people dancing on the street. (I am not being exact here. I don't want to ruin the appetite of those yet to read this book.) The author very skillfully devoted some time describing this street dancing/parading phenomenon without being overbearing.

2. The depiction of the characters are quite real. The author goes into great length describing the main characters in this novel. Some of the emotional scenes appear to be real to me and felt by me as I was reading. She does a particularly nice job on the conflicting dynamics between Mei and her mother. The love and hate mix is so authentic in my eyes.

The Negatives:
1. This is not a detective story in the strictest sense. The plot thins as it progresses. The detective uses rather evasive skills to find clues. Often times, she just jumps from point A to point B without strong evidence, just using a sense of hunch.

2. Some of the situations are not as convincing. If Mei has been working in the police department, how could she not stomach a dead body (not even brutally murdered, just dead).
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Format: Hardcover
Diane Wei Liang's female detective protagonist, Mei Wang, is a character built up of conflicts between her mindset and reality. She is aloof, "an outsider who never wanted to be in" while in college, but her college friends turn out to be the only ones who truly care about her. Her longing for her mother's love manifests as resentment, and her mother suddenly has a stroke before there is a chance to reconcile. She desperately wants to cure her mother, but she has no money or connections, and those things can only come from the sister she looks down on. She detests "guanxi" (connecting with purpose) and people who are good at it, yet whatever clues she obtains for her investigation are through "guanxi." Wherever she exhausts her network of relations, her means of investigation also dry up. For the most part the novel leaves the reader wondering if the only way for Mei Wang to make progress in Chinese society is to embrace the opposite of what she values.

Yet this is a quite realistic depiction of the late 1990s' Chinese society, post Cultural Revolution, in the midst of the Reform-and-Open era. And Diane Wei Liang is at her best depicting it using multi-voice dialogue. A conversation at Mei's class reunion is so real, I can almost see those people's lips moving and hear their voices, as if they spoke in Chinese, as if I were among them.

The intimate reflection on everyday life of contemporary China is a great quality of this novel. For a reader who knows about China, this quality is engaging. Too often I can't finish a novel set in China written by non-Chinese, because it turns me off when the author gets obvious things wrong.

For readers who are less familiar with China, The Eye of Jade provides a real lens into Chinese society.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting novel. The premise: a young Chinese woman decides to be a private detective in modern Beijing, is strange to say the least. Author Liang, however, is skilled at making modern China come to life, and with it she's created an interesting milieu for her protagonist to work and live in. The result is a fascinating book.

Mei Wang was a police officer for several years. After getting crosswise of the wrong people, she quit, and instead became an "information consultant" in Beijing. This is because private detectives are illegal in modern China (of course) and so she must act under subterfuge. In this, the first entry in the series, she is approached by an older relative who wants her to find out where a priceless relic has gone, now that it's entered the black market somewhere in the city. If she does find it, she'll have to be careful, because if the police discover her with it, they'll arrest her pretty much out of hand.

I enjoyed the atmosphere and setting of this book a great deal, and some of the characters were memorable too. The plot wasn't as good as I'd hoped, though. Presumably Ms. Liang can keep up the atmosphere, and devise a second book with a slightly better plot...
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