From Publishers Weekly
Like its predecessors Death of a Red Heroine
(2000) and A Loyal Character Dancer
(2002), Qiu's third Inspector Chen mystery provides an insightful look into modern China. When Yin Lige, the author of a banned book, is found murdered in her Shanghai apartment, detective Yu Guangming and his boss, Chief Inspector Chen Cao, must solve a case that may have far-reaching political and social implications. (The "red" of the title refers to Mao Zedong's Red Guard, the "black" to the supposed enemies of the working class denounced during the Cultural Revolution.) Yu doggedly pursues all leads, even as personal misfortunes threaten to ruin his life. Chen must help from afar as he takes time off to earn extra income translating business documents for an ambitious entrepreneur. Suspects range from the poignant "shrimp woman," who peels shrimp for a living, to possible enemies from the distant past. Yu soon uncovers the long-ago romance between the victim and Yang Bing, a college professor. This love affair, delicately rendered, allows the author to include many fragile but beautiful Chinese poems. Deftly depicting a China fractured along class and party lines even in matters of love, Qiu also dramatically demonstrates how the past affects the daily lives of Chinese people today. Only a banal solution to the mystery spoils an otherwise engrossing read.
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Qiu, born in Shanghai and now residing in St. Louis, made a splashing debut in 2000 with the award-winning Death of a Red Heroine
. Critical response differs for his third Inspector Chen mystery. Some offered effusive praise for Qius poetic literary style and sociological flavor, reflecting on China with both respect and sorrow. Others wondered why this plodding book was shelved in the mystery section. Hard-boiled mystery lovers may want to take a pass; those intrigued by the culture in China and the right expectations for this mystery will be satisfied.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.