Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
Death of a Red Heroine (An Inspector Chen Investigation) Paperback – July 1, 2003
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
By any standard, Inspector Chen Cao is a novelty in the world of police procedurals. A published poet and translator of American and English mystery novels, he has been assigned by the Chinese government, under Deng Xiaoping's cadre policy, to a "productive" job with the Special Cases Bureau of the Shanghai Police Department.
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
Set a decade ago in Shanghai, this political mystery offers a peek into the tightly sealed, often crooked world of post-Tiananmen Square China. Chen Cao, a poet and T.S. Eliot translator bureaucratically assigned to be chief inspector, has to investigate the murder of Guan Hongying, a young woman celebrated as a National Model Worker, but who kept her personal life strictly and mysteriously confidential. Chen and his comrade, Detective Yu, take turns interviewing Guan's neighbors and co-workers, but it seems most of them either know nothing or are afraid to talk openly about a deceased, highly regarded public figure. Maybe they shouldn't be so uneasy, some characters reason; after all, these are "modern times" and socialist China is taking great leaps toward free speech. Chen and Yu make headway when they stumble on Wu Xiaoming, senior editor of Red Star magazine, who apparently was involved with Guan before her death. Tiptoeing around touchy politics and using investigative tactics bordering on blackmail, Chen slowly pieces together the motives behind the crime. The author, himself a poet and critic, peppers the story with allusions to classical Chinese literature, juxtaposing poignant poetry with a gruesome murder so that the novel reads like the translation of an ancient text imposed over a modern tale of intrigue. This is an impressive and welcome respite from the typical crime novel. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I like to read detective stories in order to understand other places and times - travelogue with attitude. Detective stories incorporate the concept of 'what is crime?' in any particular place, together with the observation of what is out of the ordinary (as clues). As such they detail the mundane and the extraordinary, the normal and the criminal. The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith is another example of what I mean.
Qiu is first and foremost a poet, and a very good one. He describes Shanghai as a feeling rather than with any kind of cinematic acuity. We are present in the moment whether at a roadside food stall, in a grimy dormitory, in the hero's apartment or visiting Guangzhou. The impressions we get are somewhat myopic, crowded by passersby, in a flood of emotions, senses and literary allusions. Those who like TS Eliot in particular will note numerous quotations but as our guide to Chinese literature Qiu also has plenty of Chinese poets to draw on as well. His English is excellent, neither sparse nor lush, but honest, insightful and unobtrusive, except when he lets fall little pearls like:
‘“A family sampan, the couple working in the cabin,” he said, ”and living there too.”
“A torn sail married to a broken oar,” she said, still chewing gum.
A bubble of metaphor iridescent in the sun.’
Nor is the literary critic far away
‘Any reading, according to Derrida could be a misreading. Even Chief Inspector Chen could be read in one way or another.’ Cautioning the reader, and perhaps the censor back in China?
Qiu's strength as a novelist is his characters. Perversely, the weakest of them all is Chief Inspector Chen, the main character. While Chen Cao seems to be good looking, intelligent and generally heroic, he dislikes nothing and seems to be infinitely patient. He is (most dubiously for any law enforcement officer) of a literary bent having written poetry and a thesis on TS Eliot. But compared to tough, straightforward, Sergeant Yu; playful Wang Feng, Overseas Chinese Lu, the victim, or the villain, he is bland. Like rice in a meal of strong flavours.
Qiu is also something of a gourmand. From the opening chapters to the last his descriptions of food are abundant and generous. Yet while his dishes are many and vaied there is something of a tinge of nostalgia more than anything else about them. He recalls flavours greedily but without a reference point so we are soon lost in a long Chinese menu.
The development of the story is somewhat broken and uneven too. While the initial slow development of the criminal case is a relief from the breakneck pace of written-for-tv thrillers, and the practical difficulties of policing when transport is a corporate bus pass are refreshing, the real problem is Qiu’s women. They don’t make a lot of sense. The victim sort of makes sense but it’s Chen’s love interests who ultimately prove pivotal to the case who are simply too convenient.
Death of a Red Herione is a fine debut novel, and one I heartily recommend. It smells of Shanghai and provides insights into China and her culture. But in the classic sense of a detective story its conclusion seems contrived like a longer story brought to an abrupt end. Or perhaps that was because I was enjoying it so much I could have happily read it for longer.
Qiu Xiaolong leaves the reader wondering as much as the chief protagonist in this story about politics and crime and how, despite the changes happening in China (the book is written in the 1990s), nothing much changes.
I could say that the dialog was stilted — it was — and its surprising that the main character isn't more politically saavy at his age and position, but otherwise, an interesting read.