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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Ex-library book. The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting.
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Enigma of China: An Inspector Chen Novel (Inspector Chen Cao) Hardcover – June 18, 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police wanted to be a poet in college but was state-assigned upon graduation to the police bureau. He is, by definition, a man at war with himself, a poet caught within the constraints of the party. (Chen will remind fans of the late Stuart Kaminsky’s Inspector Rostnikov of the Moscow Police mysteries.) This series brilliantly portrays Chen’s predicament and his maneuvers to both work within the system and subvert it. The prod to Chen’s conscience this time comes from party orders to sign off on the death of the son of a major party member as a suicide, when Chen’s instinct is that he may have been murdered. The man (head of the Shanghai Housing Development Committee) was outed by “netizens” who investigated his corrupt practices through the Internet, starting with a photo of one very expensive pack of cigarettes. In addition to being a wonderful character study and surprise-packed mystery, Qiu’s latest is a many-faceted study of contemporary China. --Connie Fletcher


Xiaolong's astute rendering of the many contradictions of contemporary Chinese life centres on the brilliant Inspector Chen ... A series that might well get you hooked. Sunday Telegraph Atmospheric and rich in behind the scenes detail ... Morse of the Far East. Independent Chen is a great creation, an honourable man in a world full of deception and treachery. Guardian With strong and subtle characterisation, Qiu Xiaolong draws us into a fascinating world where the greatest mystery revealed is the mystery of present-day China itself. -- John Harvey The first police whodunnit written by a Chinese author in English and set in contemporary China ... its quality matches its novelty. The Times The usual enjoyable mix of murder, poetry and contradictions of contemporary Chinese culture. Chen is a splendid creation. Independent on Sunday A vivid portrait of modern Chinese society ... full of the sights, sounds and smells of Shanghai ... A work of real distinction. Wall Street Journal Qiu Xiaolong is one of the brightest stars in the firmament of modern literary crime fiction. His Inspector Chen mysteries dazzle as they entertain, combining crime with Chinese philosophy, poetry and food, Triad gangsters and corrupt officials. Canberra Times, Australia Gripping ... Chen stands in a class with Martin Cruz Smith's Russian investigator, Arkady Renko, and P.D. James's Scotland Yard inspector, Adam Dalgliesh. Publishers Weekly Wonderful. Washington Post --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Inspector Chen Cao (Book 8)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1ST edition (June 18, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 125002580X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250025807
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #737,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the latest and 8th book in the Inspector Chen series. I have read each in order and all my reviews are posted on Amazon.com. What drew me to the series was the unique time and setting in Shanghai, China as the country emerges with its new blended capitalism.
Although I have enjoyed the series none of the books have captured the quality of the first book, "Death of a Chinese Heroine". The characters mostly carry forward from that book and have been underdeveloped as the series progresses. The lead character, inspector Chen is a poet by nature and presents an interesting way for the reader to experience this changing culture. My reviews have been consistent in stating that Qiu Xiaolong needed to do more to develop his cast of characters... even inspector Chen. Yet as each new book appears the writing style has become more simplistic and less descriptive. I liked the last book in the series "Don't Cry, Tai Lake" but this latest book like its title is truly an enigma. It's not awful but it sure is weak and under written and disappointing to us fans who want to see more character growth.
Enigma is more like an outline... purely a procedural crime story. No character development and limited plot. And what happened to the unique time period and cultural changes? There is not one mention as to what year we are now in although the story seems to be following current Shanghi events focused as it is on the potential bubble in the cities high priced housing boom. So how old is Inspector Chen now? I would guess early fifties. How has growing older impacted Chen and as his mother says what does he really think about his failure to get a wife? We get the hint in last two books of possible relationships but neither goes anywhere and seem to service the plot more than anything.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book Chief Inspector Chen is involved in a case so sensitive, it may cost him his job. Fortunes rise and fall with great unpredictability in the new China.

Chen is assigned to function as a consultant to a police investigation into the suicide of a corrupt Shanghai housing official. The police have been instructed to "confirm" the suicide. But Chen and the investigating detective suspect murder.

A plethora of agencies are investigating, each with its own agenda. This in itself is suspicious and a clear sign of danger to anyone seeking the truth.

Basically this novel is a about the Chinese government vs. the Internet, which functions as the only genuine news source in China and the only political tool available to the people. We learn about the protest techniques of the "netizens" and the devastating attacks against corrupt officials launched online by means of "crowd-sourced investigations."

Qui Xiolong's novels always give us a fascinating picture of life in the new China, and this book is no exception. From "eating girls" in elite restaurants to "human-flesh searches" on the Web, a bizarre society emerges in these pages.

The Chief Inspector Chen novels are not remarkable for devious plots or action scenes. I love them for their ambience, their leisurely contemplative mood. In the midst of puzzling over a case, Chen is forever reciting lines of ancient poetry to himself, and occasionally to a pretty young woman. On a visit to his mother in the hospital, he'll recall a Tang Dynasty poem. And urgent as this investigation is, Chen always finds time for tea, noodles and (when the pressure is really on) an exotic meal.

I love the way Xiaolong weaves classical allusions and folk sayings into the texture of the story. This is literature, not a mere thriller - a subtle mix of exquisite writing, murder and political intrigue.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read all the Inspector Chen novels and this is one of the best. You don't read the books in this series to find out who the murderer is, although that does add to the appeal of the novels. You also don't read the books because you want a steamy love story. Or because you want insightful interactions between complex characters. You read them for the exquisite description of Chinese society and Chinese corruption. You read them to find out how ordinary Chinese people live and how elite Chinese live. You may even read them to savor the depictions of Chinese meals. You may also read them for the poetry interspersed throughout the novels, although this does not appeal to me. In this book Qui Xiaolong describes Chinese officials engaging in power struggles and intrigue while attempting to quash Internet exposés of corrupt leaders and businessmen. It is a dark and engrossing story.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Enigma of China kept me as spellbound as Qiu's earlier tours de force. This story is more contemporary and weaves in current controversies, including the heinous practice of shuanggui (in the news this week, in fact) as well as the Ai Weiwei case and others. Those who already count Inspector Chen as a lao pengyou (old friend) will enjoy this reunion with him and his friends, colleagues, and his ongoing effort to do right in China's complex environment. As Chen gets older, it seems he gets more frustrated with the country's "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics." This book is a cliffhanger, leaving the reader dangling at the cliff's edge with frustration. Mr Qiu: When will the next book come out? Hurry, please!
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