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Jade Dragon Mountain: A Mystery (Li Du Novels) Paperback – July 5, 2016
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“Perfectly melds history with the mystery genre for a lush look at China on the cusp of change. Set in the early 1700s, Jade Dragon Mountain delivers a compelling look at Chinese politics, culture and religion, delivering the complexities of each with a character-rich story...One of the year's most engrossing debuts.” ―The Washington Post
“This debut historical mystery deftly combines ingenious plotting and suspense with a subtle understanding of China, its culture, and its people. The protagonist, Li Du, a librarian and intellectual, is well worth keeping an eye on.” ―Donna Leon
“[A] measured, intelligent, first-class debut…The book augurs a brilliant career for Hart: the careful characterization, the beautifully detailed research (minced yak tongue, anyone?), and an innate feel for the enigmatic meanings of murder.”―USA Today
“Entertaining and amusing…Strikingly picturesque…But Jade Dragon Mountain does more than entertain. It is also a story of history and politics, offering the reader a brief but memorable description of the clash of China’s dynastic rivalries.”―Christian Science Monitor
“Jade Dragon Mountain is an amazing book-truly wonderful. Stunning in its atmosphere, setting, the gift of language, and great writing. Elsa Hart and her protagonist, Li Du, deserve a place in every collection. If you like great books, you will love Jade Dragon Mountain.” ―Louise Penny
“Part mystery, part exploration of a culture fading into history's shadows, Hart's novel is a fascinating, intelligent debut...Think Agatha Christie writing Shogun...captivating.” ―Kirkus Reviews--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
ELSA HART was born in Rome, Italy, but her earliest memories are of Moscow, where her family lived until 1991. Since then she has lived in the Czech Republic, the U.S.A., and China. She earned a B.A. from Swarthmore College and a J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. She wrote Jade Dragon Mountain in Lijiang, the city that has grown up around the old town of Dayan. It is her first novel.
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Top customer reviews
The setting in 18th century China is important to the story, but Chinese culture is not as developed in this story as in other historical novels, especially the "Judge Dee" mysteries by Robert Van Gulik. At the same time, the physical setting of the novel does receive ample attention and the reader develops a sense of place as the story progresses.
The story revolves around a total solar eclipse, the arrival of the Qing Emperor of China in Yunnan, a restive province which the emperor very much wants to pacify, and the family history of Li Du and his cousin, the magistrate in Dayan. The presence of foreign ambassadors and missionaries plus various guests attending the festival around the solar eclipse round out a strong cast of characters.
For those who enjoy trying to solve mysteries before the final reveal, this is a good book. No spoiler here, but the author does leave clues and hints which help reader sleuths figure out "whodunit". At the same time, there are several surprises in store! For people wanting an enjoyable story that transports them to another time and place, this book also works.
I must confess, though, that I raised an eyebrow high at a couple of things. This is supposed to be extremely well researched--one reviewer mentions "minced yak tongue," and there's quite a lot of information about tea. BUT. In 1708, were North American foods such as POTATOES and CORN all that common in an out-of-the-way town on the border of China and Tibet? Somehow, I just don't think so!
One of my professors used to say, "Your reader will swallow a camel and choke on a gnat." There are not a lot of gnats to choke on in this book, at least not to my eye, but corn and potatoes are definitely among them.
That aside, I was willing to go look for the next book in the series based on the strength of the characterization and the writing. Haven't found it yet at my local library, but I'm still looking.