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The Mao Case: An Inspector Chen Novel (Inspector Chen Cao) Hardcover – March 3, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
Inspector Chen is on the trail of some Mao materials that mighty prove embarrassing to the Party. Three beautiful women, dead and alive, stand between Chen and the solution.
A handsome intellectual with Confucian ethics, Chen has a princely quality that makes him good company in every adventure. When stalled, he ponders snippets of haunting poetry that sometimes prove oddly useful in solving the case.
Some might say there are too many contrivances and coincidences in the plotting of this book, but I'm so enamored of Qiu Xiaolong's writing, I looked the other way.
I recommend reading the whole series, starting with Death of a Red Heroine, to get the full flavor of Chen's character. Every book in the series is delightful.
Chen begins with the mother whose life was explored in a bestseller. Using Cloud and Rain as access, Chen goes undercover pretending to be an author conducting research into a historical novel. This enables him to meet Jiao and her friends at the still alive Xie's run down home. There the older woman hosts a group who cherishes the pre-Communist culture until murder leave Chen suspecting grandmother and or granddaughter as the killer(s) especially their shared convenient alibi.
The sixth Chen Chinese police procedural (see WHEN RED IS BLACK and RED MANDARIN DRESS) contains a strong investigation, but it is the profound look at the early Mao days in comparison to modern day China that brings the uniqueness to the story line. Chen is at his best with his asides about brass, bureaucrats, and bull as he diligently works the "Mao material" inquiry that turns into a homicide; he is more comfortable with the latter as the former is loaded with pompous interference. Mindful of the Bush Administration concealing Korean War Era documents that have been declassified for years and open to the public in the government archives, fans of the Shanghai inspector will enjoy his latest case as a reluctant Chen knows the penalty of dealing with anything Maoist even decades old.
Nicely written, and the Mao poetry was also translated into English and deciphered nicely too. But although the author's English is good enough to write a very readable book (few can do that in a second language), I can't help thinking he'd increase the reader's pleasure with a professional poetic/literary minded sub-editor. There were some golden chances missed to turn parts of the narrative into much nicer, smoother, indeed even memorable reads. But then I'd notice that as a sub.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it. Why only 3 stars? In the end 5 stars are reserved for the likes of Murakami (the two best known of course), Xiaolu Guo, Ma Jian, Yiyun Li and the like. Let's face it, they write weighty literature in a matching form.
But there's no doubt I'll be reading more Inspector Chen as well!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As an un traveled American the autjor provides cultural insights into Chineese life pre and post the cultural revolutionPublished 25 days ago by Amazon Customer
Man,such as Mao, perish; the written word lives on. Mao's revolutionary poetry was an inspiration to his myriad followers. Read morePublished 2 months ago by S. Gutierrez
A good early Chen novel. Not as complex as the later novels in the series, but still captures the conflict between the black and white of police work and the grey of Party... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Mark J. Chambers
An interesting look in to the life and poetry of Mao and other more Chinese poets, the cultural revolution, the Gang of Four, the forbidden city. The ambiance is amazing!Published 6 months ago by Christian Maeder
In the Mao case Inspector Chen travels to Beijing where he has a meeting with Ling, his HCC girl friend who has married someone else. She tells him she couldn't wait forever. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Amazon Customer