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When Red is Black Hardcover – July 1, 2004
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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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
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.
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Top customer reviews
An enjoyable read.
A rendering of office politics and the slog of day-to-day police work.
Wry comments on contemporary Chinese society and politics. I have read many of his books.
I mostly read his books for the insight into present day China; and the fact that he provides a good viewpoint from the viewpoint of the hero Inspector Chen Cao. Whom he seems to allow to "speak for himself" in the stories.
Inspector Chen Cao is taking time off from his role with the police. He has been asked to translate a business proposal for a triad-related businessman. The proposal is for the construction of a new shopping/residential complex in Shanghai called the New World. Both the salary and the benefits are too good to resist, but Chen ultimately finds everything has strings. With Chen unavailable, Sgt. Yu must take charge of the newest investigation.
Yin was a college teacher and novelist living in a tiny room in a multi-family house. While she wasn't well liked, she kept to herself. With the house locked at night, was she murdered by a neighbor? If so, why did they ransack her room but not take her money?
Qiu Xiaolong (pronounced "chew shao-long") has become one of my favorite authors. He creates such a strong sense of place with wonderful descriptions, from the largest panorama to the smallest detail. The inclusion of both Chinese and western poetry is something I so appreciate and enjoy.
Food plays such a significant role in China. Its inclusion is so well done and, even if some of the particular dishes may not appeal to my western palate, I always end up hungry while reading. There is one particular scene when Chen goes to a restaurant with 1930s European style serving supposedly western food which was very interesting.
I learned so much about life during the Cultural Revolution; a period about which I know virtually nothing. It is interesting to read about the lasting impact on those who lived through it as well as the confusion of living in a rapidly changing China.
I very much enjoy Qui's characters. While I was glad Chen wasn't completely absent from the scene, it was nice to have Yu and his wife, Peiqin, move to the forefront. Not only did I learn more about them and their lives, but saw all the major characters grow and develop as the book progressed.
The story's plot is very effective. I find the difference in the style of questioning fascinating but the process of following the leads is the same in all cultures. My one criticism would be that the confession of the killer seemed abrupt, but that could be a cultural difference as well. I did think the ending was excellent.
I highly recommend "When Red is Black" although, as always, I suggest starting the series at the beginning.
WHEN RED IS BLACK (Pol Proc-Sgt Yu/Insp Chen Cao-Shanghai,
China-Cont/1990s) - VG
Xiaolong, Qiu - 3rd in series
Soho Press, C2004, US Hardcover - ISBN: 1569473692