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Chinese Modern Detective Fiction

Death of a Red Heroine (Soho Crime) (Paperback) by Qiu Xiaolong

I came across this title through Detectives Beyond Borders: A Forum for International Crime Fiction where Peter Rozvsky ranked it number 2 in a list of 10 of his favourite non-American crime novels. From what I’ve read about Death of a Red Heroine, this takes crime fiction into the social and political realm of a society in transition from one system to another. In other words, you get more than just another murder case. It promises to deliver an intelligent insight into the minds of those living in Shanghai during the 1990s.

From Publisher’s 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 amazon reviewers have also heaped praise on the novel.

“Inspector Chen and Detective Yu are instantly likable and deeply-drawn characters, as is their circle of friends and family. Woven into the story are the their personal lives, which the author uses to paint a vivid picture of China just a decade ago.”

And

“The best aspect of the novel as political commentary is the plausible depiction of China's transition from Socialism to Capitalism and how it affects a range of Chinese citizens. Is the author in trouble if he ever goes back to China? Looks like Xiaolong is enjoying freedom of speech.”

And

“The book does not disappoint; it is a splendid mix of historical fiction, political and social observation, with a newly appointed Chief Inspector Chen who is a wonderfully fully developed character (as are all the characters in the book).”

Other titles by the same author:

- A Loyal Character Dancer by Qiu Xiaolong - When Red Is Black by Qiu Xiaolong - A Case of Two Cities: An Inspector Chen Novel (Inspector Chen Novels) by Qiu Xiaolong

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