April 21, 2011

Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong

If you are a mystery aficionado and like to be taken to China, this is the book for you.  Chinese author Qiu Xialong's Death of a Red Heroine takes the reader to mid-1990s Shanghai, a time when the country is just getting into its hyper-capitalist binge.  The protagonist is Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau, Special Case Branch, which essentially means he is in charge of politically sensitive cases.  Aside from being a detective, a job assigned to him by the all-powerful Party, the protagonist is also a poet, a translator of English mystery novels, and a gourmand.  When a woman known as The Red Heroine, a role model citizen for The Party, is found floating in a Shanghai canal, Inspector Chen is called to investigate the murder.  His investigation takes him to sensitive areas of government pitting him and his partner Guangming against the new and powerful capitalist cadre in China (which are essentially the entitled and oft-corrupt sons of powerful communist party leaders). 

What I like about this book is the accurate portrayal of the ridiculous bureaucracy created by the paranoid and seemingly schizophrenic Party, which seems to have one foot in capitalism and the other foot firmly planted in communism.  Inspector Chen has to go through hoops and countless political barricades just to get simple things done.   I loved being taken to the busy Shanghai streets with its brimming marketplaces, food stalls, and overcrowded shikumen houses.  The scents and descriptions of exotic Chinese food pervading the novel only add to the sense of being there. I mean, how can one not salivate at the mention of a hot and sour pork soup bun or braised cock's comb with tofu and scallions or guangdong roast duck on pan fried noodle?  This book gives the reader a glimpse of the modern day Chinese culture.  The pacing is terrific and the simple narrative (not in dialect) has an authentic Chinese voice.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for joining our discussion of this book!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...