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Reviled or revered, the specter of Mao still looms large over contemporary China, as shown in Qiu's cerebral sixth mystery to feature Chief Insp. Chen Cao (after 2007's Red Mandarin Dress). Just how charged that legacy remains becomes clear to the unorthodox but uncompromising Shanghai policeman as soon as he receives a top secret new assignment. Beijing wants Chen to find out-fast-the source of beautiful young painter Jiao's sudden wealth and whether it might be linked to any potentially embarrassing "Mao material" inherited from her ill-fated grandmother, a movie queen and onetime favorite of the late chairman. When Chen goes undercover to infiltrate Jiao's fashionable social circle, he discovers a group nostalgic for an idealized pre-Communist past-as well as deadly danger. Qiu's deftly paced suspense keeps the reader flipping pages until the over-the-top climax, but what lingers is his compelling portrait of China past and present, the eternal phoenix rising from the ashes. (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.