Death of a Red Heroine (Inspector Chen Series #1)

Death of a Red Heroine (Inspector Chen Series #1)

by Qiu Xiaolong


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Qiu Xiaolong's Anthony Award-winning debut introduces Inspector Chen of the Shanghai Police.

A young “national model worker,” renowned for her adherence to the principles of the Communist Party, turns up dead in a Shanghai canal. As Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Special Cases Bureau struggles to trace the hidden threads of her past, he finds himself challenging the very political forces that have guided his life since birth. Chen must tiptoe around his superiors if he wants to get to the bottom of this crime, and risk his career—perhaps even his life—to see justice done.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781569472422
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 07/01/2003
Series: Inspector Chen Cao Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 187,475
Product dimensions: 5.01(w) x 7.49(h) x 1.23(d)

About the Author

Qiu Xiaolong has been published in more than twenty languages, and more than one million copies of his mysteries, poetry, and literary criticism are in print around the world. He is the author of eight other Inspector Chen Cao mysteries, including A Loyal Character Dancer and When Red Is Black. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and daughter.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The body was found at 4:40 P.M., on May 11, 1990, in Baili Canal, an out-of-the-way canal, about twenty miles to the west of Shanghai.

    Standing beside the body, Gao Ziling, captain of the Vanguard, spat vigorously on the damp ground three times—a half-hearted effort to ward off the evil spirits of the day, a day that had begun with a long-anticipated reunion between two friends who had been separated for more than twenty years.

    It was coincidental that the Vanguard, a patrol boat of the Shanghai River Security Department, should have ventured all the way into Baili around 1:30 P.M. Normally it did not go anywhere close to that area. The unusual trip had been suggested by Liu Guoliang, an old friend whom Gao had not seen for twenty years. They had been high-school buddies. After leaving school in the early sixties, Gao started to work in Shanghai, but Liu had gone to a college in Beijing, and afterward, to a nuclear test center in Qinghai Province. During the Cultural Revolution they had lost touch. Now Liu had a project under review by an American company in Shanghai, and he had taken a day off to meet with Gao. Their reunion after so long a time was a pleasant event, to which each of them had been looking forward.

    It took place by the Waibaidu Bridge, where the Suzhou River and the Huangpu River met with a dividing line visible in the sunlight. The Suzhou, even more heavily polluted than the Huangpu, looked like a black tarpaulin in sharp contrast to the clear blue sky. The river stank despite the pleasant summer breeze. Gaokept apologizing; a better place should have been chosen for the occasion. The Mid-Lake Teahouse in Shanghai Old City, for instance. An afternoon over an exquisite set of teacups and saucers, where they would have so much to talk about, with lambent pipa and sanxun music in the background. However, Gao had been obliged to remain on board the Vanguard all day, no one had wanted to take over his shift.

    Looking at the muddy water, with its burden of rubbish—plastic bottles, empty beer cans, flattened containers, and cigarette boxes—Liu suggested they go somewhere else in the boat to fish. The river had changed beyond the two old friends' recognition, but they themselves had not changed that much. Fishing was a passion they had shared in their high-school days.

    "I've missed the taste of crucian carp in Qinghai," Liu confessed.

    Gao jumped at the suggestion. He could easily explain going downstream as a routine trip. Also, it would display his power as captain. So he suggested Baili, a canal off the Suzhou River, about seventy miles south of the Waibaidu Bridge as a destination. It was yet untouched by Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms, far from any main road, with the nearest village a couple of miles away. But getting there by water was not easy. Once they passed the Oriental Refinery looming above Wusong the passage grew narrower, and at times it was so shallow it was hardly navigable. They had to push away trailing branches, but after an arduous struggle, they finally reached a dark stretch of water obscured by tall weeds and shrubs.

    Fortunately, Baili turned out to be as wonderful as Gao had promised. It was small, but with no shortage of water thanks to the past month's heavy rain. The fish flourished there since it was relatively unpolluted. As soon as they flipped out the lures, they could feel bites. Soon they were busy retrieving their lines. Fish kept jumping out of the water, landing in the boat, jerking and gasping.

    "Look at this one," Liu said, pointing out a fish twitching at his feet. "More than a pound."

    "Great," Gao said. "You're bringing us luck today."

    The next minute, Gao, too, dug the hook out of a half-pound bass with his thumbnail.

    Happily, he recast his line with a practiced flick of his wrist. Before he had reeled it halfway back to the boat, something gave his line another terrific tug. The rod arched, and a huge carp exploded into the sunlight.

    They did not have much time to talk. Time flashed backward as silver scales danced in the golden sun. Twenty minutes—or twenty years. They were back in the good old days. Two high-school students sitting side by side, talking, drinking, and angling, the whole world dangling on their lines.

    "How much does a pound of crucian carp sell for?" Liu asked, holding another one in his hand. "One this size?"

    "Thirty Yuan at least, I'd say."

    "So I've already got more than four pounds. About a hundred Yuan worth, right?" Liu said. "We've been here only an hour, and I've hauled in more than a week's salary."

    "You're kidding!" Gao said, pulling a bluegill off his hook. "A nuclear engineer with your reputation!"

    "No, it's a fact. I should have been a fisherman, angling south of the Yangtze River," Liu said, shaking his head. "In Qinghai we often go for months without a taste of fish."

    Liu had worked for twenty years in a desert area, where the local peasants observed a time-honored tradition of serving a fish carved from wood in celebration of the Spring Festival since the Chinese character for "fish" can also mean "surplus," a lucky sign for the coming year. Its taste might be forgotten, but not the tradition.

    "I cannot believe it," Gao said indignantly. "The great scientist making nuclear bombs earns less than the petty peddlers making tea-leaf eggs. What a shame!"

    "It's the market economy," Liu said. "The country is changing in the right direction. And the people have a better life."

    "But that's unfair, I mean, for you."

    "Well, I don't have too much to complain of nowadays. Can you guess why I did not write to you during the Cultural Revolution?"

    "No. Why?"

    "I was criticized as a bourgeois intellectual and locked up in a cell for a year. After I was released, I was still considered 'politically black,' so I did not want to incriminate you."

    "I'm so sorry to hear that," Gao said, "but you should have let me know. My letters were returned. I should have guessed."

    "It's all over," Liu said, "and here we are, together, fishing for our lost years."

    "Tell you what," Gao said, eager to change the subject, "we've got enough to make an excellent soup."

    "A wonderful soup—Wow, another!" Liu was reeling in a thrashing perch—well over a foot long.

    "My old wife is no intellectual, but she's pretty good at making fish soup. Add a few slices of Jinhua bacon, throw in a pinch of black pepper and a handful of green onion. Oh, what a soup."

    "I'm looking forward to meeting her."

    "You're no stranger to her. I've shown your picture to her frequently."

    "Yes, but it's twenty years old," Liu said. "How can she recognize me from a high-school picture? Remember He Zhizhang's famous line? 'My dialect is not changed, but my hair has turned gray.'"

    "Mine, too," Gao said.

    They were ready to go back now.

    Gao returned to the wheel. But the engine shuddered with a grinding sound. He tried full throttle. The exhaust at the rear spurted black fumes, but the boat did not move an inch. Scratching his head, Captain Gao turned to his friend with an apologetic gesture. He was unable to understand the problem. The canal was small but not shallow. The propeller, protected by the rudder, could not have scraped bottom. Something might have caught in it—a torn fishing net or a loose cable. The former was rather unlikely. The canal was too narrow for fishermen to cast nets there. But if the latter was the cause of the trouble, it would be hard to disentangle it to free the propeller.

    He turned off the engine and jumped onto the shore. He still failed to see anything amiss, so he started feeling about in the muddy water with a long bamboo stick which he had bought for his wife to use as a clothesline on their balcony. After a few minutes, he touched something under the boat.

    It felt like a soft object, rather large, heavy.

    Taking off his shirt and pants, he stepped down into the water. He got hold of it in no time. It took him several minutes, however, to tug it through the water, and up onto the shore.

    It was a huge black plastic bag.

    There was a string tied around the neck of the bag. Untying it cautiously, he leaned down to look within.

    "Holy—hell!" he cursed.


    "Look at this. Hair!"

    Leaning over, Liu also gasped.

    It was the hair of a dead, naked woman.

    With Liu's help, Gao took the body out of the bag and laid it on its back on the ground.

    She could not have been in the water too long. Her face, though slightly swollen, was recognizably young and good looking. A wisp of green rush was woven into her coil of black hair. Her body was ghastly white, with slack breasts and heavy thighs. Her pubic hair was black and wet.

    Gao hurried back into the boat, took out a worn blanket, and threw it over her. That was all he could think of doing for the moment. He then broke the bamboo pole in two. It was a pity, but it would bring bad luck now. He could not bear the thought of his wife hanging their clothes over it, day in, day out.

    "What shall we do?" Liu said.

    "There's nothing we can do. Don't touch anything. Leave the body alone until the police come."

    Gao took out his cellular phone. He hesitated before dialing the number of the Shanghai Police Bureau. He would have to write a report. It would have to describe the way he had found the body, but first of all, he would have to account for being there, at that time of day, with Liu on board. While supposedly working his shift, he was having a good time with his friend, fishing and drinking. But he would have to tell the truth. He had no choice, he concluded, dialing.

    "Detective Yu Guangming, special case squad," a voice answered.

    "I am Captain Gao Ziling, of the Vanguard, Shanghai River Security Department. I am reporting a homicide. A body was discovered in Baili Canal. A young female body."

    "Where is Baili Canal?"

    "West of Qingpu. Past Shanghai Number Two Paper Mill. About seven or eight miles from it."

    "Hold on," Detective Yu said. "Let me see who is available."

    Captain Gao grew nervous as the silence at the other end of the line was prolonged.

    "Another murder case was reported after four thirty," Detective Yu finally said. "Everybody is out of the office now. Even Chief Inspector Chen. But I'm on my way. You know enough not to mess things up, I assume. Wait there for me."

    Gao glanced at his watch. It would take at least two hours for the detective to reach them. Not to mention the time he would have to spend with him after that. Both Liu and he would be required as witnesses, then probably would have to go to the police station to make their statements as well.

    The weather was quite pleasant, the temperature mild, the white clouds moving idly across the sky. He saw a dark toad jumping into a crevice among the rocks, the gray spot contrasting with the bone-white rocks. A toad, too, could be an evil omen. He spat on the ground again. He had already forgotten how many times this made.

    Even if they could manage to get back home for dinner, the fish would have been long dead. A huge difference for the soup.

    "I'm so sorry," Gao apologized. I should have chosen another place."

    "As our ancient sage says, 'Eight or nine out of ten times, things will go wrong in this world of ours'," Liu replied with renewed equanimity. "It's nobody's fault."

    As he spat again, Gao observed the dead woman's feet sticking out of the blanket. White, shapely feet, with arched soles, well-formed toes, scarlet-painted nails.

    And then he saw the glassy eyes of a dead carp afloat on the surface of the bucket. For a second, he felt as if the fish were staring at him, unblinking; its belly appeared ghastly white, swollen.

    "We won't forget the day of our reunion," Liu remarked.

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Death of a Red Heroine (Inspector Chen Cao Series #1) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Minnesota_ReaderAN More than 1 year ago
This book is different than most books I have read before! The story is a combination of mystery and politics with the majority of it in politics. Unlike other books, this story weaves a fascinating story of how Communist Chinese politics deeply affects the lives of their detectives and the outcome of their investigations. If you are looking for a book with mystery from front to back, this is not the story. If you want to learn a little while you read (my motive!), this is a great book.
DeltaQueen50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an interesting book, the first in a series of police procedurals set in Shanghai during the 1990`s. We are introduced to Chief Inspector Chen Cao, a poet and literary translator who was assigned to the police bureau and has fallen under the wing of a party official¿s sponsorship which has allowed him to rise to his current position. A young woman is found in a canal, strangled and discarded in a garbage bag. She is Guan Hongying, a minor political celebrity, being a national role-model worker for the Communist Party. Chen and his underling Yu are placed on the case which comes together slowly as they have to overcome a system of bureaucracy designed more for political consideration than modern day crime-fighting.More than the actual mystery, I found this book intriguing due to the glimpses of modern day China that we are given, its slow emergence to western ideas and world markets while trying to cling to its political ideals of the past. Instead of many dry lectures on the position of today¿s China, we are instead treated to portraits of how people conduct their daily lives in this communist country.At first I found the mystery aspect rather slow moving, but during the second half of the book the story picked up both speed and interest, but as this is the first book in a series, the author was obliged to introduce characters and set the scene for future volumes. I would recommend Death Of A Red Heroine to anyone who enjoys reading globally and wants to see what living in post Tiananmen Square China is like.
msprint on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It took me quite a while to get used to the writing style, however, by the time I finished I realised I had enjoyed the slow unfolding of the story along with the setbacks suffered by Chen and his sidekick Yu. The political intrigue was very interesting and by the time I finished the book I was glad that I had persevered. I would certainly read more by this author.
Wheatland on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book as informative entertainment and a crime mystery. The author, Qiu Xiaolong, left China in the early 1990s and now lives and works in the USA. This detective story is set in the Shanghai of the China he left behind.Written for American/English readers without much knowledge of China and its culture, the book takes time to explain the life styles, attitudes, living conditions, some Chinese political history, and the role of classical Chinese poetry in the lives of its characters. Those main characters are drawn in an interesting fashion, particularly the protagonist, Detective Inspector Chen. He is a rising political star as well as a dedicated cop. The novel brings these two trajectories into conflict. Chen was naive either not to see this clash coming, or to think he could cope with it on his own.The author gives us some fascinating glimpses of the life of an urban resident in a rapidly changing Shanghai--how people live, what they eat, and how they behave politically with each other and with their superiors, the Party cadres.The writing is smooth and easy to read. The reader not familiar with Chinese names will have to make an effort to keep them mentally sorted. The plot unfolds at leisure but gains in pace as the book progresses. Patience is well rewarded, with the ending leaving me wanting more.
TadAD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in Shanghai shortly after the Tiananmen Square events of 1989, this story combines a mystery with perspective and commentary upon the upheavals that occurred in Chinese politics and society during that period. The young feel that the classless society has become a fiction hiding privilege and corruption. The old cadre feels that the younger generation is losing sight of the revolutionary ideals that forged the nation. The socialist economy is grinding gears against Deng Xiaoping's market economy reforms. In the midst of this turmoil, Inspector Chen tries to unravel a murder fraught with political ramifications.The story moves along smoothly, never lagging despite the frequent digressions to explain some historical point or to illustrate some aspect of modern Chinese life. It is populated with a colorful cast of characters drawn from all walks of life, from high-ranking Politburo members to impoverished street vendors. Despite the fluent English, the book conveys a real sense of a different culture. Some may be indifferent to the numerous verses from classical Chinese poetry quoted by Inspector Chen¿Qiu has published two volumes of translated Chinese poetry in addition to his mysteries¿but I found them a nice bonus, adding a bit of beauty at the same time as they illuminated a feeling that Chen was trying to convey.This is definitely recommended.
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A police procedural set in Shanghai in 1990, Death of a Red Heroine has a rather mundane and straightforward plot which normally would not be enough to fill 484 pages. BUT the value of this book, and the very justifiable reason for its length, is the way the author has interwoven everyday life in china at the time, Chinese politics, some history, a wonderful selection of Chinese poetry from the song and Tang dynasties, references to Chinese classics such as The Dream of the Red Chamber, and a terrific up-close view of Shanghai, where most of the action takes place. The protagonist, Chief Inspector Chen Cao, is an earnest rather young man for his position; it is through him, a poet as well as a policeman, that we are introduced to ancient poetic couplets.Because of all the subtext, the book is really rich, a marvelous introduction to the post-Mao era in China, when the reforms of Deng Xiaoping which included a market rather than state economy, started a loosening of the rigid restrictions the Communist Party had imposed on everyday life. Through the characters, we get a good look at the damage done by the Cultural Revolution but also at the curious benefits it had as well¿not many, but they existed.There are many more such revelations in the book, for which a murder plot is a good excuse. After reading it, I am very much interested in delving into Chinese history¿and poetry, which normally would not grab me at all.The only drawback to the book is the writing style, which is very formal English in short, declarative sentences, for the most part. Intriguing is the lack of common contractions, for example.However, that¿s a minor flaw¿the book reads well and is extraordinarily informative in an entertaining way. This is the first book in a series, and I intend to read further.Highly recommended.
janeajones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The idea of reading a mystery novel over 400 pages long is not inherently appealing. I find that mysteries are usually brain candy -- the best for me reveal something about the local ecology or politics (hence I really like the "Florida weird" mystery writers -- Carl Hiassen, Randy Wayne White, Tim Dorsey). When I travel to a new destination, it's fun to pick up the local mystery writer to catch a flavor of the place.Now and then, a long mystery, like Eliot Patterson's Skull Mantra about contemporary Tibet, has drawn me into the cultural milieu and society -- eclipsing the murder that is being investigated.Death of a Red Heroine is such a novel. While the discovery of a female corpse in a remote canal in Saigon is the catalyst for the tale, the book is much more a portrait of life in China in the early 1990s, shortly after Tianamen. The murdered woman was a "national role-model worker," and hence the investigation takes on political overtones, especially when it is discovered she has ties to a prominent HCC -- High Cadre Child -- a photographer whose father was one of the founders of the Chinese Republic.Chief Detective Chen, head of Special Investigations, is in charge of the case. A poet, scholar of classical and contemporary literature, and a foodie connoisseur, he is an engaging protagonist.But the aspect of the novel that I found most interesting was the incredibly detailed life of ordinary people crowded into the booming metropolis of Saigon. Aspects of life, like local voluntary "spy patrols" that I found quite chilling, are regarded as ordinary and actually, beneficial, to the maintenance of social order.The mystery unfolds in a believable and interesting fashion, but it is the cultural portrait of this book that I found really intriguing.
smik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Two old friends who haven't met for twenty years go fishing in a canal and discover the body of a young woman, wrapped up in plastic.The case is taken on by Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police and his lieutenant Detective Yu Guangming.This is the first in Qiu Xialong's Inspector Chen series and so the author spends a little time introducing these characters to the reader, exploring the relationships between them. Chen was aware of Yu's acerbic undertone. His accelerated promotion was going to take some living down, not to mention his new apartment. A certain measure of antagonism was hardly surprising, especially from Detective Yu, who had entered the force earlier and had technical training and a police family background.Chen is an unusual policeman, a graduate in English literature, and a published poet. Chen had not intended to be a cop - not in his college years. He had been a published poet as well as a top student at Beijing Foreign Language Institute. He had his mind set on literary pursuits. Just one month before graduation, he had applied to an M.A. program in English and American literature, a decision his mother had approved, since Chen's father had been a well-known professor of the Neo-Confucian school. He was informed, however, that a promising job was waiting for him in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Chen and Yu are informed that the case has political implications and so they are not only to be advised by an older party cadre, and under the direct supervision of a party secretary, but from the beginning interference comes from their political superiors.They assemble irrefutable evidence that the person responsible for the murder is an HCC, the son of a well known older party cadre. Even at that stage attempts are made to deflect them. Both are assigned to new jobs. Both seem to be in real danger of losing their jobs.I found DEATH OF A RED HEROINE fascinating reading. It describes the political changes that Chinese society underwent first of all with the establishment of the Communist Revolution, and then with the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. At the time the novel is set, in the early 1990s, the winds of change are blowing again, and everything is justified in terms of "for the sake of the Party". Chen and Yu get frustrated because they can't always get on with their first concern, the bringing of a murderer to justice.DEATH OF A RED HEROINE is a novel you need to read patiently. Its path meanders a little, and the story is littered with references to Chinese literature, which for me didn't always add to the crime fiction aspects. You will see that I am "counting" this novel in the Historical Fiction Challenge. It is recognisably a "police procedural" too.
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On May 11, 1990, the body of a well-known national model worker is found in an out-of-the-way canal in Shanghai. Chief Inspector Chen Cao (a poet and translator in addition to being a detective) is called in to investigate. At first it looks as though this isn¿t a politically-motivated crime, but the case soon leads Chen and his partner, Yu, to suspect a well-known photographer and son of one of the old high-powered cadres.Death of a Red Heroine is a little bit outside the realm of mysteries I normally read. I¿m unfamiliar with the setting (1990 China), so the fact that the author intersperses bits of 20th century Chinese history into the story was a great help to me. I liked how the author managed to interweave history with fiction to create believable characters with believable motives, highlighting the fact that Chen is a victim of Party politics himself. I also liked how poetry is sprinkled into the story, but sometimes I felt as though it was a bit too much and added very little to the plot of the novel¿except to prove how well-read in Chinese and English literature everyone in the novel seems to be.However, Chen¿s interest in English and American literature makes him a standout among other fictional detectives, a three-dimensional character with interests outside of his work. Also interesting is his personal life¿his relationship with an old girlfriend from the past (sadly not well-developed) and his budding relationship with a young reporter.As a mystery, however, the book suffers from freshman syndrome. The plot is a little bit predictable, but I enjoyed how the story was wrapped up in the end. This is a solid, enjoyable mystery, and I¿m looking forward to seeing more character development in the other books in the series.
MillieHennessy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. The writing style is very different from American mysteries, and I enjoyed that. Chief Inspector Chen is investigating the murder of a political party member and it's interesting to see the pull between politics and doing what Chen believes is right. Chen is a character that grew on me. From the start he's very poetic, and the way he views the world around him is poetic too. Normally I'm not big on poetry, but there were a lot of nice quotes in this book, and Chen had a way of making them fit his life. The pace of the book was very relaxed, not a usual fast paced mystery. I liked that. There was a concentration on details and relationships and it was interesting to read about the changes that were affecting China in the 1990s. Like others have said, it wasn't really about finding out who the killer was, but the journey that Inspector Chen took, and the discoveries he made along the way, as well as his perserverance.
kewing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The late 1980s and early 1990s was a chaotic time in China and this mystery brings together several of the conflicting strands, not necessarily resolving all of them. Inspector Chen is a rising cadre of the Party, with "black" roots in the scholarly traditions of Confucian China--requiring a mastery of poetry, classical literature, contemporary politics and metaphor; but despite his dreams of being a scholar he's a chief inspector playing a dangerous political game investigating a murder involving the son of a high cadre and a young model worker, pornographic photography and blackmail. The story is a little slow moving, but the insights into party politics in China rings true. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of Shanghai and Beijing--reminding me of my stays in both places in 1989.
ElizabethChapman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Death of a Red Heroine is serviceable as a police procedural and brilliant as a look a people¿s lives during a period of enormous social upheaval. The main character, Chief Inspector Chen Cao, is head of the special case squad in the Homicide Division of the Shanghai Police Bureau in 1990. When the book opens, Chairman Mao has been dead for more than a decade, only a few years have passed since China¿s new leader Deng Xiaoping proclaimed ¿to get rich is glorious,¿ and the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square is still painfully fresh.Chen must investigate the murder of a young woman named Guan Hongying who was a ¿model worker,¿ a selfless citizen dedicated only to embodying the ideals of the Communist Party. As the investigation progresses, it becomes clear that Guan was leading a double life ¿ model worker by day and transgressive mistress to a vicious and dangerous married man by night.The strength of the novel lies not in uncovering the identity of the murderer (which is clear from early in the story), but in the fascinating portrait of China during the time it was beginning to open to the rest of the world, and was on the road to becoming a global super power. Chen and his generation are disillusioned by the corruption of the Communist regime, the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, and the repression of the Tiananmen incident, but uneasy about the rapid and massive economic and social changes that make their daily lives like a trip through Alice¿s Looking Glass. Death of a Red Heroine is filled with intriguing details, how you shop for dinner both at the state-run market (where prices are fixed to make delicacies available for everyone -- but you can't actually find those delicacies for sale), and the newly legitimized free market (where everything you can imagine is on the shelves, if you have the money buy it.) Men and women can dance together in public for the first time in decades. ¿Ordinary¿ people can get tickets to movies that only Party Members are supposed to see. The idea that the law applies equally to all people is gaining ground, but the State still has enormous power over what career you can follow and who you can and can¿t marry.Those who enjoy mysteries will find things to like in Death of a Red Heroine, but most of all I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the country that the US owes $850 billion (yes, billion with a ¿b¿) and what is was like for the people of China to shift from an inflexible Communist system to the economically bounteous--but still repressive--system of today.
crzyern on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My tastes tend to the more classical mysteries , and I veer away from procedurals as a rule. But there was something that captivated me when I picked this book up. I read a page or two, than a couple more and a couple more. Before I knew it even with a full days work I zipped through the book in 2 days. I enjoyed the main main character Chief Inspector Chen Cao and the supporting cast. As you have read in the other reviews of the book it paints a terrific picture of the post-Mao era in China.The constant undertow of politics splashing against every facet of Shangai life was a refreshing reminder of just how lucky we are in this country---no matter how bad off some peoples lives are . But the flow of the story was perfect , with very few suprises. but hey it is a procedural! Even thought Cao is a poet I could have lived with less of the poetry. Go read it it is worth it
sleuth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great characters and descriptions of Chinese culture and conditions as well an excellent police procedural. I would have given it 4 1/2 stars if I could.
Andrew_of_Dunedin More than 1 year ago
In my opinion, there are two main types of mysteries out there today. When I say the word “murder mystery”, most people's minds jump to the traditional “whodunnit”, in which the protagonist(s) attempt to discover who the killer is/are. In the other, popularized by the television series “Columbo”, the “howdunnit” makes little to no secret over who the villain is – the point of the novel is to watch as our protagonist puts the pieces together and attempts to prove that the antagonist is guilty despite their efforts to cover up their crime. In “Death of a Red Heroine”, author Qiu Xiaolong attempts to marry the two and put his own spin on it. The young woman found murdered outside of Shanghai turns out to be a Model Worker, someone who the Party has held up as someone whom the Chinese population should use as an example in their own lives. Inspector Chen faces his first big case in his new job. He has to figure out who the victim is – and then who killed her, and why. Meanwhile, two large questions hang overhead – is the person he has targeted as his prime suspect actually guilty (“whodunnit”) and will the Communist Party allow him to arrest his prime suspect if it turns out to be the correct action, given his position and status? (Add some angst in his personal life to keep him on his toes.) Having grown up in a capitalistic society, governed in accordance with those of a Republic and a Democracy, I was certainly interested in (in my opinion) the main character of this novel – The Communist Party of the People's Republic of China. EVERY decision, every action is either predicated on “What is in the best interests of the Party?” or “How will the Party react to this action?” (Sometimes augmented with “... if they find out.”) It's not an attitude I am used to, nor do I believe I could tolerate. However, it added a unique and interesting aspect to what would have been a decent, but unassuming novel. In my opinion, it's worth a try. Enjoy it. And I'll be looking forward to the second book in the series. RATING: 4 stars.
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Millie_Hennessy More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. The writing style is very different from American mysteries, and I enjoyed that. Chief Inspector Chen is investigating the murder of a political party member and it's interesting to see the pull between politics and doing what Chen believes is right. Chen is a character that grew on me. From the start he's very poetic, and the way he views the world around him is poetic too. Normally I'm not big on poetry, but there were a lot of nice quotes in this book, and Chen had a way of making them fit his life. The pace of the book was very relaxed, not a usual fast paced mystery. I liked that. There was a concentration on details and relationships and it was interesting to read about the changes that were affecting China in the 1990s. Like others have said, it wasn't really about finding out who the killer was, but the journey that Inspector Chen took, and the discoveries he made along the way, as well as his perserverance.
bejtenorio More than 1 year ago
'90s in Shanghai. I like the main character, a true comrade gentleman, honest and hard working. Seems to be very predictable, but still the setting and the characters made it an entertaining read. I look forward reading the next in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
IsisCB More than 1 year ago
If you like would like to learn about modern day Shanghai; get glimpses of the Cultural Revolution in an interesting, history brought alive kind of way; enjoy detective series; and want to read about a intelligent, moral, detective who always tries to do right while balancing the need to be a filial son to his mother and the "good or best interests of the party," these are a great series. Start with this one, the first, and keep reading. I did find this book a little long (it was a lot of pages), but it provided an interesting glimpse of a "model worker" a beautiful young lady who seems to have it all - respect, admiration, fame but is murdered and it is up to Detective Chen to solve the case. I actually started with one of the latest Detective Chen books, "The Mao Case" that I found in the New release section of the library. I enjoyed it so much, that I started with this book, so I could read the entire series. These books are great for learning more about the Chinese culture, history, poetry, and are just great escape books. Inspector Chen is the kind of person who you would want as a friend. I visited Shanghai and China three years ago, so it great reading more about it and remembering some of the sights.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Life in the nineties' Shanghai is revealed through the eyes of a poetic minded detective. The prose flows effortlessly as it pulls us into the story, giving non-Chinese a better understanding of what it's like to live and work in contemporary China.