The Murder of Mr. Ma

The Murder of Mr. Ma

The Murder of Mr. Ma

The Murder of Mr. Ma


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For fans of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes films, this stunning, swashbuckling series opener by a powerhouse duo of authors is at once comfortingly familiar and tantalizingly new.

Two unlikely allies race through the cobbled streets of 1920s London in search of a killer targeting Chinese immigrants.

London, 1924. When shy academic Lao She meets larger-than-life Judge Dee Ren Jie, his quiet life abruptly turns from books and lectures to daring chases and narrow escapes. Dee has come to London to investigate the murder of a man he’d known during World War I when serving with the Chinese Labour Corps. No sooner has Dee interviewed the grieving widow than another dead body turns up. Then another. All stabbed to death with a butterfly sword. Will Dee and Lao be able to connect the threads of the murders—or are they next in line as victims?

Blending traditional gong’an crime fiction with the most iconic aspects of the Sherlock Holmes canon, Dee and Lao’s first adventure is as thrilling and visual as an action film, as imaginative and transportive as a timeless classic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781641295499
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/02/2024
Pages: 312
Sales rank: 46,315
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

John Shen Yen Nee is a half Chinese, half Scottish American media executive, producer and entrepreneur who was born in Knoxville, grew up in San Diego, and is now based in Los Angeles, with a penchant for very long run-on sentences. He has served as president of WildStorm Productions; senior vice president of DC Comics; publisher of Marvel Comics; CEO of Cryptozoic Entertainment; and cofounder of CCG Labs. You can read more about him at 

SJ Rozan is the best-selling author of twenty novels and over eighty short stories, and editor of three anthologies. Her multiple awards include the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Nero, Macavity; Japanese Maltese Falcon; and the Private Eye Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award. She’s served on the national boards of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and as president of Private Eye Writers of America. She was born in the Bronx and lives in Manhattan.

Read an Excerpt

London, 1924

Leaning on an iron railing, I took in the sights and sounds of a Hyde Park spring afternoon. Yellow daffodils splashed the borders of the emerald lawn, on which picnickers sat on plaid blankets. Threading among them, giggling children chased yipping dogs. The late sun lent everything a generous honey glow.
     At Speaker’s Corner the Union Jack billowed in the breeze, lofted by Conservatives fixed on squelching Socialists by means of shouted slogans: “Traitors will destroy England!” and suchlike. The Socialists, stationed beside them, waved red banners and roared, “Down with Capitalism!” Young women in severe suits—and more than one in trousers—held placards demanding the full franchise, not the limited version currently on offer. Others who saw salvation in trade unions, the squelching of trade unions, Indian independence, opposition to Indian independence, the Catholic Church, atheism, the Liberal Party, or an end to the consumption of alcohol pressed their causes, while uniformed men and women banged drums and sang hymns in an enthusiastic effort toward the salvation of souls.
     Ah, the British. Often wrong, but never without opinions and the zeal to express them. Possibly, I thought, as I turned to walk to my lodgings, we Chinese could take a lesson from them; though if so, I could not for the life of me discern what it might be.
     As I approached the little house near the British Museum, my heart began to beat with the usual mixture of anticipation and trepidation. These two emotions shared a common source: the possibility of encountering Miss Mary Wendell.
     Miss Wendell, the daughter of my landlady, was quite the most attractive creature I had ever laid eyes on. A gleaming golden bob framed her lively, rose-cheeked face; her blue eyes glowed with merriment and her movements were quick and graceful. From the moment we met she sparked such ardor in my soul as I had never anticipated finding in England.
     The fervor of that moment, however, had not been mutual. When I first came to lodge with the Wendells, Mary shared her mother’s disdain for the Chinese and would barely speak to me. I could hardly blame the ladies, for their heads were filled with the slant-eyed, long-nailed images of yellow-skinned horror perpetuated by pulp magazines, cheap stage shows, and moving pictures. It was only through the exhortations of the Reverend Robert Evans, a man of the church known to both myself and the Wendells, that the widow Wendell agreed to let me the attic rooms in the name of Christian charity.
     In the months that I had been living there, I believed my comportment had caused the Wendell ladies’ idea of the Chinese to reverse. Mrs. Wendell and I had become good friends, and Mary now smiled and winked as she rushed off to her work at a millinery shop or her worship at St. George’s, Bloomsbury. I had not yet spoken to Mary about my true feelings for her, thinking the time not quite right. But I had hopes, as I stepped into the entry hall that afternoon, of her glowing smile and perhaps a brief but warm conversation.
     However, such was not to be.
     “Lao She!” came the voice of Mrs. Wendell. The barking of Napoleon, her little dog, joined in. I hung my bowler hat above the mirror and entered the drawing room, where I found my landlady in conversation with a red-headed young man in chauffeur’s livery. The young man jumped up when I walked in.
     “Lao She,” said Mrs. Wendell, frowning, “this young man has come to fetch you. He says it’s urgent. I trust you’re not in trouble?”
     “As far as I know, I am not,” I replied. “How can I help you, young man?”
     “I went to your office at the university, sir, but I was told you’d gone.” Here was a working-class Britisher calling a Chinese “sir.” I blinked.
     “Yes,” I said, “the spring holidays have begun.” For which I could not deny I was thankful. Attempting to teach the Chinese language to people whose need to learn it far outstripped their interest in doing so was wearying. I was looking forward to some quiet weeks of work on a novel, for which an idea had yet to come to me; but I had hope.
     “I telephoned my employer,” the young chauffeur continued, “and was instructed to wait for you here. With the lady’s permission, of course.” He nodded at Mrs. Wendell. “He asks that you come at once.”
     “Who might your employer be, who is so anxious to see me?”
     “The Honorable Bertrand Russell, sir.”
     “Bertrand Russell?” Hearing my voice hit a few notes above its usual tenor, I swallowed and said, “The Honorable Bertrand Russell has sent for me?”
     “If you’ll please come at once, sir.”
     “Mrs. Wendell,” I said, befuddled but delighted, “I’m going out again.”
     As I walked once more into the entry hall to fetch my hat, Mrs. Wendell’s face reinstated its accustomed satisfied aspect. She patted Napoleon’s head and smiled, probably as pleased as I was, though for different reasons, that her lodger had been summoned to the presence of the Honorable Bertrand Russell: mathematician, philosopher, liberal thinker, great friend of China, and—to Mrs. Wendell’s mind possibly most important—the second son of an earl.
     Stepping out of one’s door in Peking, one was swept into a whirlpool of people, hurrying this way and that, on foot, in rickshaws or sedan chairs, or, for the moneyed, in carriages pulled by horses. The occasional motorcar inspired awe and a frisson of fear, for these machines were solely in the possession of diplomats, aristocrats, the powerful, and wealthy.
     In the streets of London, however, the automobile, already on the increase before the war, now reigned supreme. Pedestrians were relegated to pavements on the edges, while horses shied and barrow-men cowered as lorries, buses, taxicabs, and indeed, the motorcars of private citizens surged past with a great grumbling of engines and bleating of horns.
     In the time I had been in London I had not managed to develop an expertise in motorcars, except to be able to differentiate those of quality from the second-rate. The automobile into which the chauffeur urged me was a Morris Oxford, as befit a gentleman of Mr. Bertrand Russell’s station—an excellent machine and not at all ostentatious. It hummed with quiet confidence as we made our rapid circuit of the London streets. I tried to appear to anyone gazing in the window as though I quite belonged.
     We stopped in front of a dignified West End home of yellow brick and white limestone. The young chauffeur hurried to open my door, and then led me to the threshold of the house. As he pressed the bell my heart pounded almost as it had when I’d arrived at my lodgings. The Honorable Bertrand Russell, wishing to speak to me! I’d hoped to encounter Mr. Russell at some point during my London sojourn, for I felt we had much to discuss. His writings had made clear that in his opinion China’s troubles were not of China’s making, but caused by those countries besetting us, each to further its own ends. England was not innocent in this regard, and I was eager to exchange views with Mr. Russell on a multitude of related subjects.
     Once again, however, what I was hoping for was not to be.
     The chauffeur’s ring was answered by a butler, bald as a billiard ball. I presented my visiting card. The butler placed it on a silver tray while the chauffeur retired to his automobile. I was shown into a carpeted sitting room. By the room’s stone fireplace a tall silver-haired man was pacing. “Sir,” intoned the butler. “Mr. Lao She.”
     The tall man rushed across the room to shake my hand. “Lao She!” said he. “Bertrand Russell. I’m glad to make your acquaintance. Many times since I learned you’d arrived at the university I’ve thought to have you here, but one thing or another always interfered.”
     “I understand, of course, sir. I’m thrilled to meet you. I’ve read your books and I look forward to discussing China with you, and so much more.”
     “Yes, well, I look forward to those discussions also, but I’m afraid they’ll have to wait for another day. Right now there isn’t time. The plain fact is, I asked you here not so much to speak with you, Lao She, as to have you arrested.”

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