The list of overlooked clues could go on and on — but eventually they realise them and discover their suspect at around the halfway point. The rest of the book is mostly trying to prove that hedunit and working on discovering the motive against some half-hearted pressure to stop from higher up. What really irritated me though was the way the female characters were presented. In part this is of course deliberate — the investigation unearths an underworld of misogyny, 'western bourgeois decadence', sexual blackmail, and both sexual and emotional abuse.
Stop it, stop it, stop it. The scene where Chen first meets his love interest is just terrible. Like, my embarrassment at tripping should be directly tied to whether the guy who helps me out finds me attractive? Again: yuck. In part it is just a reflection of the time, I can aknowledge that, and that would actually have been interesting to explore. Which, as I started off saying, all contributes to me not feeling very much in the way of interest in Chief Inspector Chen. But his constant poetical digressions slow an already slow book down and did nothing for me, and he seemed almost completely disinterested in the case despite the narration frequently trying to convince me that it had taken over his life.
And a disinterested detective makes for a disinterested reader. Perhaps a lot of what I disliked can be ascribed to first-novel-nerves and the concept, if not always the execution, was very interesting. Now that the setting's been established he might start focussing more on the story. View 1 comment.
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Apr 10, Sourojit Das rated it really liked it. A nice well-balanced read about a police investigation in China. Subtly criticising the one-party rule and everything that it stands for. Original treatment and a keen sense of day to day life inside the bamboo curtain makes this book a nice read. I came for the mystery. Stayed for the history. Death of a Red Heroine is at once a detective story and the story of China's changes that took place in the early s.
From what I understand the author wanted to explore the changes as capitalism began to creep into socialist China and felt that a detective novel was the best way to get it across. Qui said a cop walks around, talks to people, and considers the context in which the murder occurred. If you're expecting a straight up det I came for the mystery. If you're expecting a straight up detective novel, this isn't it. Because of the history lessons Qui inserted throughout the story, it is sometimes slow, and catching the killer who is identified early on takes time.
That doesn't make it uninteresting. Sprinkled throughout the story are lessons in Chinese history, government, poetry, and literature. The author, like his main character, is a poet and translator. Because of this, we're treated to some lovely Chinese poetry throughout the novel - both ancient and modern poetry. We also learn a good deal about Chinese novels, the ones children grow up reading and the ones all college students study. This is something that as an American, I know little about and I appreciated the lessons I got from the story. As for the story itself, a young National Model Worker is found murdered.
At first I thought that meant she was a model, but apparently she's a model - worker. One that other workers should look up to. Chief Inspector Chen and his sergeant? Some things are universal. They transcend time, political systems, countries, and cultures. Powerful people can sometimes literally get away with murder. Children of powerful people enjoy a privilege that children of "regular" people do not.
Politics at work can prevent honest people from doing their jobs properly. When these truths are added to a country that is rapidly changing - whether for better or worse depends on who you ask - it makes for an interesting story.
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Chief Inspector Chen only wants to solve the murder of a young woman. Who his investigation leads to doesn't matter to him as long as it leads to the killer.
That is, until higher ups intervene and make his job almost impossible. The difference between how this would play out in a democracy and how it plays out in Communist China is striking. There is so much at stake if he continues trying to solve the case. And yet he continues. The case gets solved though they shut Chen out of the final investigation and the trial is quick and deadly. At least Chen is satisfied that a killer didn't go free, and especially not because of his family connections.
He and his second in command grow closer as each realizes the other is a truly honest cop. And Chen's mother, who isn't really thrilled with his choice of profession, is proud of her only son. If the others are as slow as this one, I will read them now and then. This is a book of two parts, completely separate and wonderfully woven together.
Set in the early '90s just after the infamous Tiananmen Square protests of '89 at a time of change for The Chinese Communist Party. Chen finds he is fighting not only to find the killer, but fighting against his peers and The Party. Strangely, This is a book of two parts, completely separate and wonderfully woven together.
Strangely, the story was for me at least almost inconsequential. What grabbed me was the way the author captured life in Shanghai, from the mobile food vendors sardine-like housing to the sense of foreboding at saying doing the wrong thing in the eyes of The Party. I picked this as part of a A to Z author challenge and had never heard of him before. I now look forward to reading more of his work.
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Murder in Shanghai When the body of a young woman is found in a canal, Inspector Chen of the Special Cases unit decides to take on the case, initially simply because his subordinate, Detective Yu, was the only detective available to attend the crime scene. But, once the body is identified — in itself no easy task in a country as huge and populous as China — it transpires the victim is Guan Hongying, a national model worker: a title that denotes membership of the Communist Party and a position as Murder in Shanghai But, once the body is identified — in itself no easy task in a country as huge and populous as China — it transpires the victim is Guan Hongying, a national model worker: a title that denotes membership of the Communist Party and a position as a figurehead and public role model for workers.
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Qiu Xiaolong is Chinese, but left the country following the Tiananmen Square protests, and now lives in America. He writes in English, and as well as being a novelist, he is a poet, a translator and a literary critic.
As an insider, his depiction of Shanghai and the lives of the people there in the s is fascinating and detailed, describing food, clothing, customs and the rapidly changing face of Chinese life at a point where capitalism was beginning to be encouraged after years of strict communism, but where the state still had a stranglehold on every aspect of life.
As an outsider, he is quite clearly writing for a Western audience, explaining things that would need no explanation for a Chinese readership, and one has to bear in mind that he is to some degree a dissident, and therefore by definition not an uncritical admirer of the political regime in force in China at that point in time. However, I felt that he gave a surprisingly balanced picture of the regime, resisting the temptation to make it seem even more repressive than it actually was, and giving credit for some of the positive aspects of it.
He also shows that many, perhaps most, people support the regime, even though they grumble about some of the difficulties and inequalities that exist within it. I thought it was a wise decision too to set the book back in , just at the time that he left Shanghai for the West, so that the city he is describing is still the one he knew rather than a researched version of the present.
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The plot takes us deep into the culture of Party privilege, and casts a great deal of light on how the current society has developed and changed during the long years of upheaval that have marked the various stages of the Chinese revolution. I enjoyed this as a crime novel, but even more as a fascinating insider depiction of China at a turning point in its political journey, and as a revealing portrait of the lives of the people of Shanghai.
I look forward to reading more in the series. Apr 13, Maddy rated it it was amazing Shelves: reads. Death of a Red Heroine is an unusual and rather extraordinary book set in Shanghai, China, in the s. A police officer and his friend are ostensibly patrolling the Suzhou River.
In reality, they are meeting each other for the first time in 20 years and fishing off the boat. However, their reunion is marred by the discovery of a dead body.
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What transpires is an investigation that exposes us to the culture and societal norms of a place that is quite unknown to most people in the Western hemisph Death of a Red Heroine is an unusual and rather extraordinary book set in Shanghai, China, in the s. What transpires is an investigation that exposes us to the culture and societal norms of a place that is quite unknown to most people in the Western hemisphere.
Chen is unusual in a few respects. First of all, he has been on the fast track in the department. Since he has been sponsored by an influential politician, he has risen in the ranks far more quickly than is normal and there is some resentment in the department because of that. In addition, Chen is an accomplished poet. His poems and those of other Chinese writers are scattered through the book, lending it a literary overlay that elevates a standard mystery. As the investigation proceeds, Chen painstakingly builds the case against the most likely suspect.
However, he is unable to arrest the person in question because he is a High Cadre Child, the son of a person high in the political system. These people are basically untouchable due to their position in society. The victim also presents an interesting mass of contradictions. But there is more to her than meets the eye. Throughout the book, Chen has to balance the need for finding the truth with the political needs of the Party.
As the narrative unfolds, the reader is exposed to a way of life that Westerners would find most repressive. The 90s of Shanghai are quite different from the 90s of the Western world. Individuals have very little freedom in their lives. Housing is assigned by work units based on an annual housing quota.
Families of two or three generations are squeezed into one single room of 12 square meters. Many of these lifestyle events grew out of the Chairman Mao regime, when educated youths Red Guards were sent to the countryside to be reeducated by the lower and middle-poor peasants. Upon their release from the program, they were assigned to jobs not of their own choosing. In many cases, a husband and wife might work at locations that are hours apart from one another.