I read this for a challenge to read the alphabet and this is X for Xiaolong because that’s what he is in Wikipedia. He’s lived in the US since 1989 and by his Wiki article is a pretty interesting guy. Also, the book is better and more than I expected.
Death of a Red Heroine
by Qui Xiaolong
(Debut novel and #1 in the Inspector Chen series)
Qui Xiaolong, the author, has lived in the US since 1989, the year of the Tiananmen Square protests. He was in the US anyway, studying literature, so he simply didn’t go back until it was safe and then it was as a visitor. Instead he had his wife and child move here. It took ten years but when he published his first book, this one, Death of a Red Heroine, it was well received and won some awards.
In 1990, the year after the uprising in Tiananmen Square per the book, the body of a young woman is found in a canal near Shanghai. She’s been there almost a full day. The victim turns out to be Guan Hongying,“the National Model Worker” for her adherence to Communist principles. The case is assigned to the Special Cases Squad, specifically to police detective Chief Inspector Chen Cao and his partner, Yu Guangming. Yu is a poet at heart with a degree in literature.
Chen thought he might become a diplomat, but his grandfather got in trouble with the Party so he found employment in police work. (These backgrounds almost mirror his protagonists.)
Although it’s not going to be on my best of year list, unless I create a special category, the book is notable for its depiction of life in China from the Cultural Revolution on, especially 21st century. Xiaolong found that a crime novel worked nicely with what he wanted to do in a novel. With his background in literature there are some literary-style connections, allusions or outright references to other works both Chinese and English, some literary theory thrown around, etc. But it works very nicely as a detective novel and it’s fun.
It seems that the son of a highly placed government official is involved in the death of the young woman and as the investigation goes on there are many women who are victims of this man and others in some way.