About This Blog

I am always in search of a good book, which is getting harder to find these days. My taste is ecclectic though it leans toward books that take me places I've never been.

Through the books I've read during the past few months, I've been to China, Spain, Ireland, India, Afghanistan, Chile, Japan, The Philippines, and many other exotic places. I've lived the lives of a boy soldier in Africa, a Shanghai detective, a foreign intern in Spain, a famous geisha, a precocious boy in Ireland, and a college student in a circus train.

My reviews will not reveal the plot but it will give you a general idea of the storyline and the flavor of the narrative.

I make it a point to only post reviews on the good books I've read, whether from a small or big publisher, those that merit a four or a five stars. In this way, I can point my readers toward a new and exciting place on a journey they may otherwise not have taken.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review: Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong

I mentioned in my profile that I like books that take me to places.  If you are a mystery aficionado and like to be taken to China, this is the book for you.  Qiu Xialong's Death of a Red Heroine takes the reader to mid-1990s Shanghai, a time when the country is just getting into its capitalist binge.  The protagonist is Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau, Special Case Branch, which essentially means he is in charge of politically sensitive cases.  Aside from being a detective, the protagonist is also a poet, a translator of English mystery novels, and a gourmand.  When a woman labeled as The Red Heroine (a role model citizen for the Party) is found floating in a Shanghai canal, Inspector Chen is called to investigate the murder.  His investigation takes him to sensitive areas of government pitting him and his partner Guangming against the new and powerful capitalist cadre in China. 

What I like about this book is the accurate portrayal of the ridiculous bureaucracy created by the all-powerful and seemingly schizophrenic Party, which seems to have one foot in capitalism and the other foot firmly planted in communism.  Inspector Chen has to go through hoops and countless political barricades just to get simple things done.   I loved walking in the busy Shanghai streets with its food stalls and markets and crowded shikumen houses.  The scents and descriptions of exotic Chinese food pervading the novel only add to the sense of being there. I mean, how can one not salivate at the mention of a hot and sour pork soup bun or braised cock's comb with tofu and scallions or guangdong roast duck on pan fried noodle?

I give this book five stars.


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