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Death of a Red Heroine
By Qiu Xiaolong

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Death of a Red Heroine

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Death of a Red Heroine
By Qiu Xiaolong
Wheeler Publishing - Large Print Edition (2006)
ISBN: 1-59722-208-9
Genre: Mystery

Reviewed by Sheldon Ztvordokov - May 29, 2006

Set in modern day Shanghai, Death of a Red Heroine is a unique police procedural that finds Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Department hot on the trail of a murderer. A member of the Homicide Division of the Special Cases Bureau, Cao's job is hampered by having to wade through a multi layered bureaucracy while also treading through political mine fields of Communist China that could spell his doom at any moment. The victim in this case is Guan Hongying, a National Model Worker, which makes this case politically sensitive.

Death of a Red Heroine is the first book in Qiu Xiaolong's Inspector Chen series, and it offers a solid mystery that is infused with the essence of modern China's political, social, and cultural traits. Large doses of history relating to the Cultural Revolution are also integral to the story line. Western readers will find this book exotic and compelling. As well, the book's insights into modern China are both exciting and informative.

Setting and politics aside, Xiaolong has written a fine, solid mystery. His characters are multi-dimensional (Chen is a poet and English translator) and very human. Inspector Chen, along with his partner, Detective Yu, ferret out every secret hidden in Guan's past, and from the telling tidbits of information they uncover not only flesh out the life of this model Communist Party member, but also the details surrounding her death.

The story is filled with twists and turns that will keep you guessing about the book's outcome. Xiaolong's dialog is staid at times, but this is a minor drawback to an otherwise fascinating book. Throughout, the juxtaposition of a solid murder mystery with social commentary on modern day China makes this book a refreshingly unique and riveting addition to the genre of police procedurals.

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