Thursday, October 1, 2015

Shanghai Redemption by Qiu Xiaolong

First Sentence: April is a cruel month, if not the cruelest.

Chen Cao, on an upward track within the Shanghai Police Department and the Communist Party, has been “promoted” to a position with no power and few responsibilities. He suspects, but can’t prove, that he’s being set up for disgrace. Technically, Chen is in charge of a corruption case against a powerful Party figure. But just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not following you.

There are many reasons to read a book by Qiu Xiaolong, but one is how much one learns about a place, history, culture and people many of us will never visit. What’s even better is when the author has a style and voice that brings it all to live and makes us feel as though we are there. Even the occasional awkwardness of the dialogue remind us that this is not a translation, but written by someone for whom Chinese his first language, which simply reinforces the sense of place.

The literary and poetry quotations interspersed within the story, along with descriptions of meals “…crispy fried green onions and shredded port. Qiun ordered plain noodles with peeled shrimp friend with Dragon Well tea leaves, in across-the-bridge style.”...further add to a very clear sense of place and culture. Xiaolong also makes us stop and consider…”To do nothing, it says in the Taoist classic “Dao De Jing,” makes it possible for one to do everything. Chen wanted to make his enemy believe that he was doing nothing, thereby allowing him to do whatever was necessary while they weren’t watching.”

Whilst some in this country may complain about government surveillance, Qui makes it very clear as to what it is like living under a one-party system where surveillance is everywhere and in every form. He also makes learning about Chinese history and tradition fascinating, including that of the ernai, who are similar to concubines but hold a different status and relationship.

Chen is a wonderful character. He is ethical, moral and loyal to his family and friends. He immediately protects someone who is innocent

Just when one thinks Chen truly is paranoid and we are all being led astray, there is a powerful twist that ratchets up the suspense.

Shanghai Redemption” is an engrossing book which should be savoured.  It begins slowly but builds to be a fast-action read. The ending is very satisfactory and yet elicits an intriguing sense of future uncertainty for Chen, which is always fun.

SHANGHAI REDEMPTION (Lic. Invest-Chen Cao-China-Contemp) - VG
Xiaolong, Qiu – 9th in series
Minotaur Books – Sept 2015

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