Saturday, 10 December 2016




Review of Death of a Red Heroine

This book by Qiu Xiaolong has received a slew of recognition and is also a BBC Radio show, so was really looking forward to reading it.

Set in post Tiananmen Square, Shanghai; it follows the main protagonist Inspector Chen in his bid to solve the mystery behind the murder of a ‘National Model Party Worker’…. whose naked body was found floating in a canal.
The character of Inspector Chen is quite contrary to the typical Inspectors you find in western fiction. He is not the broody, dysfunctional loner, whom the system in constantly trying to put down. Chen is a product of the system and by the system. He is the favored one, getting a house allocated earlier, fast track promotions etc. He does not flaunt it but he does enjoy his privileges despite some sporadic, half-hearted soul searching. It was an interesting take.

As a detective mystery it scored very low for me, however as an eminently readable book it was right up there. The suspense didn’t quite build up, maybe because the detective kept spouting poetry in between (good verse at that). Halfway through the book you had a very good idea as to who the murderer was and the rest of the book was just spent in getting the case built against him and dodging party politics. The book is more about Shanghai and society at that time: relationships within the party and outside it. Life for the ordinary Chinese citizen, families and the mundane; love lost and gained. That is why I say it is an eminently readable book. It moved slowly for me but not a boring slowly but rather a beautiful ride in a horse drawn carriage which relaxes you and draws you into all the scenery you are passing. There were a lot of descriptions and explanations and a lot of poetry (which might be a downer for some people) but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it all. There were so many interesting vignettes’ of Chinese life which I had absolutely no idea of and such interesting phrases.

So if you are looking for a book that has some insightful descriptions and is partly pan-historical (China 25 plus years ago) and partly realistic fiction, then go for this. If you are looking for a nail biting detective mystery, this is not for you.



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