August 30, 2013

Book Review: Enigma of China by Qiu Xiaolong

Enigma of China is the eighth novel starring Chief Inspector Chen Cao, the Shanghai investigator who wanted to be a poet as a youth but was assigned by Communist officials to the police squad. It begins with Zhou Keng, the corrupt head of the Shanghai Housing Development Committee, found dead in his hotel room. The Communist Party quickly determines Zhou's death was a suicide, and Chen is expected to sign off on that--instead, he and his colleague Inspector Wei begin a quiet investigation.

Nothing much is uncovered until a beautiful young reporter brings Chen some enlightening information, and Wei is the victim of a hit and run. Wei's death confirms Chen's suspicions about Zhou, and he and the reporter start poking further into Zhou's secrets. But those secrets reflect badly on the Party, and the Party's image must be maintained at all costs. The lie of equality, in the face of the obvious extravagance of top Party officials, is preposterous, but Chen is expected to uphold it. And certain Party officials emphatically disapprove of Chen's recalcitrance about the investigation.

Chen's poetical musings about the world around him add a philosophical bent to this look at death and corruption in modern China. Qui Xiaolong brings the suspicious nature of the Communist state to vivid life, clearly showing how much control the government holds over the Internet and every aspect of Chinese life. Fans of introspective mysteries won't want to miss Enigma of China.

I haven't read much fiction set in China, so I really enjoyed Chen's poetic musings and the look at modern culture in Shanghai. It's crazy how complicated the Communist/ Capitalist culture is.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Sure.

Have you read much Chinese fiction?

I originally wrote this review for Shelf Awareness. If you haven't already, you should sign up for the newsletter! The cover image is an affiliate link.