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The Mao Case: An Inspector Chen Novel Hardcover – Mar 3 2009

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CDN$ 35.54 CDN$ 0.04 First Novel Award - 6 Canadian Novels Make the Shortlist

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (March 3 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031253874X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312538743
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 2.9 x 24.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,244,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Qiu's deftly paced suspense keeps the reader flipping pages..." --Publisher's Weekly
"No one writes about modern China...the way the sensitivity and caring of this author.  For all mystery collections." --Library Journal (starred review)
"Stylistically cadenced and charmingly mannered...very clever." --Winnipeg Free Press
"Full, as always, of crisp detail and vivid atmospherics..." --Booklist

About the Author

QIU XIAOLONG is a poet, professor and author. He is the author of books of poetry and poetry translations, as well as previous books in the award-winning series of novels featuring Inspector Chen. Born and raised in Shanghai, he now lives with his family in St. Louis, Missouri.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 34 reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
This may be the series best since the first book, DEATH OF A RED HEROINE March 15 2009
By Bobby D. - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have now read in order Xiaolong's entire Detective Chen series. THE MAO CASE may be the series best since the first book, DEATH OF A RED HEROINE which still remains for me the series best. My complaint with the series as it has progressed is that the characters personal lives have not grown. Chen's character has developed to a degree but he still seems frozen in time and in his position as the poetry loving police inspector who has put career over his personal life. The various cases or story lines in each volume seem to take president over the on going development of each character. I for one don't read the books because of the particular case or to find out who done it, but for the setting (China in the 1990s as it turns to capitalism) and characters response to these changes. I thing one handicap is that Xiaolong is only a serviceable writer. His paragraph's and dialog are simple, short and without much descriptive or visual depth. He services the plot more than he is able to embellish it. One often asks if he is just going through the motions now? In the MAO CASE we do see some improvement and get some interesting insights into the Cultural Revolution and it's on going impact on the Chinese population and politics of the 90s as well as some personal information on Chairman Mao. This gets this volume some depth and interest that the first book had. This volume also allows us to enjoy having some of the other major characters involved in the case in some inventive ways although I can not say they have progressed very far in their lives. So overall this is a fast fun read which I recognize it's not great literature and may also be an acquired taste. I personally will continue to look forward to the next Chen book. I have mentioned in my prior reviews of the Chen series that my tastes as a reader are not for mysteries and that this is the only series I have read.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Poetic cop in pursuit of Mao March 8 2009
By Patto - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Every Chen mystery is a feast of impressions of the wacky world of present-day China, with its Big Bucks, little secretaries, gangsters - and the scarred survivors of the Cultural Revolution. This book adds to the mix an exploration of the unsavory personal life of Chairman Mao.

Inspector Chen is on the trail of some Mao materials that mighty prove embarrassing to the Party. Three beautiful women, dead and alive, stand between Chen and the solution.

A handsome intellectual with Confucian ethics, Chen has a princely quality that makes him good company in every adventure. When stalled, he ponders snippets of haunting poetry that sometimes prove oddly useful in solving the case.

Some might say there are too many contrivances and coincidences in the plotting of this book, but I'm so enamored of Qiu Xiaolong's writing, I looked the other way.

I recommend reading the whole series, starting with Death of a Red Heroine, to get the full flavor of Chen's character. Every book in the series is delightful.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
excellent Chinese police procedural March 8 2009
By Harriet Klausner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Beijing leadership is concerned with the sudden appearance of wealth by a seemingly impoverished young artist living well above her means. Normally no one would think twice of Jiao's affluence, but she is the granddaughter of Xie, a film star who Chairman Mao personally liked; additionally Jiao's mother died during the Cultural Revolution cleansing. Needing expeditious subtly to determine if the painter is peddling "Mao material" five decades old that could embarrass the Party and China, the brass hand the Top Secret case to Shanghai Police Department's Special Case Chief Inspector Chen Cao; known for his success, speed and especially discretion.

Chen begins with the mother whose life was explored in a bestseller. Using Cloud and Rain as access, Chen goes undercover pretending to be an author conducting research into a historical novel. This enables him to meet Jiao and her friends at the still alive Xie's run down home. There the older woman hosts a group who cherishes the pre-Communist culture until murder leave Chen suspecting grandmother and or granddaughter as the killer(s) especially their shared convenient alibi.

The sixth Chen Chinese police procedural (see WHEN RED IS BLACK and RED MANDARIN DRESS) contains a strong investigation, but it is the profound look at the early Mao days in comparison to modern day China that brings the uniqueness to the story line. Chen is at his best with his asides about brass, bureaucrats, and bull as he diligently works the "Mao material" inquiry that turns into a homicide; he is more comfortable with the latter as the former is loaded with pompous interference. Mindful of the Bush Administration concealing Korean War Era documents that have been declassified for years and open to the public in the government archives, fans of the Shanghai inspector will enjoy his latest case as a reluctant Chen knows the penalty of dealing with anything Maoist even decades old.

Harriet Klausner
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Chinese Puzzle May 11 2009
By Ted Feit - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It is always difficult to decide which is more valuable when reading an Inspector Chen novel: the mystery plot itself, or the poetic and cultural references incorporated in therein. Each element is a gem in and of itself. In this latest effort in the series, the poetry (and love life) of Chairman Mao contributes highly to the story.

Once again the party calls on the Chief Inspector to solve a politically sensitive case. It appears that some artifact or other valuable document may have been given by Mao to a Shanghai actress who probably was one of his many mistresses. The item was never found, but is suspected to be in the possession of the woman's granddaughter. It is not known whether its discovery would prove embarrassing to the Party of Mao, and Internal Security is chomping at the bit to apply hard tactics to find it.

Chen, on the other hand, goes about the task like the cop he is, not to mention his other talents as a poet and professional writer, checking and quoting poems and literature in an effort to reach a satisfactory conclusion to what he dubs "the Mao Case." Each Chen mystery is a delight to read, filled with all sorts of charming quotations, proverbs and bits of Chinese culture and history. The present novel is no exception, and it is highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Mao's Deadly Reach Nov. 7 2009
By A. S. Rogers - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chief Inspector Chen investigates the possibility that artifacts remaining from Mao's sordid private life with a lovely movie star--Shang--could surface and embarrass Beijing. He focuses on the tragic lives of Shang, a suicide; her daughter Qian, also dying young; and her granddaughter Jiao, implicated in this plot to profit from exposing Mao's dalliance. Poetic language for sex, including "cloud and rain," "silk stockings soaked with dewdrops," and "plum blossom," contrast in Chen's mind with with Mao's harsh imperial rule, "surrounded by the enemy I stand firm and invincible," "the master controlling...", and "a hurricane comes." The story, steeped in melancholy, weighed down by details of Mao's relentless command and emotional brutality, ends realistically with "the sun sinking in

Qiu Xiaolong expresses a Chinese sensibility in Chen, looking for the blank space in a scroll as well as the landscape. His task here is politically dangerous on all sides. His quest exposes the personal tragedies of Mao's Cultural Revolution and the current gulf between rich and poor in Shanghai, both revealing individual agonies invisible to those ruling inside the Forbidden City. The idealistic poet inside himself becomes a supportive character to his primary cop character, his assigned social duty. He tries to succeed for the Party and himself, which means he abandons his love for high-born Ling. The old men he deals with, the rich friends, the poor police couple, the nostalgic party-goers, the delicate and beautiful young artists, all try to form a life on the wrecked remnants of lives Mao has left them.

I loved the history so thoughtfully knit throughout the book, personal stories new to me. I loved the haunted, fated future of the dancer and those coming after. I enjoyed the villain, a variation on the theme of the story, the impact of Mao on one person. I appreciated the women in bright colors, the indomitable old men, Ling's insight, and Chen's eccentric detection. The conversation between Ling and Chen irritated me--can't these two smart people break through Chinese restraint, embrace and explore love without political overtones? Are they condemned to solitary longing, which makes great poems but poor lives and bad love scenes? With Shanghai moving forward, all these characters need to make some contemporary progress as well.