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The Eye of Jade [Hardcover]

Diane Wei Liang
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 April 2007

Mei is a modern, independent Chinese woman. She runs her own business in Beijing, working as a private investigator; she owns a car; she even has that most modern of commodities, a male secretary. One day, ‘Uncle’ Chen, no relation but a close friend of her mother, comes to Mei with a case to investigate. He asks her to find a Han dynasty jade of great value. The jade was taken from its museum during the years of the Cultural Revolution when Red Guards swarmed the streets, destroying many remnants of the past. Mei’s investigations reveal a story that has far more to do with the past, and her own family history, than she could ever have expected. The story forces her to delve into that dark, brutal part of China’s history, Mao’s labour camps and the countless deaths for which no one was ever held responsible. It exposes the agonizing choices made during the Revolution, to kill or be killed, to love or to live.

The Eye of Jade is a fascinating glimpse of city life in modern China. Liang captures vividly Beijing’s bustle and noise, from seedy gambling dens and cheap noodle bars to the splendour of the Forbidden City. With a rich cast of characters, spanning immigrant workers and government officials, she examines the sometimes uneasy relationship between China’s brutal communist past under Mao and its increasingly capitalist present.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (6 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330447726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330447720
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,934,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

It’s hardly surprising that this beautifully turned novel about a strong-willed Chinese woman working as a private investigator in Beijing is such a delight: the cachet that accompanies most novels published by Picador is usually in place: as it most certainly is with Diane Wei Liang’s The Eye of Jade. What makes the novel particularly interesting is its refusal to be slotted into any one genre: it’s a literary novel, undoubtedly (the publisher’s imprint guarantees that); it’s also a crime novel, pushing satisfactorily most of the buttons that we expect in that field. And it’s a comedy: the sardonic humour involving the heroine’s fraught relations with those around her are perfectly judged. Mei, the protagonist, is an investigator. A friend of her mother, known as ‘Uncle Chen’, asks her to track down a Han-dynasty jade that vanished from a museum during the terrible upheavals of the Cultural Revolution. Was the jade a victim of the brutal, philistine Red Guards, ruthlessly shattering the great legacies of the past? Or are more complex subterfuges involved? As Mei digs deeper, she begins to unravel a series of labyrinthine mysteries – some with resonances even within her own family. Detective fiction is a much-plundered genre, both by genre practitioners and those with more literary aims – and it’s the latter writers who are more likely to come a cropper when attempting to reinvent the standard tropes of the field. But Diane Wei Liang avoids all such pitfalls. This is a provocative, intriguing and accomplished piece of writing. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


This gripping account of a female gumshoes's search for a Han dynasty artefact in modern Beijing is part thriller and part analysis of the city's past and present. --High Life

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining insight into modern China 6 Jun 2009
An entertaining, well-written crime novel, with interesting insights into modern China for the armchair traveller. The author doesn't make the mistake of lecturing the reader, but shows something of China and its political past and present, weaving the politics and culture into the narrative, using a light touch with deft characterisation. Contemporary Chinese writing is all too often ignored by Western readers - and that is a great loss. It's a weekend read, and makes no pretence at being great literature.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful...Yet again 4 May 2008
Having read A Lake With No Name i was really interested to see Wei Liangs attempt at fiction...i was not disappointed. A gripping tale which had me hooked from the first to last page, tells the story of Mei and illegal private detective living in China after the cultural revolution. this at first appears to be a typical detective story but as the story unfolds we see that it has more to do with Wei and her family than is originally thought. What i found most interesting and wondferful about this novel are the paralles between Mei and Diane Wei Liang. From reading A Lake With No Name i was able to see how much of herself Wei Liang had poured into Mei, not onyl personality but also her home life. Fantastic author & a fantiastic story!! Bravo!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 25 Jun 2007
By Sam
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A subtle and spellbinding and ultimately moving story that explains a lot about China today. It is a detective story but quite unlike most detective stories.
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3.0 out of 5 stars more a family drama than a mystery story 14 Dec 2013
By Rob Kitchin TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Many detective stories seek to balance the back story and everyday life of the detective with the investigation and the resolution of the mystery. In most cases, the balance veers towards the mystery element of the story, with the main character's personal life and history taking a back seat. In The Eye of Jade, Diane Wei Liang reverses this balance. The story mostly focuses on the main character, Mei Wang, and her relationship to her mother and sister, and the family's murky past tied up in the Cultural Revolution. As such, the mystery element to the story is largely a plot device to enable the family history and present relations to be examined. As a result, the investigation is a little thin and sketchy, with a somewhat quick and weak resolution. This is, however, compensated to a degree by some nice characterisation, especially Mei Wang as a strong willed woman who is a little out of sync and place with Chinese social norms, and nice contextualisation with respect to life in Beijing, Chinese culture and values, family relationships, and China's recent past. Overall, a detective story that needed a little more focus on the mystery element, but nonetheless an interesting read.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sorry, this one's worth giving a miss 4 July 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoy books about China and enjoy crime writing, but unfortunately this one is shallow, dull and uninspired. Dubbed by one critic as a "Bridget Jones" in modern China book, apart from being a singleton with a chip on her shoulder, there is no romance. As for the bridges between modern and old China that this book supposedly traverses, this is not a book that taught me anything useful. And as for the protagonist's red Mitsubishi, given to her by her more successful sister, so what? Must the car be referred to umpteen times?
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