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The Mao Case [Paperback]

Qiu Xiaolong
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

23 July 2009

Tucked away from the building sites of modern Shanghai are the beautiful mansions once owned by the smartest families in 1930s China. They have since been bought by rich businessmen and high-ranking members of the Communist Party. All except one.

The owner is an old painter who holds a glittering party each night: swing jazz plays for his former neighbours, who dance, remember old times and forget for an evening the terrors that followed. But questions are being asked. How can he afford such a lifestyle? His paintings? Blackmail? A triad connection? Prostitution?

Inspector Chen is asked to investigate discreetly what is going on behind the elegant façade. But, before he can get close to anyone, one of the girls is found murdered in the garden and another is terrified she will be next.

Chen's quest for answers will take Chen to a strange businessman, triads, Chairman Mao himself and a terrible secret the Party will go to any length to conceal.

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The Mao Case + Red Mandarin Dress + A Case of Two Cities
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; 1 edition (23 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340978597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340978597
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 248,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'The usual enjoyable mix of murder, poetry and contractions of contemporary Chinese culture. Chen is a splendid creation, with his facility for quoting Tang Dynasty poetry and T S Eliot, his quiet devotion to his duty, his unhappy love life and his appreciation of good food.' (Independent on Sunday)

Praise for Qiu Xiaolong (:)

'Qiu Xiaolong is one of the brightest stars in the firmament of modem literary crime fiction. His Inspector Chen mysteries, set in Shanghai in the 1990s, dazzle as they entertain, combining crime with Chinese philosophy, poetry and food, Triad gangsters and corrupt officials.' (Canberra Times, Australia)

'Qiu gives a fresh perspective on the forces shaping a new China and the influences of the Cultural Revolution and then Tiananmen in 1989.' (Sunday Morning Post, Hong Kong)

'A luminescent synthesis of thriller and literary novel' (Independent on A LOYAL CHARACTER DANCER)

'Simply beautiful' (Herald Sun, Australia)

'The sixth Inspector Chen series maintains the high standard set by its predecessors over the last three years . . . the society that Chen lives in is brilliantly evoked . . . In a word: absorbing' (Townsville Bulletin)

'Stupendous' (Fresh Air, National Public Radio, USA on DEATH OF A RED HEROINE)

'With strong and subtle characterisation, Qui Xiaolong draws us into a fascinating world where the greatest mystery revealed is the mystery of present-day China itself.' (John Harvey)

'INCREASINGLY popular Chinese-born Qiu Xiaolong uses stories of murder and political intrigue to explore China's rapidly changing society. He elegantly manipulates the expectations of the generic Western procedural police hero with the right formulaic moves. His formal prose is often laced with beguiling Confucian proverbs and luminous turns of language...' (Weekend Australian)

'As in all good detective novels, the clues mount up and a sub-plot, about Chen's former lover, provides a further twist in an increasingly ludicrous but engaging story.' (Financial Times)

'Compelling . . . this fast-moving crime novel admirably depicts the intriguing struggles of characters grasping a foothold in a new and rising China.' (TLS on A CASE OF TWO CITIES)

'A great read.' (Guardian on WHEN RED IS BLACK)

Chen is an irresistible protagonist . . . Qiu's portrait of China in transition, a potential eye-opener for many of his Western readers, is an equally compelling attraction. (Kirkus Reviews on DEATH OF A RED HEROINE)

'A vivid portrait of modern Chinese society ... full of the sights, sounds and smells of Shanghai . . . A work of real distinction.' (Wall Street Journal )

'A great read' (Weekend Australian on DEATH OF A RED HEROINE)

'In a word: brilliant' (Herald Sun on DEATH OF A RED HEROINE)

'Chen is a great creation, an honourable man in a world full of deception and treachery' (Guardian)

'Intriguing . . . pertinent . . . intelligent' (New York Times on RED MANDARIN DRESS)

Book Description

The sixth literary crime novel in the acclaimed Inspector Chen series: Chen investigates two cases connected to Mao's women.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best yet 3 Feb 2009
Tha author's editor told him this was his best novel yet, and I agree. Yet you would have had to read the others to get here. Inspector Chen travels to Beijing, visits the Forbidden City, Jingshan Park, and a hutong or two, all well-known to those of you who will have been to Beijing for the Olympics, for real or by television. Inspector Chen's memories of life as a university student in Beijing as well as his investigation in to the private life of Chairman Mao give further color to the story. Most of all, this is a story about not forgetting. The many layers of this tale lay like dried leaves around a tree in autumn, waiting to be collected. Like many of his fellow authors, Qiu's choice to write about Beijing at this time of the Olympics is no coincidence. Like others, he is raising his fist, and saying, I shall never forget.

Beware, however, that Qiu's English has improved substantially, and although his style remains wonderful, and wonderfully Chinese, it has lost its awkwardness. I feel the author is thinking in English now, rather than in Chinese, and then translating. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, it's just different.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Literate crime novel 26 April 2010
Although labelled as a murder mystery, The Mao Case and other works from Qiu Xiaolong, are deeper stories concerning with the rapidly changing and mutating society in millenium China. The shadow of Mao and the Cultural Revolution looms over a society which is looking towards the future.

Inspector Chen is both a poet and detective. Cultured and educated, he is entrusted with investigating the suddenly affluent lifestyle of Jiao, granddaughter of a disgraced movie star. But as he begins his investigation, the body of Jiao's friend is found in the garden of a gently decaying Shanghai mansion.

The case is politically sensitive, due to the connection between Jiao's grandmother and Chairman Mao. In fact, Internal police are convinced that Jiao holds some secret material from Mao, which cannot be allowed to resurface and tarnish his beloved and treasured image.

This is a crime novel of a different ilk. Originating as it does from a different culture, Xiaolong's story offers a different type of crime novel - intellectual and educated. It is wistful, literate and utterly unique.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Return to form 26 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"The Mao Case" represents a return to form displayed in the earliest Insp. Chen novels with their combination of generic crime fiction and their particular brand of modern chinese social issues,poetry and food obsessions. Here the long term ramifications of the cultural revolution in post- Mao society and the pressures of a party trying to ride the tide of modern capitalism while hoping that the selected benefits will disuade chinese of the need for more real freedoms,not just the choices availabvle to the noveaux riches("Big Bucks") and the turmoil practical and moral that engulfs Chen as he tries to pick his way through the pitfalls of party requirements set against criminal procedures and an attempt to mitigate the extent of his own moral compromises. A relatively simple plot line pursued by Chen and various non-official helpers,mostly familiar characters,investigate tragedies for three (or 4) women across the period 1965-to date.A very satisfying read which avoids having chinese characters telling western readers what they might not know about China's recent past, a growing fault in last novel especially...which tended to make them unconvincing figures but mere mouth pieces. Pace and sublety are both here again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gives the series more depth and context 17 Nov 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The inscription, in this the sixth Inspector Chen novel, gives some idea of the tone and direction that the plot takes; `For the people that suffered under Mao.'

Chen is asked to look into a politically sensitive case, which involves the possible secretion of incriminating evidence against Mao which might have been passed to one of his mistresses, the actress, Shang. Chen must go undercover and find the information he needs from Shang's granddaughter Jiao. The plot for this novel is quite simple in comparison to the other books in this series, concentrating more on the history and legacy of Mao and the myths about him which are still perpetuated. This was fascinating, but as a fan of the series I was disappointed that there was little momentum regarding Chen's personal life and that Yu and his wife Pequin hardly featured.
Still, I always find the books in this series original and interesting, providing a window into a completely alien culture and political system.

If you are new to this series, it would be best to start at the beginning with `Death of a Red Heroine' which is still far and away the best book of the series as a whole.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent political mystery 7 Oct 2009
The Mao Case is the first novel I have read by Qui Xiaolong, although it is his sixth Inspector Chen book. I was drawn to it by the political theme involving the supposed granddaughter of one of Mao Zedong's many mistresses and the possibility that she has important Mao relics in her possession.

Rather than a crime story in the strictest sense, The Mao Case is a mystery with political and cultural ramifications as Inspector Chen's superiors are intent preserving an unsullied memory of Mao. It is also very literary compared to most novels of this genre. Inspector Chen uses his knowledge of Tang dynasty poetry and the works of Mao for clues to the case. The author also draws cleverly on details from the autobiography of Mao's personal physician, which caused an international stir when it came out in the 1980s, and this makes the mystery involving the personal life of Mao quite convincing. With an intelligent lead up, the denouement at the end, when "Mao" is revealed, took me by surprise. Intentional or not, that scene is so ridiculous, I could not stop myself laughing.

Qui's knowledge of Chinese history and poetry enhances a sometimes clumsily written, though intriguing novel. I also enjoyed the portrayal of Beijing and Shanghai, two cities where old and new exist side by side. However, clunky dialogue and exposition are major flaws in this novel and Qiu's English is far from perfect. It is a shame the publisher could not invest in a decent edit to do this book justice. Despite this I enjoyed it and intend to read others in the series.
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