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When Red is Black

When Red is Black [Kindle Edition]

Qiu Xiaolong
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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This third novel offers further fascinating insights into a country and procedures so far neglected by mystery fiction. Chen is a great creation, an honourable man in a world full of deception and treachery who is trying hard to apprehend the new world of China in transition, where communism still reigns but blatant capitalism is also tolerated, with its ensuing waves of criminality . . . Connections and motives unfold like clockwork, and make for a great read. (Guardian)

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

'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)

'Chen is the fascinating creation of poet and translator Qiu Xiaolong . . . As in Qiu's first two books, the ghosts of Mao's bloody Cultural Revolution . . . lead to murder.' (Chicago Tribune )

'Read When Red is Black for insights into understanding today's Shanghai and China.' (St. Louis Post Dispatch)

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

'Chen stands in a class with Martin Cruz Smith's Russian investigator, Arkady Renko, and P.D. James's Scotland Yard inspector, Adam Dalgliesh.' (Publishers Weekly (Starred review))

Compelling (Times-Picayune (New Orleans))

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

'As modern China's profile rises, so too does the stock of literature from and about it. But Shanghai-born Qiu Xiaolong's Inspector Chen detective series is one of the freshest and most unpredictable of the lot.' (Newsweek)

'These are mysteries to savor.' (Booklist (starred review))

'[A] terrific series . . . a cultural twist and unusual direction that make [Qiu's] books well worth reading.' (Rocky Mountain News)

'Shanghai in transition ... fascinating' (Kirkus Reviews )

'Insightful.' (Publishers Weekly )

'The most sophisticated of the series to date and one feels Qiu pushing the envelope of the detective series genre.' (Asian Review of Books )

'A terrific murder mystery.' (Midwest Book Review )

'Captivating and intriguing.' (Mystery News)

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

'As modern China's profile rises, so too does the stock of literature from and about it. But Shanghai-born Qiu Xiaolong's Inspector Chen detective series is one of the freshest and most unpredictable of the lot. He is deft at delivering clever insights and plot twists that entangle both Communist Party officials and their critics. His protagonist, Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau, tracks down murderers and cheats against the backdrop of ordinary folks struggling to reconcile social upheaval and their lingering nostalgia for Chairman Mao. An honest cop whose personal ethics often conflict with the politically expedient orders from above, Chen embodies the confusion--both ideological and spiritual--that haunts modern China.' (Newsweek)

Asian Review of Books

'The most sophisticated of the series to date and one feels Qiu pushing the envelope of the detective series genre.'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 378 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder (8 Dec 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006CUXR4I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #218,399 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Qiu Xiaolong was born in Shanghai. The Cultural Revolution began in his last year of elementary school, and out of school, out of job, he studied English by himself in a local park.

In 1977, he began his studies at East China Normal University in Shanghai, and then the Chinese Academy of Social Science in Beijing. After graduation, he worked at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences as an associate research professor, published poems, translations and criticisms, and became a member of the Chinese Writers' Association.

In 1988, he came to Washington University in St. Louis, U.S. as a Ford foundation fellow to do a project on Eliot, but after the Tiananmen tragedy of 1989, he decided to stay on and write in English instead. He then obtained a Ph.D. in comparative literature at Washington University and taught there.

Having won several awards for his poetry in English, he moved on to write a novel about contemporary Chinese society in transition, which developed into the critically acclaimed, award-winning Inspector Chen series - Death of a Red Heroine, A Loyal Character Dancer, When Red is Black, A Case of Two Cities, Red Mandarin Dress and, soon to be published, The Mao Case. The series has been translated into sixteen languages. In addition, Qiu Xiaolong has published a poetry collection, several poetry translations, and a collection of linked stories (also serialized in Le Monde). He lives in St. Louis with his wife and daughter.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "To Get Rich Is Glorious" --Deng Xiaoping 18 Jan 2005
This third book in the "Inspector Chen" series strays even further from mystery genre conventions with its portrayal of economic and social upheaval in modern China. Set in Shanghai in what appears to be the mid-1990s (it is definitely not set in the present day, as some people seem to think), capitalism is on the rise and everyone is trying to figure out what it all means. For Inspector Chen, it means taking a week of vacation from the Special Homicide Squad to work for a wealthy businessman with triad connections. He is hired to translate a business proposal for an "Old Shanghai" themed shopping and entertainment zone into fluid English that will impress American investment bankers. Meanwhile, his deputy, the capable Detective Yu is assigned to solve the murder of a minor dissident author. Yu is a hard-working policeman, a husband and father struggling to convince himself that being a policeman is a worthwhile job in the new economy. Although Chen is busy working on the translation, he calls in for updates and does some sleuthing on the side as well.
The mystery itself isn't particularly fascinating, but it does provide an interesting perspective on modern Chinese history for those who aren't particularly familiar with it. The murdered woman had written an autobiographical novel ("The Death of a Chinese Professor") about her forbidden love affair with an intellectual poet when they were in a reeducation camp during the Cultural Revolution. She had been a Red Guard who was then denounced, and he was an intellectual, and thus politically"black" (ie. an enemy of the working class). The Cultural Revolution looms over the proceedings, and proves to have a powerful legacy even three decades later.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The weakest book in the series so far 30 Jan 2008
`When Red is Black' is set in 1990's China and is the third book in the Inspector Chen series, although through large parts of this book Inspector Chen is not working in his role as police officer but instead is translating a business proposal for a Triad businessman. Although it could be read on its own it might be better to read `Death of a Red Heroine' and `Loyal Character Dancer' first.

I read this book because I had loved `Death of a Red Heroine', and if I were to compare the two books I would say that I'm disappointed. DoaRH had the perfect balance between police procedural novel and political and cultural sensibilities. WRIB is much more about the politics and country but without the same depth of detail and roundedness of the first book. It was a shame that Inspector Chen was not involved in the investigation which was simplistic and easily solved, unlike the cases in the previous novels. Even the touches of poetry, which were a highlight in previous novels, seemed forced here and not particularly relevant to the story.

It's such a shame that the promise shown in the first book seems to be dwindling.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Translators in Novels 15 Mar 2009
What made this novel especially interesting for me, apart from discovering China during the interim period, is the moonlighting activity of Chief Inspector Chen. In When Red is Black, he takes on the translating of a commercial document. As a translator myself I was interested to see how he would depict our profession. Qin Xialong did an excellent job; it is obvious that he knows all about the translating world, not only the commercial aspect of it, he explains for example that we are paid by the number of words translated, but also the intricacies of translating. He goes into great detail about the work involved, the knowledge of the subject, having to deal with concepts which are quite new in China, like the simple enough word "marketing" which does not make sense in a communist economy. Another problem he encounters is that he has to translate into a foreign tongue and not his mother tongue. He is very much aware that it is a very difficult task and that some revision will be required by a native American. For non-translators, the novel, like all his others, is a way to get into modern China, to discover a way of life that is not portrayed in normal newspaper articles. My only reservation is that Qin Xialong has been out of China for a long time and that my tint his take on his country.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Murder in modern Shanghai 28 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
I picked up "When Red is Black" at a book market in Bath, UK, a while ago. There are several reasons why I'm interested in Chinese literature: I live in Hong Kong, have been to China a couple of times and I also write. Qui Xiaolong was born in Shanghai and the novel was set there, a detail I particularly like because I have been. Currently living in the USA, this book was written in English (or translated by the author). This book is the third in the Inspector Chen series, but I haven't read either of the others.
There has been a murder, but this is closely linked to revelations about the Cultural Revolution, something the author refers to in his dedication.
This is an interesting book and became more so as the plot progressed. Recommended to anyone with a particular interest in China, history or mystery.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating intro to Shanghai in transition 8 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this as I was visiting Shanghai and China for the first time. Though the writing seems a little stilted, the background info on the transition of China and Shanghai in particular from hard-core communism to its own version of capitalism was fascinating
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