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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Sino-Sequel
The second book in the Inspector Chen series is equal in many ways to outstanding predecessor, Death of a Red Heroine. Once again, the reader is drawn into an excellent mix of detective procedural and portrait of China in economic and social transition during the early '90s. Shanghai-based Inspector Chen is assigned to baby-sit a U.S. Marshal who has been sent to collect...
Published on 11 Feb 2003 by A. Ross

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3.0 out of 5 stars interesting culturally but the mystery element less convincing
A Loyal Character Dancer presents an interesting view of China at the start of the period where it opens up to the West in the early 1990s, using the arrival of a US Marshall to explore cultural differences. Chief Inspector Chen is relatively engaging as a lead character, prepared to take risks and challenge the party line and is reflective, quoting poetry as a way of...
Published 10 months ago by Rob Kitchin


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Sino-Sequel, 11 Feb 2003
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
The second book in the Inspector Chen series is equal in many ways to outstanding predecessor, Death of a Red Heroine. Once again, the reader is drawn into an excellent mix of detective procedural and portrait of China in economic and social transition during the early '90s. Shanghai-based Inspector Chen is assigned to baby-sit a U.S. Marshal who has been sent to collect the wife of the key witness in a federal case against the smuggling of illegal immigrants into America. However, when the pregnant woman disappears without a trace, Chen, Detective Yu, and Marshal Catherine Rohn have only a week to track her down before the trial starts—and without his wife, the witness won't cooperate. At the same time, Chen insists on investigating the bloody murder of an unidentified man in Chen's favorite park (echoes of, or homage to, Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park).
Since Chen and Yu's histories were established in the first book, there is much less of their personal lives in this volume, which is a bit of a shame. There is also somewhat less about politics and the Party's influence on private life in this book. Instead the hidden hand of the triad gangs menaces Chen and his investigation, with unclear motives and unclear allegiances. In addition, the history and impact of the Cultural Revolution (a subject at the heart of the recent novel Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress) becomes more directly relevant to the plot. Another main element is the proliferation of a "gray market" economy, where bribery and corruption are nibbling away at the Communist system. Distasteful as it is, Chen must involve himself with unsavory elements with no solid political backing in order to pursue his investigation, and indeed, possible leaks within his own department.
This sequel is quite good to be sure, however there is a running flaw which undermines it somewhat. The brilliance of the first book was in its complete immersion in time and place, by introducing an American outsider as a main character in this story, the author cheapens the experience somewhat. It instantly moves into the realm of "unlikely partners battling crime", which we have seen time and again in fiction and film. This is exacerbated by the rather stilted romantic tension between Chen and the American woman which always seemed rather forced to me. It's also unfortunate that near the end there is a plot contrivance whereby Chen makes an absolutely incredible blunder—it's such an unlikely mistake I had to stop and reread the passage three times to verify that I had understood it properly. Still, there are running mouthwatering descriptions of food, plenty couplets of classic Chinese poetry, and an exciting climax to finish things off. It's well worth reading, both as a crime novel and as a picture of China a decade ago.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read, 26 Oct 2006
I've been a fan of Qiu Xiaolong's novels since I came across the US editions on Amazon a few years ago. And now there's a UK edition of the second one, A LOYAL CHARACTER DANCER. It is a police procedural set in Shanghai, featuring the delightful Chief Inspector Chen Cao, poet and gourmet. I don't read Qiu Xiaolong's novels primarily for the plot - though they are satisfying as mysteries - but for the pleasure of following Inspector Chen around a s fascinating and unfamiliar world, dropping in with him at the Moon Breeze teahouse to drink bubble tea or sampling chicken and duck blood soup in the bazaar.

[...]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mystery and poetry in China, 4 Jan 2010
By 
L. J. Roberts (Oakland, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
First Sentence: Chief Inspector Chen Cao, of the Shangahi Police Bureau, found himself once again walking through the morning mist toward Bund Park.

Chief Inspection Chen Cao has been assigned to escort U.S. Marshall Catherine Rohn. His mission is to make her happy, keep her safe and out of trouble. Her mission is to bring to the United States, Wen, the wife of an important criminal witness. When they go to get Wen, she has disappeared. Chen has to find her, Catherine wants to be an active part of the investigation, and someone wants them to stop.

Xiaolong's book is filled with literary references, poetry, mouth-watering descriptions of food and fascinating information on China's history. I've learned more about the Cultural Revolution and Chinese history reading Xiaolong's books than I ever did in school but he conveys the information in a way that never slows the story or makes the book seem dry.

An author who not only entertains but makes me think is a treat. Several times, I found myself stopping to contemplate a point made by the author..."The line between truth and fiction was always being constructed and deconstructed by those in power." His voice is unique and compelling..."There were quite a number of young people on the first floor, smoking, talking, stirring desires or memories into their coffee cups." Writing such as that is impossible for me to resist.

Through the characters we elicit a look at some of the factors impacting people's lives; how the Cultural Revaluation has a lasting impact, the importance of connections and favors, and that politics has a personal impact, particularly in this case where what is politically necessary much supersede what is personally desirous.

It has been awhile since I read the first book in this series and I'd forgotten just how much I like the characters. Chen Cao did not become a policeman by choice. His love of poetry and literature shape him. He is supported by the wonderful, fully-dimensional Yu, Peiqin and Old Hunter, Chan's partner, his wife and father.

I also appreciated the connection of his friend Overseas Chinese Lu as a transition from the last book. US Marshall Catharine Rohn, Chen's counterpart for the case, is also something of a love interest. That didn't quite play true to me but I did sense the tension the author portrayed. The most fascinating character is Party Secretary Li, Chen's superior. I hope we get to know more about his as the series proceeds.

The plot itself was interesting; with economic development comes increased organized crime. Amidst the scenic descriptions--and there is a very strong sense of place--food and literary references, there is also attacks on the character's lives, a great battle scene and very well done twists in the plot.

The pace does bog down a bit and I wasn't crazy about all the exposition at the end. I'd rather you show me than tell me.

I highly recommend this book but do suggest starting with the first in the series. For me, Xiaolong remains firmly on my auto-buy list and I look forward to the next in the series.

A LOYAL CHARACTER DANCER (Pol Proc-CI Chen Cao-Shanghai, China-Cont/1990s) - VG
Xiaolong, Quiu - 2nd in series
Soho Press, 2002, US Hardcover - ISBN: 1569473013
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but not as good as 'Death of a Red Heroine', 12 Jan 2008
By 
Sarah Durston (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A Loyal Character Dancer (Paperback)
Set in China in the 1990s, `A Loyal Character Dancer' sees the return of Chief Inspector Chen and Detective Yu. This time a body is found in a park in Shanghi, seemingly killed by the triad gang `Flying Axes.' At the same time as investigating this crime Chief Inspector Chen is asked to assist a US Marshal, Catherine Rohn, to find an escort the wife of a testifying witness to leave China and reunite with her husband in the US.

This is the second book in the inspector Chen series and although it could be read on it's own it might be better to read `Death of a Red Heroine' 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. ALCD is much more about the politics and country but without the same depth of detail and roundedness of the first book. I was also disappointed that many of the lines of Chinese poetry and sayings were repeated from the first book - surely there are many other pieces of writing that could have been quoted!

Chief Inspector Chen is still a great character but I was left unsatisfied.
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4.0 out of 5 stars still great but somethings missing :P, 17 Aug 2009
By 
"death of a red heroine" was an amazing book and a great introduction to the inspector chen mysteries, "a loyal character dancer" lacks none of the charm that made me love its predecessor but theres just something missing :P

its still a great book and i will read it again and advise anybody to buy it but i hope the spark returns soon! ;D
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another jolly good read from Qiu Xiaolong, 14 Feb 2014
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Having read the first book, I quickly downloaded the second. The author makes it a nice easy book to read. One that you can pick up and put down or one that you race through!
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3.0 out of 5 stars interesting culturally but the mystery element less convincing, 20 Dec 2013
By 
Rob Kitchin - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A Loyal Character Dancer (Paperback)
A Loyal Character Dancer presents an interesting view of China at the start of the period where it opens up to the West in the early 1990s, using the arrival of a US Marshall to explore cultural differences. Chief Inspector Chen is relatively engaging as a lead character, prepared to take risks and challenge the party line and is reflective, quoting poetry as a way of making sense of the world. However, whilst he's meant to be a talented and skilled cop, he makes a series of poor and amateur judgements throughout the story, culminating in setting off into the lion's den with the main source of prey, telegraphing his arrival and bringing no back-up. Indeed, the procedural elements of the plot are a little weak throughout. Moreover, the dialogue is somewhat stilted. The result is a story that is interesting culturally, but falters with respect to the mystery, and whose resolution is far from convincing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous, 8 Mar 2013
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Beautiful writing, characterization and a strong description of the areas involved. So good that it seems one is living there. An excellent writer and those meals would love to sit down with this imaginary character for one. Looking forward to more of this top class literature.
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A Loyal Character Dancer
A Loyal Character Dancer by Qiu Xiaolong (Paperback - 11 Jan 2007)
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