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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 7 December 2000
I couldn't imagine how there could possibly be a sequel to 'The Firemaker' - but then that's why it's Peter May writing the books and not me. But the stunning opening, from the perspective of a man about to be beheaded knocked away any doubts I might have had, instantly. May took care of all the loose ends from the first book cleverly, and we were swiftly off on a completely new case with detective Li Yan and pathologist Margaret Campbell. The sparks continue to fly in their complicated relationship - making them surely one of the best detection teams around. And the setting of China - this time we went from Beijing to Xian - provides a fantastic backdrop. May's descriptions just take you right there... particularly to some of the meals! Check out the section in the Muslim quarter of Xian, where some ox livers crawling with flies on the back of a trailer are brought vividly to life. May manages to bring China's past to life, too. From the ancient times through the archaeologist's story of the Terracotta Warriors to the more recent past and some of the incredible events during the cultural revolution. The best thing is, he manages to drop all this in naturally, as part of the story and you find yourself understanding China better as a result. But above all, the story's the thing. May's plots are ingenious, and his characters are fabulous - simply gripping entertainment from beginning to end.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 2012
This second of Peter May's great series of China stories is a great read. The reader is teased by the relationship between the 2 primary characters and the plot takes many twists and turns - an avid read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2006
The opening sequence is superb. Heart-stopping. As the story unfolds, the pace and tension doesn't let up. May cleverly interweaves a historical story with the modern day investigation, painting a picture of old and new China. May's in-depth knowledge of China and the police force there gives a strong and authentic sense of place. And the characters who return from his first book in the series, "The Firemaker" continue to develop with further compliactions in their lives and relationships. The story is fascinating and moving as well as being a page-turning thriller.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I'm only 7 years behind the times but, eventually, I have caught up with Peter May in this second novel reprising his two central characters from the first novel, The Firemaker.

I haven't read the first and you don't need to in order to establish an empathy with Li Yan and Dr. Margaret Campbell. Better still, is the author's ability to bring to life some of the past history of China, from the Terracotta Warriors to the Cultural Revolution, both periods of which are central to the two parallel storylines.

The hunt for a killer or killers brings the two main characters together again and their interaction lends the story a great human touch as they both try to come to terms with their previous breakup. Muscling into this situation is a TV archaeologist falling for Margaret whilst Li Yan looks on in desperation. But life (and death) goes on which provides for an excellent look into the workings of the Chinese police procedures compared to the American way and a gripping ending as the killer is finally revealed - but not before shots are fired with fatal results. A great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2015
Again a fascinating look at China its history and culture, within the parameters of a very entertaining thriller that delivers one more time.

Margaret has not left Beijing, she stayed behind to help with the last case, then a chinese american is murdered and she is requested by the american embassy to help in the investigation. Exposing her to the Terracotta Army, and the consequences of the Chinese Cultural Revolution that took place from 1966 until 1976. Where millions of people were persecuted, tortured, and suffered a wide range of abuses including public humiliation, arbitrary imprisonment, sustained harassment, and seizure of property. Just to preserve 'true' Communist ideology. The madness finally ended and In 1981, the Communist party recognized that the Cultural Revolution was "responsible for the most severe setback and the heaviest losses suffered by the Party, the country, and the people since the founding of the People's Republic."
From this past the present crimes of the story grow in unexpected ways, and twist in surprising directions, for Margaret and Detective Li Yan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 January 2013
Peter May once again embroiders a fascinating plot onto a rich canvas of Chinese history, both ancient and all too recent.
Those, like me, unfamilar with the acitivities of the Red Guards in China's Cultural Revolution will find some revelations shocking. While the love life of our heroine falls again into the realms of cliche when a handsome American TV star and achaeologist appears on the scene, the storyline is strong enough to sustain us to a theatrical climax.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2013
this second book in the china thrillers series is just as gripping as the first.
the insight into chinese culture and politial history, and the emergence of a powerful china is really interesting too. It is not dry and dusty but just a well written & carefully researched backdrop for the drama of the storyline.
can't wait to read the next one, always the sign of a good book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2014
Usual excellent writing. Couldn't put it down.China Thrillers have all caught my imagination. Hopefully there will be more to come.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 9 December 2012
I enjoyed this book very much, I am enjoying all of the 'China' series and would recommend them to thriller book lovers.
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on 14 July 2014
This is a sequel to the first book in the series (The Firemaker)set in Beijing. There is a lapse of several months between the two stories. It follows the fortunes of the two protagonists, chief detective Li Yan and the forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell(from Chicago University), both professionally and romantically. The intervening months have done nothing to cement the latter aspect, and to make matters worse a third protoganist, a celebrity archaeologist, appears on the scene to further distract Margaret.

At the centre of the story (it is a murder mystery) are four men killed by decapitation. The motive(s) for the first three killings seem understandable but the motive (and the means) for the fourth killing seemed too far fetched to my mind.

The story features two events in China's history, one in the recent past (the Cultural Revolution) and one in the distant past (The Imperial burial featuring the Terracotta Army). Both these events are well described in Wikipedia.
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