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Enigma of China: An Inspector Chen Novel    by Qiu Xiaolong order for
Enigma of China
by Qiu Xiaolong
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2014 (2013)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though I've been hearing good things of Qiu Xiaolong's mysteries for years now, Enigma of China is the first one that I've managed to get my hands on - and I'm glad I finally did! I enjoyed spending time with Inspector Chen as he investigates while adroitly navigating the politics of life and work in modern China.

Chen is an unusual policeman with a literary bent. At this stage in his career he is 'first deputy Party secretary of the bureau and a member of the Shanghai Communist Party Committee.' As the story opens, Chen is asked to consult on the supposed suicide of Zhou Keng, director of the Shanghai Housing Development Committee. The man was recently targeted in an Internet crowd-sourced investigation (triggered by a pack of cigarettes) and apparently hanged himself after being shuangguied and held at a hotel by Party disciplinary bodies.

It seems odd that the dead man took a large dose of sleeping pills before killing himself. Internal Security get involved in the case, 'an ominous sign.' Chen is very disturbed when the investigating officer, Detective Wei, is killed in an apparent traffic accident. He helps the man's family as best he can. And as he digs (warily and under official radar) into the case, he gets close to a lovely young journalist/blogger, Lianping of Wenhui Daily. When he finds a flash drive that belonged to Zhou Keng, he seeks a way for the truth to come out.

This episode ends on a big question mark about Inspector Chen's future. I thoroughly enjoyed, as much for the insights into life in modern China as for the mystery. This is a series well worth following, highly recommended!

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