Inspector Chen Mystery, #7
May 2012 / ISBN: 0312550642
Police Procedural / China / Contemporary
First Sentence: Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police
Bureau found himself standing in front of the gate to the Wuxi Cadre
Chen Cao is surprised, pleased and a bit suspicious when he is given
an unexpected vacation at a resort reserved for only those of high
cadre; influence and/or power. The exclusive resort is located on
the once very beautiful and pristine Tai Lake but chemical dumping
and greed for wealth are changing that. One of the executives is
murdered and a young woman Chen has come to know is being blamed.
It is up to Chen to find the truth before she, or her friend, are
taken off to prison.
With a tranquil
beginning, we are immediately brought into a different world where
we learn the importance of rank. Qui excels establishing a strong
sense of place. From him we see, hear, smell and taste China. There
are wonderful descriptions of the food, which are enhanced by stories
of the history behind some of the dishes reminding us just how old
is the culture of China.
Chen is fascinating
and wonderful character. He’s a policeman who had no desire
to be a policeman. He’s a poet and translator of books, particularly
mysteries, from English into Chinese. But he is also dedicated to
do his job the best he can, realizing its importance. It’s
enjoyable to see the local policeman, Sergeant Haung, admiration
of Chen and his comparisons of Chen to Sherlock Holmes. Chen is
a man of integrity. Although he is attracted to a female character,
he knows he must not violate his responsibility as a cop. Poetry
and quotation have a significant place in the story. Even the love
scene is lyrically described.
We learn details
of its history and customs; from the “hair” salons to
environmental issues of today. In particular, it is about the changing
China, economics and what a company, if permitted, will do to increase
its value to increase wealth for its executives. [Chen]”Why
are people capable of doing anything just for the sake of money?
A partial answer might be the collapse of the ethical system…”
It’s prophetic in we see the result of a non-regulated industry,
yet it never becomes preach-y.
It is also
interesting to see the way in which now having some freedom of religion
impacts the people of today’s China. We forget that religion
was banned under strict communism so when two of the supporting
characters attend a church service it is a new experience for them.
However, there is still the strong importance of “saving face”.
There is a
redundancy in the constant reminder that the complex is only for
those of high cadre of a certain rank and that Chen is only there
because of his connection to such a person. However, this also supports
Chen’s personality that he would be very much aware of that
Cry, Tai Lake” concludes with a wonderful, touching ending.
The final revelation as to the solution of the case is summed up
best by Officer Huang “The clues are all there, but it takes
a master to connect them,”. However, even with the murder
solved, the story shows the insular nature of China against the
West. I’ve enjoyed the entire series but feel this is one
of Qui’s best books.