I first discovered Mainland Chinese author Qiu Xiaolong several years ago. Writing in English, Qiu’s Inspector Chen is an introspective police detective with a penchant for quoting poetry. Although classified as detective / crime fiction, Qiu seems more fascinated with changes taking place in China in the last decade and how the emergence of an affluent group of Chinese is shaping China in the new millennium.
In Qiu’s third novel When Red Is Black, Inspector Chen is offered the chance to make some pocket money by translating a proposal for a property developer. But when a murder takes place in an old-fashioned multi-family house similar to the design outlined in the proposal he is translating, Chen becomes suspicious.
In this novel, Qiu shows how “connections” work in modern China, and especially the booming property market. He does not condemn using these connections as a form of corruption; he sees it as a blade that cuts both ways. Even Inspector Chen relies on connections to procure information to solve his cases – and sometimes these connections can come back to haunt him.
Stylistically, this third novel features more dialogue and is a fast read. My person preference remains Qiu second Inspector Chen novel A Loyal Character Dancer.