When I posted that I was reading Death of a Red Heroine , I stated that I would have the review up “in a week or so,” I really meant “in a year or so.” That’s just further evidence why I’m the world’s lamest blogger.
Death of a Red Heroine is the debut novel by Qiu Xiaolong, a native a of Shanghai, but currently living in St. Louis. The story is set in Shanghai in 1990, where Detective Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau is confronted with a murder case that will be difficult to solve particularly because of its political ramifications. In fact, the novel is as much a novel of politics in China as much as it is a detective or mystery novel. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal named it as one of the top 5 political novels of all time.
In the novel, Detective Cao, himself a product of Party patronage, must navigate among various factions, including aging senior party members who are attempting preserve the gains of the revolution in the face of economic reform and culture influence from the West, cautious survivors of the Cultural Revolution of the sixties, and an emerging entrepreneurial class. The mystery aspect of the novel is not what this story is about: we pretty much know who committed the murder well before the end. The question is, will Cao be able to get the case prosecuted when there are powerful forces who are threatened by what the crime will reveal about both the victim and the perpetrator?
Death of a Red Heroine is full of the flavor of life in a rapidly transforming China, both figuratively and literally, since a running theme through the novel is is Chinese cuisine. We first meet Cao as he prepares a dinner party for his close friends and at the end we see Cao watching a street peddler frying dumplings, with plenty of meals and snacks in between.
As of this writing, Qiu has written ten novels in the Inspector Cao series, and I definitely plan to read at least the second installment.
Like fingers pointing to the moon, other diverse disciplines from anthropology to education, behavioral economics to family counseling, similarly suggests that the skillful management of attention is the sine qua non of the good life and the key to improving virtually every aspect of your experience.
Winifred Gallagher, quoted in Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.
I’m reading Paul and the Law by Brian S. Rosner and along the way I plan to chart my progress with chapter summaries. When I’ve finished I hope to write and post a full book review. Rosner summarizes his book’s thesis in his own summary of chapter 1:
In his letters Paul undertakes a polemical rereading of the Law of Moses, which involves not only a repudiation and rejection of the law as ‘law-covenant’ (chapters 2 and 3) and its replacement by other things (chapter 4), but also a reappropriation of the law ‘as prophecy’ (with reference to the gospel; chapter 5) and ‘as wisdom’ (for Christian living; chapter 6). This construal finds support not only in what Paul says about the law, but also in what he does not say and in what he does with the law. And if highlights the value of the law for preaching the Gospel and for Christian ethics. [pgs. 43-44]
Well, new to me that is. I just found out about Qiu Xiaolong, who has written a series of detective novels with Inspector Chen Cao at the protagonist. The first in the series is Death of Red Heroine, set in Communist China during the time of Deng Xiopeng’s reforms. Hope to have a Brief Book Review up for this in a week or so.
March Violets, set in 1936 Nazi Germany, introduces Bernie Gunter, a former police detective who, disgruntled with the Nazi bureaucracy, resigned from his position and is now employed as a private detective. Kerr does a good job of capturing the viciousness, corruption and seediness of Nazi Germany. Gunther is an interesting character, but I felt at times that Kerr overdoes the harderned, wise-cracking detective routine. The plot is interesting for the most part, but occasionally it lurched from from one plot twist to another with a slightly unconvincing ending. But Kerr has apparently had success with Bernie Gunther, and there are ten novels in the series, with an eleventh due in 2016. I might try the 2nd installment, The Pale Criminal.