Death of a Red Heroine
“ Stupendous . . . . It does what detective fiction can do best: It captures the details, the grit of everyday life. . . . A matchless pearl.”
—Maureen Corrigan, “Fresh Air,” National
“[Meet] the wonderful and complex Inspector Chen Cao, the ever impecunious, couplet-quoting poet of the Shanghai Police Bureau. A wonderful , many-faceted gem of a book!”
—William Marshall, The Yellowthread Street
“In Death of a Red Heroine China is not only the setting; it is a major player. . . . The Party’s attempts to recoup political legitimacy from the real setting for this mystery and cast a dark shadow over every step in its resolution. Raw, naked power is at the core of both the murder and its investigation, but its manifestations are anything but predictable in this splendid first work.”
—Robert E. Hegel, Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature, Washington University
“An absolutely exquisite book (and I don’t believe I’ve ever before used this descriptor in a review!). . . . Qiu Xiaolong’s attention to culture, politics, loyalty (to persons and to country), poetry, justice (whatever this may be), love, art more generally, law and order and the sacred and intimate relationship between the Chinese people and their food, all blend to form an intellectually stimulating, beautiful, and surprising work of art.”
— Deadly Pleasures
“A brilliant debut. . . . I cannot imagine any readers, including fellow whodunit addicts, who would want to miss this fine novel, which makes a strong bid for a place in lasting literature.”
—Mona Van Duyn, U.S. Poet Laureate, 1992–3
“A tale of murder, deception and politics that has the ring of authenticity.”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“ Riveting and convincing.”
— Far Eastern Economic Review
“Unique in that it combines the stringency and rigour of police work, the inflexibility of Communism and the need for artistic expression. . . . The novel is a fascinating read.”
— The Mystery Review
“The main character is three-dimensional and practically jumps off the pages. I am anticipating another case with Inspector Chen.”
— The Snooper
“Much more than a detective story, it is an elegant, true-to-life portrait of China today.”
“A sheer delight.”
— I Love a Mystery
I want to express my sincere thanks to my editor, Laura Hruska, who discovered my manuscript and helped me, step by step, to shape this book.
Deep as the Peach Blossom Lake can be,
it is not so deep as the song you sing for me.
Copyright © 2000 by Qiu Xiaolong
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by
Soho Press, Inc.
New York, N.Y. 10003
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Ch’iu Hsiao-lung, 1953– Death of a red heroine / Qiu Xiaolong.
ISBN 978-1-56947-242-2 (alk. paper)
1. Shanghai (China)—Fiction. 2. Police—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3553.H537 D43 2000
20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11
DEATH OF A RED HEROINE
T he body was found at 4:40 P.M., on May 11, 1990, in Baili Canal, an out-of-the-way canal, about twenty miles to the west of Shanghai.
Standing beside the body, Gao Ziling, captain of the Vanguard, spat vigorously on the damp ground three times—a half-hearted effort to ward off the evil spirits of the day, a day that had begun with a long-anticipated reunion between two friends who had been separated for more than twenty years.
It was coincidental that the Vanguard , a patrol boat of the Shanghai River Security Department, should have ventured all the way into Baili around 1:30 P.M. Normally it did not go anywhere close to that area. The unusual trip had been suggested by Liu Guoliang, an old friend whom Gao had not seen for twenty years. They had been high-school buddies. After leaving school in the early sixties, Gao started to work in Shanghai, but Liu had gone to a college in Beijing, and afterward, to a nuclear test center in Qinghai Province. During the Cultural Revolution they had lost touch. Now Liu had a project under review by an American company in Shanghai, and he had taken a day off to meet with Gao. Their reunion after so long a time was a pleasant event, to which each of them had been looking forward.
It took place by
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