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Enigma of China by Xiaolong Qiu

Enigma of China

by Xiaolong Qiu

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ENIGMA OF CHINA is not just a murder mystery, but also an exploration of Chinese history and culture. It also explores the role, even in China, of social media, of crowd-sourced investigation, so-called "human-flesh" searches, triggered in this case by the release of a photograph of Zhou Keng with a pack of very expensive brand cigarettes sitting on the table in front of him. The irony does not escape Chief Inspector Chen who has also accepted gifts in kind from Big Bucks customers.

But in Zhou's case a number of other examples of corruption have been unearthed, including a batch of compromising sex photographs. But it still doesn't seem very likely that he would have committed suicide. Chen's curiosity is further piqued when a police colleague is run down and killed outside the Party newspaper headquarters. Chen realises that he could very well share Wei's fate if he doesn't tread carefully.

Xiaolong paints a fascinating picture of life in Shanghai with vast economic and social gulfs between ordinary people and those who have access to privelege. ( )
  smik | Dec 17, 2014 |
There are three mysteries in this novel: who killed the housing administrator, who killed the detective investigating the murder of the housing administrator, and who launched the social media blizzard that revealed the scandal that lead to the administrator's death. throughout the investigation, the author inserts many observations on the current politics and hypocrisy in "socialism with Chinese characteristics" along with classical poetry, snippets of neo-Confucian philosophy and a culinary tour of Shaoxing, and the leaky censorship of the Chinese Internet. The political dangers to Chen Cao in resolving the murders are readily apparent--and they are left disappointingly unresolved--but the Internet social media post that provokes the initial murder is elegantly resolved. The unresolved murders create an opening for the future--as tension with official society and the need to maintain social harmony builds in Inspector Chen Cao. ( )
1 vote kewing | Jul 28, 2014 |
I read this book for the My Kind of Mystery reading challenge. It is a police procedural by Qiu Xiaolong, and is an Inspector Chen novel. Chen Cao is a police investigator in Shanghai and is a rising person in the Party. Although he was educated to be a poet, his first job assignment was in the police department and he has worked there since his college graduation.

In Enigma of China the corruption of the head of a housing and development committee, Zhou Keng, is exposed on the internet. He is immediately removed from his position and detained by the Communist Party bosses. While in detention he is found dead from hanging. The Party wants to declare it a suicide but police detective Chen feels there are some unanswered questions that deserve to be investigated. He fears an investigation will anger his bosses but he goes forward with it in order to seek justice for Zhou and Zhou's family.

I enjoyed learning about life in China today through the background of the story. This kept me interested in the book because I am not a fan of police procedurals. It seemed that the culture of China was more central to the book than the solving of the crime. The method of political corruption is described in detail as well as being part of the plot. The newly rich, Party privileges and citizens use of the internet to expose corruption are central to the book. Loved it. ( )
  Violette62 | Feb 22, 2014 |
As always, an interesting view of China's society. Have read the whole series and still find Inspector Chen an appealing character. This book ends with what seems to be a cliff-hanger. Hope there will be another book soon. ( )
1 vote Rayaowen | Jul 1, 2013 |
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To the Chinese netizens who fight for their citizenship in the cyberspace - unimaginable elsewhere - in the face of authoritarian control
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 125002580X, Hardcover)

Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Department is in an unusual situation—a poet by training and inclination, he was assigned by the party to the Police Department after he graduated college, where he has continued to shine.  Now he’s a rising cadre in the party, in line to take over the top politic position in the police department, while being one of most respected policeman in the department. Which is why he’s brought in by the Party to sign off on the investigation into the death of Zhou Keng. 

Zhou Keng—a trusted princeling, son of a major party member—was head of the Shanghai Housing Development Committee when a number of his corrupt practices were exposed on the internet.  Removed from his position and placed into extra-legal detention, Zhou apparently hanged himself while under guard.  While the Party is anxious to have Zhou’s death declared a suicide, and for the renowned Chief Inspector Chen to sign off on that conclusion, the sequence of events don’t quite add up. Now Chen will have to decide what to do – investigate the death as a possible homicide and risk angering unseen powerful people, or seek the justice that his position requires him to strive for.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:34 -0400)

In line for the top politic position of the Shanghai Police Department, Chief Inspector Chen Cao is drawn into the investigation of a major party member's son, whose suspicious suicide in the face of corruption charges forces Chen to make a difficult choice.… (more)

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An edition of this book was published by Minotaur Books.

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