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Shanghai Redemption by Xiaolong Qiu
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Shanghai Redemption

by Xiaolong Qiu

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I was thinking that I'd end up opening with something like "it's been a while since I've read a book by Qiu Xiaolong . . ." but I'd actually read the previously book in this series last year. And the book before that, the year before. Not sure why I kind of had the impression that this series was one from my more distant past.

I assume Qiu Xiaolong does better in France, or at least in French speaking regions. I mean, this book here was just released, for the first time in English, just the other day. But it was released a year ago in French (March 6 2014 in French, September 15 2015 in English). Other books in the series have gone that route. Not sure if there was that long of a delay in between, but released in French first. If I understand the editions for the previous book, the previous book had a lag of a year between the release of the French book and the release of the English. Hence that comment I had made earlier about how the author apparently does better, sales wise, popularity wise, some –wise, in French than in English.

Hmm. Book page on GoodReads says “original title: Shanghai Redemption”. Technically it should read “Dragon bleu, tigre blanc”, a.k.a. “Blue Dragon, White Tiger” (which actually makes a lot more sense than “Shanghai Redemption” as the title for the book, but bah). I’m sure there’s some ‘first title in English’ rule for the reason it says that on GoodReads. I guess/assume.

Wow, three paragraphs and I’ve not said anything yet. Inspector Chen Cao books can kind of read that way, though. Coming at mysteries from odd directions. Side-ways, swooping, swerving, spewing forth Chinese and English poetry all the while. Well, I know this one had some lines from T.S. Elliot, but I’m not actually sure the others have had English poetry in them. I certainly recall the Chinese, though. Heck, I’ve even read one that was entirely Chinese poetry. To be fair, it was a book of Chinese poetry, so that kind of goes with the territory.

Bah. Wrote another paragraph while adding only a tiny dollop more of information. So, okay, the book opens with the ex-Chief Inspector Chen Cao heading off to a nearby city to visit his father’s grave. Ex-Chief Inspector? I certainly don’t recall the last book ending with him being fired, retired, or otherwise becoming an ex-anything or other. Well, apparently Chen has been moved, ‘promoted’ to a new position. Director of the Legal Reform Committee (I might or might not have that name correct). Higher sounding title, same level politically as his prior one. That of Deputy party something or other, or something like that.

Chen hasn’t a clue how he’d ended up put out to pasture. Shoved to the side. Thrust into an important sounding job with no real importance. Sprang onto him unexpectedly. He knew/knows that his past cases, his stubborn need to search for the truth and justice, while stepping on some powerful toes, causes problems for him among the higher ups. He just didn’t know what immediate issue had sprung up to cause the higher ups to slap him they way they did. He assumes it must have something to do with the most recent cases assigned to him. And his special cases . . . um . . . bureau, department, division . . . I forget what it’s called.

So, while continuing living a life of almost hermit-like existence, he continues meeting and somewhat using, no not that way, alluring attractive women. Hmm. Hermit-like means something else. Okay, 'relationship . . . phobic existence'. Romantic relationship . . . . bah. While investigating cases. Though here he hasn’t a real clue what he’s supposed to be investigating for most of the book. So he’s investigating everything. While refurbishing his father’s grave.

I like Chen. I like these books. But they sure are different from my own personal norm. Slow. Wandering. Vaguely mystical while remaining grounded in reality. I even learned, maybe finally, I forget now if I ever knew the reasons before, but I finally learned why he keeps from forming attachments/relationships. Going out and finding a wife. Probably not a spoiler, but I’ll put it behind spoiler tags anyway. He knows the system he works within, and he knows how easy it is to go from ‘high-flying’ police officer/party member to deeply disgraced former person who may or may not spend time in prison. A lot of times those finding themselves in those positions, regardless if they had lived corrupt lives, or honest lives, trapped in set-ups. Like one that occurs early-ish in this book. When Chen is lured to a nightclub for a book release. A T.S. Elliot one, to be exact. Then lured further into a back room with women wearing basically nothing but paint and cat attachments (the Broadway play Cats has something to do with Elliot?). So, knowing he might fall at any moment, he can’t risk having a wife, or children, to fall with him. I mean, he did see his own father, trembling, weak, beaten – sometimes literally, by the Cultural Revolution. He knows how things, still ‘today’, can change in a heartbeat. (today – the books are set in the relatively recent past. Starting in the 1990s, progressing, though I only realized we’d reached the 21st century with this (or possibly a prior book) when Chen made a comment about being in the 21st century).

I liked the book. I recommend the book. You know, after the unnamed, unknown, maybe unknowable other has read the previous eight books in this series. No need to read the poetry books first. Though do if you are so inclined. ( )
  Lexxi | Sep 22, 2015 |
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"The system has no place for a cop who puts justice above the interests of the Party. It's a miracle that I survived as long as I did." *** For years, Chen Cao managed to balance the interests of the Communist Party and the promises made by his job. He was both a Chief Inspector of Special Investigations of the Shanghai Police Department and the deputy party secretary of the bureau. He was considered a potential rising star in the Party until, after one too many controversial cases that embarrassed powerful elements in the Party, Chen Cao found himself neutralized. Under the guise of a brilliant promotion, to a new position with no power, he's stripped of his titles and his job duties, discredited and isolated. But that's still not enough, as it becomes increasingly clear that someone is attempting to have him killed--and quietly. Chen Cao is technically in charge of the corruption case of a "Red Prince"--a powerful, high Party figure who embodies the ruthless ambition, greed, and corruption that is increasingly evident in the new China. With no power, few allies, and with his own reputation and life on the line, the former Inspector Chen is facing the most dangerous case of his career"--… (more)

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