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A Case of Two Cities by Xiaolong Qiu

A Case of Two Cities (2006)

by Xiaolong Qiu

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4221737,769 (3.49)27
  1. 20
    Inside the Red Mansion: On the Trail of China's Most Wanted Man by Oliver August (teaperson)
    teaperson: A Case of Two Cities is a fictional mystery that appears to be loosely based on the case described in Inside the Red Mansion. Both explore similar themes of the changes in contemporary China.

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English (13)  German (2)  Finnish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (17)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
A CASE OF TWO CITIES opens with seemingly unrelated incidents: the death in somewhat scandalous circumstances of a long serving policeman and Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau being put in charge of an investigation into high-level corruption. Chen’s tactics are, of necessity, circuitous but he and the people he chooses to seek help from prove to be in danger. Even when he is appointed at the last minute to head a delegation of Chinese writers on a tour to the USA he is not beyond the reach of those with empires to protect.

I have not read the previous three novels featuring this character and there were a couple of times when it felt like I was missing out on some crucial information, but for the most part it was possible to read this book as a standalone novel. For someone who reads crime fiction as much for they way it offers me a window into other places and cultures as for the mysteries A CASE OF TWO CITIES has a lot to offer. Of most interest for me was the small details of life in modern China where a kind of state sponsored capitalism has become the dominant economic force. As Qiu Xiaolong was born in China before moving to the US as an adult I have to assume that this depiction is as authentic as it seemed when reading it and I found this aspect of the book genuinely absorbing. When the book’s action moves to America it is equally interesting seeing a more familiar setting through the eyes of people who are not used to it.

I also enjoyed meeting Chen and seeing him in action. He faces some of the same challenges as fictional police everywhere but having to combine his policing duties with a role as a leading Party cadre adds a layer of complexity and the fact this is topped off with being a recognised poet makes him unique amongst fictional sleuths. His working and personal lives both require a very delicate balancing act between all of these priorities and and this can add both danger and sadness given that he is not always free to do what his heart might want. There are a lot of minor characters in the book and I did find this a bit overwhelming for keeping the story straight in my head plus it meant that none of the other characters was really fleshed out in any depth. His trusted offsider and his wife are probably the only two I’ll be able to remember for any length of time.

Narratively I did find myself getting lost a little at times. Apologies to all the poets out there but the liberal inclusion of poetry and a kind of long-form homage to T.S.Eliot detracted rather than added to the book for me. I’ve never really liked this kind of thing (I do rather like poetry, I just prefer it to be in a separate universe to prose) and here I found it particularly annoying as I was having trouble enough keeping track of all the unfamiliar names and places. But it was probably the style of investigation that made the story harder than normal to follow. I don’t know if was because this case involved such a politically sensitive issue or if this is how Chen’s cases always play out but nothing every really moves in a straight forward direction: every tiny bit of progression has to come via an oblique angle that, at times, isn’t even recognisable as investigative work.

Overall though I really enjoyed A CASE OF TWO CITIES, even if I might have missed a few nuances of the plot and can heartily recommend it to those who like to travel virtually via their crime fiction. The setting, engaging protagonist and understated suspense all make for a very satisfying reading experience.
  bsquaredinoz | Oct 12, 2017 |
It's pretty good. I like the occasionally stilted English which, while correct, reflects the sensibility of another language. Much like as a child of German parents, I might say, "I to the store go." Not exactly incorrect English, but not the way a native speaker would say it. ( )
  fphoppe | Feb 5, 2014 |
Shanghai's Inspector Chen Cao is assigned to investigate a high-profile corruption case involving a businessman who is seeking asylum in the United States. When a potential informant dies, Chen begins to suspect that his investigation may be for show, and that top officials may not want him to succeed. Might Chen's sudden trip to the U.S. be a diversion or is it the key to solving the case?

Politics is always central to the Inspector Chen novels. This one leans more toward espionage than to crime fiction. It's not particularly light reading, either. The complex plot and ambiguous dialogue require the reader's careful attention. I made the mistake of reading this one when I had a lot of distractions. Perhaps that's why I didn't enjoy it as well as the other books I've read in the series. When I'm ready to read the next one, I'll have to make sure I pick a time with fewer distractions. ( )
  cbl_tn | Jun 28, 2013 |
All I can say is I'm totally hooked on Inspector Chen!! I love Qui Xiaolong's writing! ( )
  rayneofdarkness | Dec 24, 2012 |
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In memory of Mona van Duyn

Out of the train window,
the gaping windows of the buildings
are telling stories all along the line,
about the past, the present, and the future.
I am not the teller of the stories,
nor the audience,
simply passing through there,
then, full of ignorance,
so full of imagination.

The high tension cables
outline the score of the evening.

Simply passing there,
then -- "Next stop is Halle."

*I wrote the poem during a trip in Germany, looking out of the train window, when I was seized by an inexplicable sadness, and upon my return to the States, I learned about the death of my friend, Mona Van Duyn.
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An anonymous phone call came to the Fujian Police Bureau at 1:15 a.m. on that early May night. (Prologue)
Chief Inspector Chen Cao, of the Shanghai Police Bureau, was invited to a mega bathhouse, Birds Flying, Fishes Jumping, on a May afternoon.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312374666, Paperback)

Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Department is assigned a high-profile anti-corruption case, one in which the principal figure has long since fled to the United States and beyond the reach of the Chinese government. But Xing left behind his organization, and Chen, while assigned to root the co-conspirators, is not sure whether he's actually being set up to fail.
      In a twisting case that takes him from Shanghai all the way to the U.S., reuniting him with his colleague and counterpart from the U.S. Marshall's Service, Inspector Catherine Rhon, Chen finds himself at odds with hidden, powerful, and vicious enemies. At once a compelling crime novel and an insightful, moving portrayal of contemporary China, A Case of Two Cities is the finest novel yet in this critically-acclaimed, award-wining series.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:29 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau is increasingly seen as a man on the rise - he is a poet with a popular new collection, a Party cadre recently appointed to the city congress, and a respected police inspector. But appearances can't always be trusted." "When a major new anti-corruption campaign is announced at the highest levels, Inspector Chen is summoned by an official of the Party to take the lead in a high-profile case, one in which the principal figure, Xing Xing, and his family have long since fled to the United States and beyond the reach of the Chinese government. But Xing left behind his organization, and Chen is charged with uncovering his connections and partners, and is authorized to take whatever means he has to to end the corruption ring. The assignment is potentially dangerous - a detective working on the case in Fujian was found dead in embarrassing and suspicious circumstances - and one that could have disastrous consequences for Chen, his friends, and his family." "In a twisting case that takes him from Shanghai all the way to the U.S., reuniting him with his colleague and counterpart from the U.S. Marshall's Service, Inspector Catherine Rhon, Chen finds himself at odds with hidden, powerful, and vicious enemies."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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