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The Interior by Lisa See

The Interior (1999)

by Lisa See

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4.5 stars ( )
  mitabird | Jun 10, 2018 |
Liu Hulan is an investigator with China’s version of the FBI. Considered a “Red Princess”, she has more money and privilege beyond that of most Chinese citizens, but even so, she’s taking risks by having a white American for a lover and getting pregnant without a permit. Her lover, David Stark, is an American attorney who jumps at the chance to go into private practice when a firm offers him a posting in China and he can live with Hulan. This is following an attempt on his life and the shocking death of his friend in Los Angeles.

When an old friend contacts Hulan about the death of her adult daughter, they don’t expect it to turn into a major investigation. The death is ruled a suicide, but the mother doesn’t buy that, and clues Hulan sees tell her it was a murder. When Hulan looks into it, it leads her right to the girl’s employer- a company that is being purchased by the very firm that David is representing. More and more irregularities appear, and David feels he has to step in.

There are many, many plot strands in this story, sometimes more than I could keep track of, along with lots and lots of characters. The ‘interior’ the title refers to is the interior of China, an area almost all rural (at the time; the book is set in 1997) and extremely poor. This makes the American owned factories that have started appearing very appealing to young Chinese, especially women, who have almost no other chances for advancement. The novel exposes some of the problems that happened during that time, when there were almost no rules for foreign investors.

Legal thrillers are not normally something I read. I picked this up because I love Lisa See’s writing, both fiction and non-fiction. I enjoyed it, but didn’t feel that the characters were nearly as developed as in her historical fiction, and that she had too many different elements in the story. The detail on life in China was amazing, though, and featured an aspect of China I had read little of. Four stars. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Jan 2, 2018 |
Meh. An interesting concept, but it wasn't an "I can't put this down" kind of book. I really prefer See's non-mystery books, I guess. Snow Flower and Peony are much better. ( )
  fefferbooks | May 12, 2014 |
I enjoyed this second installment in the series as much as the first. Again, there are some far-fetched elements. Like how this case coincidentally involves both David and Hulan independently. And the way that the killer has a long drawn out dialogue where he explains everything. But I enjoyed the book anyway because of how much I learned about American corporations in China, the difference between the Interior and the cities in China, and Chinese-American relations. ( )
  sumariotter | Nov 2, 2011 |
When David Stark is offered a job in a private firm that would allow him to be reunited with Liu Hulan, his lover, in China he takes it without questioning too deep. Meanwhile Hulan is asked by an old friend to look into Miaoshan's, her only child, death. The two of them meet from opposite sides of the same case involving American companies breaking a lot of laws on Chinese soil. While they struggle not to break their professional code of ethics, they try to solve the the puzzle to figure out who killed Miaoshan. Along the way the drama ramps up, several more people are gruesomely killed, and the horrible sides of business practises are brought to light.

This is the second book in the Red Princess series. (Flower Net was the first, and Dragon Bones is the third.) Their are many parts that allude to the first book, but I think it could do well as a stand alone. It is solidly written, and far more exciting than the first book of the series too. One of the things that I really liked about this book is how See tied all loose ends down. Instead of the "bad guy talks us to death" method she used in the first book, this method tied the answers into the story. And what answers were left they were quickly tied quite elegantly with quick dialogues.

Another thing I'm finding absolutely fascinating about See's writing is the way she nails the American and Chinese cultures. While reading this book, I thought of the brief 8 months I was in China, and was amazed at how closely it relates to what I experienced personally. This made the characters really come alive for me.

Once again, I felt like I was a shadow watching the action as it happened. I'm looking forward to digging the third book, Dragon Bones, out and reading it soon.

Writer notes: See does a great job of investigating her stories, and it shows. There was not a single time that I raised a finger in a questioning motion. This shows me how important it is to really research the concepts that I intend to write about. ( )
1 vote gconyers | Feb 24, 2011 |
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For my mother,who's taught me a lot about courage, persistence, and loyalty
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Today promised to be one of the hottest of the long summer in the interior of China. Here, the heat and humidity baked the earth and all upon it, so that by the time Ling Suchee reached the patch of ground where she grew her home vegetables, her clothes had already begun to stick to her skin.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0812978692, Paperback)

In our world, two years have passed since the publication of Flower Net, Lisa See's debut in thriller fiction, but as The Interior begins, only a few months have passed since Liu Hulan, a detective in Communist China's Ministry of Public Security, and U.S. Attorney David Stark first teamed up to catch a murderer--and rekindled their old love affair. Now, as David struggles to find a way to get back to China--or convince Hulan to move to America--Hulan goes to the village of Da Shui at the request of an old friend whose daughter has been murdered. Initial evidence suggests that it may have something to do with the nearby factory owned by an American toy manufacturer, where hundreds of Chinese women are working in sweatshop conditions. Meanwhile, David's old law firm has suddenly offered him an opportunity to head its new Beijing office, where one of his first duties will be to help one of the firm's corporate clients complete his purchase of the toy company. See's descriptions of daily Chinese life, both in Beijing and the far outposts of the country, are richly detailed. But the novel's even greater strength lies in the contests of will between David and Hulan and their various adversaries--as well as between each other, as Hulan struggles against what she perceives as a threat to her independence, and David must withhold critical information from his partner because it comes from one of his clients. While it certainly helps to have read Flower Net, The Interior is a surefooted exotic thriller in its own right, which will undoubtedly earn Lisa See as many new fans as the old ones it pleases.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:10 -0400)

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The Interior brings back the duo of Chinese police detective Liu Hulan and her lover, American attorney David Stark. This time, for Hulan, the case is alarmingly personal, unearthing her own buried past and a stunning network of violence and conspiracy. When an old friend from a village deep within China's interior asks Hulan to find out the truth about her daughter's suspicious suicide, Hulan cannot refuse -- even if it means going undercover in a newly built American toy factory linked to David's firm and finding her way into the heart of a dangerous mystery. Meanwhile, David's new job has him trapped in a tangle of legal and ethical dilemmas. To extricate himself, he must first decide whom to trust and where his greatest duty lies.… (more)

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