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The Firemaker by Peter May
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A burned corpse in a park in Beijing is the beginning of a strange mystery for Beijing detective Li Yan and forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell. Together they must work out who the man is if it was suicide or murder. And if it was murder, who would want to kill him? Since they got on the wrong foot with each other at the first meeting must they also find a way to work together without frictions with is easier said than done.

Peter May's Lewis trilogy is one that I truly enjoyed reading so I was quite eager to read The Firemaker when I got the chance to it. It was very interesting to read about Beijing. This is I'm quite sure the first crime book I have read that takes place in Beijing and the difference in the way of life there to ours in the west is fascinating. Peter May begin the book with telling the reader about his journey to China and his great interest in the country. And, I can tell that in the book with the details and how well he was written about the cultural difference between China and the west.

Margaret Campbell has left America to get away from some personal problems and she is absolutely not ready for the cultural shock that she is in for in Beijing. She should have read up more about what to do and what not to do before she sat foot in Beijing, but she didn't and that means that right from the start is she upsetting pretty much everyone. You know when you tell someone what not to do and the person instead go ahead and do it? Yup, that's Margaret Campbell in this book. For instance, the first time Margaret met Li Yan she makes him lose face. And, it just goes downhill from that one...

Still they and up working together and, despite their first annoyance with each other is there a spark between them and the more they work together, well let's say that they find each other quite acceptable towards the end.

The case with the burned body was an interesting one, unfortunately, I came to feel that it took forever to get somewhere with it. The book is pretty thick and the investigation was a bit slow and sometimes during the middle and towards the end that I feel almost a bit of desperation for the story to get somewhere. And, then finally, the investigation started to take off and then it took a horrible turn for Li Yan and Margaret.

So, in the end, the case was interesting, but the book felt a bit slow now and then. I did, however, like Li Yan and Margaret quite well. Sure Margaret's overbearing attitude was a bit annoying, but she started to respect the Chinese culture more and more towards the end of the book.

I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy for an honest review! ( )
  MaraBlaise | Nov 19, 2017 |
Margaret Campbell is a distinguished pathologist specialising in burns but when her personal life falls apart she takes up an offer to leave Chicago and be a guest lecturer in Beijing. Li Yan is a career police officer in China, mentored by his uncle Li has been promoted to a senior role. Three bodies are found in Beijing, a rare thing as Communist China has a low murder rate. However the three must be linked as by each body was found the same clue. Margaret is asked to consult as one body was found burned but as she and Li work together they realise that the crimes may be a cover up for something even more serious.

This is an early novel from May and I had really enjoyed the Lewis Trilogy set in Scotland so was interested to see what his earlier writing was like. The scope of this book is far greater than the later novels and the writing is far more formulaic. It is almost as though May had come up with an idea and written a fairly standard thriller by numbers. However the premise is interesting and the setting in hardline Communist China does throw up lots of opportunities for culture clash ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
The mystery is pretty transparent (especially if you're worried about genetically modified food) and the sex scenes made me cringe--lots of heavy breathing and breasts and buttocks straining against thin fabric as the two main characters succumb to a passion they cannot deny. I've never read a Harlequin romance and now I don't have to. So why did I stick with this book? The descriptions of Beijing were fascinating--May made me want to go there, something I've never before had a desire to do. He obviously knows the city well, and his descriptions of food stalls made me desperately hungry for authentic Chinese food. Like most detectives, his main character struggles with authority, but in China, where the community is valued above the needs of the individual, this isn't celebrated the way it is here. So I think Li has potential. Margaret Talbot, on the other hand, with her tight T-shirts and amazing bosoms, is a stereotypical ugly American: loud, arrogant , uninformed. Not that such people don't exist--they do--they just don't make very interesting characters. ( )
  sblock | Apr 17, 2017 |
I found this book a very interesting read. I loved the interplay between Margaret Campbell and LI Yan. Learned a lot of 'how not to act in China' through Margaret's mistakes. I have read Peter May's The Lewis Trilogy and didn't know what to expect for the Beijing series but May does not disappoint. He has well-developed characters and many surprises at the end. If you are interested in finding out about China's laws and history, then you will be sure to enjoy this book. I can't wait to read the 2nd in the series in order to find out what's next for Margaret and Li Yan. ( )
  EadieB | Jan 19, 2016 |
Margaret Campbell is a Chicago forensic pathologist in China for six weeks to lecture at the Beijing police university. Senior Detective Li Yan is newly promoted to Deputy Section Chief. When a man is found burned to death in a public place, Margaret, a specialist in burned victims, performs the autopsy and declares it murder. Two other murders follow and at all three scenes the stub of a Marlboro cigarette is found. Margaret and Li Yan join forces and discover much more than murder, but something that could impact millions.

Margaret was such an annoying character and I had a hard time liking her. Instead of reading the briefing materials carefully prepared for her to ease her into Chinese culture, she barges in as an obnoxious American and makes enemies before she even gets to her hotel. The descriptions of China were excellent. The mystery was intriguing with building suspense, and the plot is plausible and relevant. I also learned a lot about the about the Cultural Revolution and genetic engineering. If you are a fan of Peter May's excellent Lewis Trilogy you shouldn't go into this series thinking it's going to be as good. I don't think it is, but I do think it has potential so I'm planning to pick up the next book in the series, The Fourth Sacrifice. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312342942, Hardcover)


Margaret Campbell, a Chicago forensic pathologist, has been invited by the Chinese government to teach at the Beijing police university. She has accepted the six-week assignment with misgivings but is desperate to escape a troubled life in America. Arriving in Beijing, she checks “nothing to declare” on the health declaration they gave her on the plane---nothing, that is, “except a broken heart and a wasted life, neither of which was contagious.”

She gets off to a bad start when her car knocks senior detective Li Yan off his bicycle. In a furious clash, he dresses her down in perfect English. But Li soon finds himself reintroduced to Margaret by his superiors when the newly promoted detective’s first case requires Margaret’s special expertise to identify a horribly burned corpse. Thrown together to track down the killer, Margaret and Li must bury their personal and cultural differences when they uncover a conspiracy that threatens not only their lives, but the lives of millions.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:17 -0400)

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Desperate to escape her life in America, Chicago forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell accepts an invitation to teach at the Beijing police university, and finds herself in the midst of an investigation that could prove disastrous.

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