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Death of a Red Heroine


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Prizewinning debut of an extraordinary new voice in crime writing.

About the Author

Qiu Xiaolong was born in Shanghai. He was selected for membership of the Chinese Writers' Association and published poetry, translations and criticism in China. He has lived in the United States since 1989 and has an M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature awarded by Washington University. His work has been published in many literary magazines in America and in several anthologies. He has been the recipient of the Missouri Biennial Award, the Prairie Schooner Readers' Choice Award, a Yaddo and a Ford Foundation Fellowship. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and daughter.


Set a decade ago in Shanghai, this political mystery offers a peek into the tightly sealed, often crooked world of post-Tiananmen Square China. Chen Cao, a poet and T.S. Eliot translator bureaucratically assigned to be chief inspector, has to investigate the murder of Guan Hongying, a young woman celebrated as a National Model Worker, but who kept her personal life strictly and mysteriously confidential. Chen and his comrade, Detective Yu, take turns interviewing Guan's neighbors and co-workers, but it seems most of them either know nothing or are afraid to talk openly about a deceased, highly regarded public figure. Maybe they shouldn't be so uneasy, some characters reason; after all, these are "modern times" and socialist China is taking great leaps toward free speech. Chen and Yu make headway when they stumble on Wu Xiaoming, senior editor of Red Star magazine, who apparently was involved with Guan before her death. Tiptoeing around touchy politics and using investigative tactics bordering on blackmail, Chen slowly pieces together the motives behind the crime. The author, himself a poet and critic, peppers the story with allusions to classical Chinese literature, juxtaposing poignant poetry with a gruesome murder so that the novel reads like the translation of an ancient text imposed over a modern tale of intrigue. This is an impressive and welcome respite from the typical crime novel. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

'Stupendous ... It does what detective fiction can do best: it captures the details, the grit of everyday life ... A matchless pearl.' -- Fresh Air, National Public Radio, USA 'Blends history, plenty of poetry and a compelling mystery: the murder of Guan Hongying, a former national role-model worker, a beautiful young woman who slipped from patriotic fame into loneliness and depravity ... We get to see, smell, taste and hear an amazingly evocative portrait of a country.' -- Chicago Tribune 'Chen is an irresistible protagonist, likable and determined to make the honourable choices, no matter how dangerous. Qiu's portrait of China in transition, a potential eye-opener for many of his Western readers, is an equally compelling attraction.' -- Kirkus Reviews 'Superb ... brilliant' -- Newsday 'Marvellously assured ... engrossing, immensely readable' -- Wall Street Journal 'Riveting and convincing' -- Far Eastern Economic Review

The murder of a young woman found in a canal some distance from Shanghai threatens to go unnoticed and unsolved until someone identifies her as a well-known national model worker. Chief Inspector Chen Cao, a rapidly rising detective with a penchant for Tang and Song dynasty poetry, heads the case, which has become a sudden political event. Chen!s investigation finally wheedles its way past the victim!s false faAade and unloving neighbors to the dangerous perpetrator. In his first novel, the author, who published poetry and criticism in China and who teaches Chinese literature at Washington University in St. Louis, depicts a modern, changeable China, using focused prose, realistic depictions, and a very human protagonist. Recommended. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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