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The Killing Room    by Peter May Amazon.com order for
Killing Room
by Peter May
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2008 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Gritty and spellbinding, The Killing Room begins with the shocking discovery in a muddy hillside at a construction site in Shanghai, China: eighteen mutilated bodies of young women.

Anxious to find out what happened and avoid problematic publicity, local authorities - because of sensitive political considerations - turn to Beijing from where twenty-eight year old Detective Li Yan is dispatched as the lead investigator. Li supplements his investigative team with Margaret Campbell, an internationally respected forensic anthropologist who had recently been a guest lecturer at China's police training institution. Li's reasoning for wanting Margaret Campbell's assistance is sound: 'Americans, after all, are more practiced in the art of murder.' But Li has another reason for including her: they have been lovers for quite a while.

Li immediately runs into difficulties in the complicated case, finding himself caught in the middle of a political power struggle involving Shanghai and Beijing, and realizing that serious problems have arisen in his relationship with Margaret.

As for the eighteen dead bodies, all early evidence suggests that the bodies - before their haphazard burial at the construction site - had been frozen, autopsied, and dismembered. With few clues and plenty of obstacles, Li and Margaret nevertheless make progress, especially when they begin to discover identities of, and important links between, the victims.

But as Li and Margaret discover even more important evidence (especially relating to some of the victims' medical records), they also encounter more dangers: Margaret is being stalked by a mysterious man, political pressures from the highest levels of government inexplicably intensify, and someone close to someone working on the investigative team is kidnapped.

The Killing Room is a provocative, stomach-churning, suspense-filled forensic thriller that enhances Peter May's growing reputation as a skilled storyteller who knows how to serve up vivid narratives, romantic adventures, compelling characterizations, riveting plots, and intriguing views of modern-day China. The Killing Room is highly recommended.

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