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The Mao Case    by Qiu Xiaolong order for
Mao Case
by Qiu Xiaolong
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Readers looking for complicated characters involved in a unique tale of twisted obsessions and cold-blooded murders in something other than run-of-the-mill settings need look no further than The Mao Case.

This unusual police procedural features Chief Inspector (and published poet) Chen Cao who is dispatched to solve a mystery affecting the reputation of the late Chairman Mao, a larger-than-life infamous icon of Chinese culture. According to sources, Mao may have been somewhat sordidly involved at some time in his past with a movie star, and now the movie star's granddaughter may be in possession of certain incendiary documents.

The initially unenthusiastic Chen works undercover and ingratiates himself with the granddaughter and her bizarre collection of acquaintances, but a series of homicides quickly threatens to compromise Chen's task.

Readers ought to know that The Mao Case is a slowly developed tale that is dominated by cultural contexts, subplots, and singular characters. Moreover, the author is an experienced novelist (with five previous novels) and poet (with several books of poetry), and his passion for poetry infuses this Inspector Chen novel with plenty of digressions into poetry and epigrams, both ancient and modern. In fact, readers who give careful attention to the way in which those digressions are subtly involved in the progress of the mystery will more thoroughly enjoy Inspector Chen's investigation.

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