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Red Mandarin Dress (Inspector Chen Cao #5)

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,002 Ratings  ·  113 Reviews
Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Department is often put in charge ofpolitically sensitivecases.Having recentlyruffled more than a few official feathers, when he is asked to look into a sensitive corruption case he takes immediate action - he goes on leavefrom work. But while on vacation, the body of a murdered young woman is found in a highly trafficked are ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 27th 2007 by Minotaur Books (first published 2007)
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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa SeeThe Good Earth by Pearl S. BuckThe Joy Luck Club by Amy TanShanghai Girls by Lisa SeeThe Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan
Best Novels That Take Place in China
54th out of 314 books — 840 voters
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Asian Mystery
1st out of 160 books — 47 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,674)
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Jun 29, 2011 Kinga rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, china
I'm becoming softer with age. My initial reaction when I started reading this book was: What is this shit??
First of all it was a thriller and NOTHING happened. Xiaolong went on instead about the main character's Literature Paper. IN DETAIL. Eventually Chinese literature archetypes were linked to the murder case, and geez, wasn't that far-fetched. Trying to find the murderer by studying're not Umberto Eco, you know.
Now, you think if the author is so literature literate, the book
Dec 24, 2012 Kate rated it really liked it
Written in the 1990s, this Chinese murder mystery is a fascinating read. Besides the plot (which is pretty good), it is a wealth (a WEALTH, I say) of enthralling tidbits about Chinese culture, dress, poetry, food, literature, psychology, and politics/economics. [It was a great counterpart to Wild Swans actually, because it chronologically picks up right where that book lets off.] The main character is both a brilliant detective and a soon-to-be student of Chinese literature, so he simultaneously ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)

Ahhhhhh...that's better.

After my disappointment in A Case of Two Cities, it was with some trepidation that I picked up another Chen Cao story. However I'm pleased to say that the Inspector is back on form--or is he? He's taken another vacation, this time to write a literature paper with a vague idea of taking an MA in literature and furthering his interrupted scholarly career. Again, he seems to be having second thoughts about his work--but second thoughts often lead to second thoughts of their
Oct 28, 2008 BuDom rated it really liked it
This is an interesting story of more than just a serial killer. It gives a feeling of how China was back in the 1960s and how it has emerged as a more westernized society while still keeping to the socialist system of government. It shows that the human psychology is not very different regardless of region. It is a good read and there are few "Confucious says" remarks that really make you think.
Dec 08, 2014 Lucia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Empecé a leerlo sin mucha expectativa, y resultó ser mucho mejor de lo que esperaba!
La historia transcurre en Shanghai en los años 90, en plena reforma económica y apertura a empresas occidentales. En este marco, una serie de crímenes ocurre y pronto queda claro que la policía se enfrenta a un asesino serial.
El inspector Chen debe entonces balancear la investigación del caso con el curso de literatura china al que asiste paralelamente a su trabajo policial.
No sólo la investigación y resolución
Sep 12, 2011 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
On a cold morning late in the year the body of a young woman has been found on the safety island in the middle of a busy Shanghai road. Worker Master Huang sees her first as he jogs in the early morning. His mind had been occupied by the changes around him, particularly the substitution of a Starbucks for a former Worker and Farmer eatery where the food was cheap and tasty intended for the working class. Now the vistas are filled with mansions owned by what are known as the Big Bucks, the new we ...more
Mar 14, 2010 Catherine rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

This is the most fascinating of the Inspector Chen novels yet - a serial killer's actions in Shanghai providing the backdrop for larger cultural conversations about misogyny, story telling, poetry, and Freud. I'm still thinking over the ramifications of everything in this story - my discomfort at the number of victimized women in the novel, for example, exists in tension with the novel's own interrogation of how Chinese cultural tropes hold women responsible for the problems and downfa
Jan 17, 2011 Gloria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hmm. Forgot to write a review. Overall liked it, was much more philosophical and literary (references) than his other ones, and greatly enjoyed it for that reason. But I suspect for people looking for something just like Death of a Red Heroine, they might be a little frustrated.

But here are two things that struck me, before I send this book:

This was an excellent example of nudge architecture; Xi Yun, when I cited it, was astounded—he hadn't been aware of the reason for this practice, and thought
Lee Barckmann
Jan 03, 2013 Lee Barckmann rated it really liked it
An old man, soon to be pushed out of his old familiar Shanghai dwelling by high rising, expensive apartments finds a young woman's body, her legs askew, barefoot, without underwear, clad only in a torn red Mandarin dress, (qipao). This opening scene of the Inspector Chen crime novel 'Red Mandarin Dress', illustrates the theme of the old and new China colliding with painful consequences. The Mandarin dress is a perfect vehicle of this clash, as it was once a symbol of elegance in the China before ...more
Marthe Bijman
Sep 21, 2013 Marthe Bijman rated it liked it
Inspector Chen, hero of Qiu Xiaolong’s novel, has a weak stomach. He does not like the odd delicacies offered at receptions and traditional Chinese restaurants, such as live boiled turtle soup and live braised monkey’s brain. However, to trap his suspect into a confession, he sets up a horrible banquet with “cruel food”, dishes to make even the greatest gourmand squirm. He toys with the suspect, stage-managing the scene, and finally revealing the strange and shocking truth.

Huw Evans
Apr 27, 2012 Huw Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: detective, chinese
I fell in love with Shanghai in 2005, where western pyjamas are cool street fashion. I am not a detective story aficionado but familiarity with the environment makes the story more interesting. Also Inspector Chen is not only a maverick but a maverick versed in Chinese literature, allowing Qiu Xiaolong to refer to ancient texts and poems in a way that illuminates the case. Qiu highlights the conflicts between the old China of the emperors, the newer China of the Maoism and the newest China of st ...more
Mel Belstein
Feb 22, 2014 Mel Belstein rated it liked it
Lo encontre al azar en la biblioteca. No conocía al autor y me llamó la atención por que no es tan común ver libros policiales de autores chinos. El libro esta bueno, me gustó como esta escrito y el hecho de transcurrir en China es algo novedoso (novedoso para mi al menos que suelo leer novelas policiales que transcurren en USA, Gran Bretaña, Argentina o Suecia). Le doy solo tres estrellas porque la identidad del asesino es clara para el lector cuando aún falta un 25% del libro y eso le restó in ...more
Jul 05, 2013 Karim added it
The Inspector Chen series falls prey to formula. As much as I loved the novelty of Loyal Character Dance, Qiu has fallen victim to cliche in this series, and the often-confusing political structure and terminology of Chinese Communism plays a large role. One of the primary characters in the story was a Mao Zedong Revolutionary Thought Propaganda Worker Team Member. This utterly confusing mouthful is brought up repeatedly throughout the text, alongside similarly narrative-breaking terms. Similarl ...more
Mary Buckham
Jan 27, 2015 Mary Buckham rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished-2015
Fascinating read but I could not feel comfortable giving it a 5 star rating because as a mystery it fell short. The series protagonist was off scene a lot, focusing on returning to school and involved in writing a paper on an element of Chinese poetry. That was interesting but made the mystery secondary to a lot of references to Chinese poetry through the ages. Then the protagonist kept feeling stressed and had to escape the pressures of studying Chinese poetry and talking to his law enforcement ...more
Es una novela policiaca en la cual su autor Qiu Xiaolong presenta al inspector Chen Cao, investigador, estudiante de literatura y poeta resolviendo dos casos relacionados: un escándalo de la construcción de nuevos bloques habitacionales sobre antiguas casas de trabajadores y los asesinatos de jóvenes mujeres vestidas con quipaos de seda roja (vestidos de seda tipo mandarín). La novela se desarrolla en el contexto de una China actual, en donde conviven 2 sistemas: el comunista, al que el autor de ...more
Jul 29, 2011 크리스티 rated it it was amazing
This book was great - I ended up picking it up and reading it only to find out half way through that it was the fourth book in the series. I finished reading it and loved it! The mystery was set up so well and the little clues here and there was amazing. I was totally hooked on who the killer was and why. I finised it up in no time - it was an easy read and definatly awesome!
Jan 11, 2016 Lola rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
I found the book interesting primarily as a window into contemporary China and Chinese culture. Pacing was a bit slow for a mystery and the central character (the inspector) remains a bit opaque. The plot is okay but not sensational.

Our hero is a bit of a wonderkin, astonishing his colleagues with his deductive prowess. He discloses very little, trying to act with integrity in a repressive culture where a wrong move could be disastrous. While we do learn something of his thought process, we hav
May 31, 2008 Jim rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
The language is almost unbearable and the mystery part is incredibly clunky, but the background about the Cultural Revolution and the information about sexual attraction, marriage, Confucianism, and Maoism are interesting. Interesting enough to make this book worth reading? I'd say, almost.
Mar 02, 2016 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I'm rereading this series, this time in a much more compressed manner. (I mean the books closer to each other.). This makes me aware of how well this works as a series. The characters are really strongly drawn and are both consistent and evolving, if you don't find that contradictory. (I do not.).

This is in some ways the hardest one to read, though I'm sure my reaction is skewed to the cruel food theme that threads through the novel. It's odd because what I remembered were the soup dumplings--I
May 28, 2009 Juliet rated it did not like it
This book didn't really hold my interest and I tried. It's sort of a mix between the red mandarin dress murders of which I wanted to read more off and interspered with other Chinese stories which just dragged the whole story down.
May 22, 2016 Anne rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
A partial return to form after two disappointing books. My main beef (potential spoiler) is that the killer is introduced early in the book in a way that is unrelated to Chen's investigation, and plays no real part in it until Chen begins to suspect him. By then we are hardly surprised.

Two more complaints about this series in general. First, although it's supposed to take place in the mid-1990s, the technology is that of a decade later, when Qiu wrote the books. Cell phones and the Internet were
Feb 24, 2014 Tini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Di seta e di sangue" del cinese Qiu Xiaolong si presenta come un giallo ma in realtà il romanzo permette di conoscere la storia della Cina grazie ai continui riferimenti alle epoche passate, a Confucio e i rimandi al periodo della Rivoluzione Culturale. Inoltre, attraverso la storia del protagonista, l'ispettore Chen Cao, l'autore riesce a farci un quadro ben illustrato della Cina (urbana e rurale) con tutte le sue trasformazioni sociali e culturali. Si legge benissimo; una pagina tira l'altra. ...more
Jun 21, 2016 Francisco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A veces es difícil percatarnos de lo profundo que es el abismo de las diferencias culturales entre occidente y China. Adicionalmente hay que considerar su transición entre el comunismo y la mezcla económica que se ha abierto paso en la nación más poblada del mundo y lo enorme que puede lucir la separación de las clases. Leer a Qiu me ha dado un golpe en cuanto al concepto de las culturas y los arraigos de las personas, de extremo a extremo: la cocina gourmet, el trato a la prostitución, la psico ...more
Sep 09, 2010 Ksafford rated it it was ok
I read about half the book. Just could not get into it.
Jesus Flores
Jun 25, 2015 Jesus Flores rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: detectives, china
Vestido Seda
So a woman in a Qipao is found dead, then a week later a second one, and they decide to assign Inspector Chen Cao unit to help the murder unit to catch this possible serial killer. Problem is Cen Cao is on leave because he is planning to study literature, and also at te time one of his high contacts ask him to investigate some lawyer that participates on a trial about buildings and corruption. So it is his second in command Yu who has to investigate the 2 murders while dealing with t
Jan 18, 2015 Graham rated it it was amazing
This was another excellent book in the Inspector Chen series. There were all the elements that have made the other books so enjoyable including: the poetry that has interesting levels of complexity that resonate of historical significance; the food of the working person's China; the team effort of all parties including Peiqin(Inspector Yu's wife); the subtle relationships that seem necessary to 'get things done' in China; and the careful piecing together of the clues to solve the murders that fo ...more
Oct 26, 2010 Anna rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookcrossing, 2010
This was the first Inspector Chen series book I've ever read. As thrillers, detectives and mysteries are my favorite genres, I'm always in the lookout for the next Harry Bosch or Salvo Montalbano. I've tried authors that I didn't really like (Harlan Coben was just bad enough to finish one book, never to touch a second one), and while this isn't exactly a Chinese version of Montalbano, I did quite like it.

Chen investigates a serial murder in Shanghai. The victims are young service industry girls,
Jul 23, 2011 Sara rated it it was amazing
The first victim, Jasmine, is found wearing an old mandarin dress from the 1940s - long sleeves, low slits, double-fish-shaped cloth buttons, the kind of craftsmanship not used since the 1960s Cultural Revolution when the mandarin dress was forbidden. Another woman is found dead in the same attire, leading to speculation that a serial killer is responsible.

This search is interwoven with Chen's desire to escape his work by doing a university course; his project focuses on themes of ambivalence to
Clara Mazzi
Secondo - e ultimo giallo - di Qiu Xiaolong. Preso per sbaglio, sull'onda dell'entusiasmo del quarto di copertina e per il fatto di leggere un autore che mi avrebbe portata ancora una volta in Cina, ma subito pentitissima dopo aver letto "Ratti rossi". Ballandomi da un anno sul comodino mi pareva comunque brutto non leggerlo e così, con una certa riluttanza l'ho preso tra le mani. Riluttanza che è stata ben presto confermata. Sebbene "Di seta e di sangue" sia decisamente meglio dell'altro, tutta ...more
A little above average for this series. Inspector Chen has a mid-life, mid-career, conscience crisis. Caught in between a financial scandal investigation that he doesn't want to investigate and a series of murder dubbed the "first" serial killer of Shanghai, Chen breaks down and hides behind the pretext of going back to academia. Yu is left holding the bag and to deal with the police politics. But Chen can't seem to hide from reality and is dragged back into investigating both cases. I liked the ...more
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Qiu Xiaolong (裘小龙) was born in Shanghai, China. He is the author of the award-winning Inspector Chen series of mystery novels, Death of a Red Heroine (2000), A Loyal Character Dancer (2002), When Red Is Black (2004), A Case of Two Cities (2006), Red Mandarin Dress (2007), and The Mao Case (2009). He is also the author of two books of poetry translations, Treasury of Chinese Love Poems (2003) and E ...more
More about Qiu Xiaolong...

Other Books in the Series

Inspector Chen Cao (9 books)
  • Death of a Red Heroine (Inspector Chen Cao #1)
  • A Loyal Character Dancer (Inspector Chen Cao #2)
  • When Red Is Black (Inspector Chen Cao #3)
  • A Case of Two Cities (Inspector Chen Cao #4)
  • The Mao Case (Inspector Chen Cao #6)
  • Don't Cry, Tai Lake (Inspector Chen Cao #7)
  • Enigma of China (Inspector Chen Cao #8)
  • Shanghai Redemption (Inspector Chen Cao #9)

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“«Una mujer se embellece para el hombre que sabe apreciarla».” 0 likes
“Para Shen, un vestido no era un mero trozo de tela, sino una imagen llena de significados y de asociaciones.” 0 likes
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