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When Red Is Black (Inspector Chen Cao #3)
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When Red Is Black (Inspector Chen Cao #3)

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  840 ratings  ·  102 reviews
Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau is taking a vacation, in part because he is annoyed at his boss, Party Secretary Li, but also because he has been made an offer he can’t refuse by Gu, a triad-connected businessman. For what seems to be a fortune—with no apparent strings attached— he is to translate a business proposal for the New World, a complex of shops a ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 1st 2005 by Soho Crime (first published January 1st 2004)
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Dragon Bones by Lisa SeeDeath of a Red Heroine by Qiu XiaolongRed Mandarin Dress by Qiu XiaolongWhen Red Is Black by Qiu XiaolongA Case of Two Cities by Qiu Xiaolong
Asian mystery
4th out of 143 books — 35 voters
Tao Te Ching by Lao TsuThe Art of War by Sun TzuWild Swans by Jung ChangBalzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai SijieWaiting by Ha Jin
Chinese Literature
52nd out of 145 books — 71 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,306)
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Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
What a great book. I love Xiaolong because he gives me an insight into an alien world - all the more fascinating because it is a world that actually exists; China. A former Red Guard is found murdered. Known for a book she has written about the Cultural revolution, her death could be an embarrassment for the State - they can already see the headlines "Dissident Dies!". Inspector Chen has taken time off to carry out a very lucrative translation so Yu investigates.
This book is actually about the n
I'll be honest: I wouldn't recommend this series to anyone looking for unputdownable mysteries. The mystery part of any of the three books I've read so far just isn't strong enough to make it compelling for me. But the characters and everything else are. Chen, Yu and Peiqin really come alive in these pages, and so while I may not read this to find out who is the killer but rather to find out what Yu, Peiqin and Chen do to find out in the end what matters is that it is a well-written and engaging ...more
First Sentence: Detective Yu Guangming of the Shanghai Police Bureau stood alone, still reeling of the blow.

Inspector Chen Cao is taking time off from his role with the police. He has been asked to translate a business proposal for a triad-related businessman. The proposal is for the construction of a new shopping/residential complex in Shanghai called the New World. Both the salary and the benefits are too good to resist, but Chen ultimately finds everything has strings. With Chen unavailable,
Huw Evans
I fell in love with Shanghai when i visited four years ago. A week there was not enough time to indulge my senses. To find that Qiu Xialong had written a series of detective novels set in that city was something I had to read. Inspector Chen is a hard working middle grade detective in a city that is struggling to adapt. The politicals are not keen about the rate of change and the loss of respect of the Party hierarchy. The crooks are already spreading their nets ever wider and creaming off the p ...more
William Knox
Deciding to read this book was a bit of a radical departure from my normal reading habits. I had never before read a novel about modern day China and do not often read detective novels.

I found the insights into present day China fascinating. It must be a nightmare to keep up with the various political changes, all decreed from the top, over the last 50 years. I enjoyed reading the way that the characters in the novel negotiated this mine field. I also found the general view of acceptance of the
David Schwan
In this novel the plot is not so central, the plot is ok, not great, not bad. Instead the author has concentrated on developing the main characters Chen and Yu with emphasis on the later. Yu has to do the majority of work on their latest murder case while Chen is on vacation translating a business proposal. In the book we are introduced to White Cloud who I believe shows up later in the series.

This book shows Chen confronting the old Communist system and the new Capitalism. He is required to wal
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
A less fantastical, more believable case for this installment which brings Detective Yu more to the fore. He is the one who takes charge of the case of a dissident writer who is found dead in her "cubicle" living space (apparently Shanghai doesn't run to garrets).She has been smothered and the room ransacked. Who dun it? Not the man who claims to be the murderer, that's for sure. Why does he insist he is? And how could the killer just vanish in a building full of witnesses?

Chen is on vacation, d
Affascinante lo scorcio sulle diverse sfaccettature della vita nella Cina moderna. Un po' deludente l'intreccio giallo.

L'inizio della vicenda, l'omicidio e tutte le domande ad esso collegate, e le possibili implicazioni politiche, catturano l'attenzione. Ma prima che succeda qualcosa di rilevante per le indagini si arriva a metà libro, un tempo eccessivo da attendere perché la vicenda entri nel vivo. 150 pagine circa che non diventano noiose solo grazie alla citata visuale sulla Cina contemporan
I gave this book a 4 not because the story is remarkably original but because I think the historical moment in which key events in this moment is housed is fascinating. Mr. Qui does an EXCELLENT job of conveying the historical perspective that shapes so much of modern Chinese thinking and behavior and describes well the social strains with China at the time that the transformation to a market economy began in earnest. Inspector Chen and his partner Yu once again deftly navigate the political min ...more
Rafa Sánchez
Nuevo relato de un crimen en la atestada Shanghai de los primeros años 90, en este caso dentro de una vivienda shikumen, típica construcción de la ciudad que predominaba en algunos barrios del centro y donde más de una docena de familias conviven en cuchitriles a la vez que comparten cocinas, aseos y patios... La variedad de orígenes y situaciones personales de los ocupantes de esta colmena humana es el decorado de la acción policial, en este caso llevada a cabo principalmente por el subalterno ...more
Laura Besley
I picked up "When Red is Black" at a book market in Bath, UK, a while ago. There are several reasons why I'm interested in Chinese literature: I live in Hong Kong, have been to China a couple of times and I also write. Qui Xiaolong was born in Shanghai and the novel was set there, a detail I particularly like because I have been. Currently living in the USA, this book was written in English (or translated by the author). This book is the third in the Inspector Chen series, but I haven't read eit ...more
Character and the atmosphere of Shanghai of the 90s drives this series. Shanghai, and China is in the midst of a confusing transition from orthodox Chinese socialism to something that begins to allow some capitalism. It is fascinating to watch how people carefully shun the Cultural Revolution, while remaking the society. So Inspector Chen and Detective You and his wife Peiqin walk a very tight and treacherous rope. They struggle to do nothing to bring the ever watchful and vindictive eye of the ...more
Somewhat of a disappointment. While I'm enjoying the Chinese setting, this book's plot plodded, the mystery seemed muddled, and the characters were uncharismatic, not to mention that I saw little change in the inspector's circumstances or outlook. The background on the Cultural Revolution and the effect it had on people is what was of chief interest. Expecting a conventional murder mystery to unfold seems pointless with this series, but I'm of two minds whether this is a good or bad thing.

I'm t
Planed to write a review...and finally have a little something...

I was browsing the shelves when this book popped into my hands. I didn't realize it was a book in a series, a murder-mystery series. The book made no indication to me of the fact. Yet it worked as a standalone just fine.

Perhaps this book is a little different than others in the named Inspector Chen Cao series, as he was not the principal investigator in this murder. Instead he is working on a translation project and living a littl
Ramon Sunico
Aug 27, 2011 Ramon Sunico rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ramon by: LJ Roberts
A thoroughly enjoyable (and mouth-watering) read. The straightforward first sentence sets the unsuspecting reader up for an intricate lauriat (lao-diat or re-nao) of careful, sometimes, plodding investigative work; poignant portraits of a fan of characters, all of whom have been touched in some way by China's Cultural Revolution and Shanghai's current infatuation with managed capitalism; pithy quotes of classical Chinese poetry that sometimes work the way the commentary of a Greek chorus does; a ...more
Like its predecessors the third Inspector Chen mystery provides an insightful look into modern China. The "red" of the title refers to the politically correct, the "black" to the supposed enemies of working class. Chen, who writes poetry and translates Western mysteries in addition to his police work, is taking vacation time to earn extra income translating a business proposal for an ambitious entrepreneur. So when the author of a banned book is found murdered in her Shanghai apartment, his subo ...more
Aug 16, 2011 Sara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in modern China
The triad-connected businessman Gu hires Chen to translate a business proposal into English - a proposal for an urban development in the architecturally splendid shikumen style of the "decadent" thirties, which is becoming quite popular with the new "conspicuous consumers" of the growing urban middle class.

In the meantime, Detective Yu is left to find the murderer of Yin, a former Red Guard who has become well known for her book about her relationship with Yang, a famous Rightist poet denounced
Detective novel set in the poorer parts of Shanghai, this mystery provides insights into the post-Cultural Revolution generation. Those deemed politically 'black' survive in a state of social isolation even though, according to Xiaolong, most Chinese accept that mistakes were made in those nightmarish times. But even the individuals lauded as impeccably 'red' (unshakeable in their commitment to the party) are not assured of success in contemporary Shanghai. Everything revolves around money and b ...more
Joyce Lagow
3rd in the Chief Inspector Chen os Shanghai series.

Chen is on vacation translating a business proposal for a businessman acquaintance. But a woman who has been classified as a dissident writer has been murdered, and Party Secretary Li, Chen's boss, is pushing Chen to take charge of the case. Chen's partner, Dective Yu, is handling the case, and Chen is reluctant to interfere. Eventually he does take part in the investigation.

A good plot which more fully develops the disaster that Mao's Cultural
Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau is a different kind of police officer. He studied poetry at University before being assigned to the police force by the Communist Party on his graduation. He is a very thorough and competent officer who uses a blend of police techniques and connections to solve his case. He also must always take into consideration any political impacts from his investigations as there is a Communist Party member in the police station who monitors everything that h ...more
Last year I started reading this series (Qiu Xialong/Inspector Chen Cao), and frankly, I love it. Although I enjoyed the mystery genre, I evolved to the point where I craved something a little more, something a little more exotic than the hard-boiled streets of LA or NYC. And this series delivers.

Chen is the perfect vehicle for the western audience: He is Han Chinese, and as a cog in an nominally Communist machine in the China of the 1990's, a more-or-less loyal technocrat. However, Chen studied
I have skipped a book in the series - I've read the first one and now the third. I don't think I've particularly suffered for it though. This was just as good as the first one. Aside from the murder mystery, there is a lot about the lives of the two main detectives and their families, their eating habits in great detail etc - which may sound a little dull, but this being Shanghai in the 1990s, it's actually really interesting to read about how people were living. It's quite an eye opener and mak ...more
When Red is Black is the 3rd installment of the Detective Chen Cao series. This mystery focuses on the death of writer Yin, who was suspected of being a dissident by the Chinese government for her publication of "Death of a Chinese Professor," based loosely on her lover's life during and following the Cultural Revolution. Yin is found smothered in her apartment, and there is no clear suspect. Detective Chen is on vacation, as he took a lucrative translation job, so his partner Yu is left alone t ...more
Backdrop to this book is the commercialization of Shanghai, the role of favors to make things happen, and of course Xiaolong’s constant theme of the travesty of the Cultural Revolution on individual life. He spends some time on the British history and the architecture of shikumen houses. He does a good job of detailing the overcrowding, 16 families in one house, but also the joy of communal day to day life. Yin, in a tiny room at the turn of the stairs in one of these houses. She was an educated ...more
Having chosen this book from the library as it was a murder mystery, I was quite surprised by the book. It is not a page-turner, and the mystery is almost a secondary aim of the story. It is a thoughtfully written description of Chinese life at a very interesting time. It was an easy read and although it wasn't what I was expecting, I did get into the book part way through and really enjoyed it.
Second book I have read in this series, which is interesting because it is not just about police solving crimes; it's an immersion into what it was like to live and work (and eat!) in China in the 1990s. The detectives also have to figure out who committed the crimes with pressure from authorities who have expectations for political reasons of what the result of the investigation should be.
As a mystery book it is not so good. As a credible snapshot of life in China in the 90s, however, it is great, including the memories of the Cultural Revolution.

There is no way I can be sure of its accuracy, but it rings right, and that is what really matters. Only the failings as a mystery keep it from a higher rating. I specially enjoyed the food descriptions.
This book is to be savored as both a solidly entertaining mystery and a commentary on the newly emerging Shanghai of the early 2000s. Qiu Xiaolong's writing style deftly wraps a murder of a dissident writer into characters' musings about the emerging world of modern China, while reflecting upon the Cultural Revolution of China's past. It's also a pleasure to read about Chinese food, which is succulently portrayed, almost as a minor character, throughout the book. As a resident of Shanghai myself ...more
Have read and enjoyed two other books in this series (1 & 6) and I really liked the small scope of this one, peeking into the life and death of a murdered novelist. Inspector Chen is supposed to be on vacation completing a lucrative English translation of a real estate proposal for a triad connected business man. But with pressure from his superior and his own interest he offers aid to his associate, Detective Yu. A story of relationships in the present in a Shanghai tenement, the past, as t ...more
Ed Mestre
This is my 3rd detective Chen mystery. Like the others I thoroughly enjoyed it, but not so much for the mystery aspect, which is certainly decent enough. The real pleasure of these books is the peeling away of the onion layers to reveal China both yesterday & today in all its complexity. The surge of capitalism amidst the ghosts of the disastrous Red Guard Cultural Revolution. People trying to find their place in a world changing so radically & quickly that there is really nothing in Ame ...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)
  • A Case of Two Cities (Inspector Chen Cao #4)
  • Red Mandarin Dress (Inspector Chen Cao #5)
  • The Mao Case (Inspector Chen Cao #6)
  • Don't Cry, Tai Lake (Inspector Chen Cao #7)
  • Enigma of China (Inspector Chen Cao #8)
  • Dragon bleu, tigre blanc (Inspecteur Chen Cao #9)
Death of a Red Heroine (Inspector Chen Cao #1) A Loyal Character Dancer (Inspector Chen Cao #2) Red Mandarin Dress (Inspector Chen Cao #5) A Case of Two Cities (Inspector Chen Cao #4) The Mao Case (Inspector Chen Cao #6)

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