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

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,108 Ratings  ·  129 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, 310 pages
Published August 1st 2005 by Soho Crime (first published January 1st 2004)
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Red Mandarin Dress by Qiu XiaolongThe Skull Mantra by Eliot PattisonDragon Bones by Lisa SeeDeath of a Red Heroine by Qiu XiaolongFlower Net by Lisa See
Asian Mystery
6th out of 160 books — 48 voters
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Best Novels That Take Place in China
101st out of 319 books — 843 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,738)
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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
...more
Kristine Brancolini
When Red is Black is the third in the Inspector Chen Cao series. I very much enjoyed this installment in the series. Qiu Xiaolong has created my favorite kind of international mystery series. I learn about the history, culture, literature, and politics of China, along with a well-plotted murder mystery. Like P.D. James' detective Adam Dalgliesh, Chen is a poet, and these books are actually filled with poetry, both classical Chinese poetry and Chen's (Qiu's) own poetry. I learned that Chinese nov ...more
Sophie
Jun 09, 2011 Sophie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Laura
From BBC radio 4 - Drama:
Inspector Chen: When Red is Black

by Qiu Xiaolong

dramatised by John Harvey

Crime drama set in early 1990s Shanghai. When Chen agrees to do a translation job for a property developer he is given a laptop, a 'little secretary' to provide for his every need, and medical care for his mother. There are, it seems, no strings attached . . . and then the murder of a dissident writer is reported.

Director: David Hunter

The third dramatisation in the Inspector Chen series, following o
...more
William Knox
Apr 15, 2010 William Knox rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
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
...more
LJ
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,
...more
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
...more
Cheyanne
Feb 19, 2016 Cheyanne rated it really liked it
After a rather uneven second installment (A Loyal Character Dancer), this Shanghai detective series is back on track. Once again, the abuses of the Cultural Revolution are the root cause of the murder to be solved. This time, Detective Yu is in charge of the investigation- with more help than usual from his wife- while Chief Inspector Chen seems to be teetering on the edge of corruption. However, Chen is gradually drawn into the case and redeems himself with a daring act that is bound to have re ...more
Susan
Apr 05, 2010 Susan rated it liked it
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
Huw Evans
Nov 28, 2011 Huw Evans rated it really liked it
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
LauraT
Jun 20, 2016 LauraT rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is not mainly for the plot that I liked this book - the mystery is a bit ... thin - but because it is all centered on translation and translating! Even clues to solve the murder were taken from a translation in English of a Chinese book of fiction. Who wrote it MUST be, beside an author, also a translator - as one of his main character is. It is the first time I read in a work of fiction all I suffer in my work.
Should be read by those who organize the offices!!!!
David Schwan
May 17, 2014 David Schwan rated it really liked it
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
...more
Marius
Dec 16, 2014 Marius rated it really liked it
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
icaro
L'ispettore capo Chen non è certo un simpaticone. Ha ragione Nuvola Bianca. Sarà anche un grand'uomo, ma non ci sa fare granché né con le belle ragazze né con i lettori.
Molto meglio il suo secondo Yu, e meno male che l'ha capito anche Qiu Xialong che, questa volta gli lascia tutto lo spazio che occorre.
Il plot giallo non è male (anche se non eccezionale), ma pare che nella Cina di Qiu muoiano di morte violenta solo le donne, chissà perché.
L'accurata descrizione della vita a Shangai oggi, dal soc
...more
Rafa Sánchez
Jul 16, 2014 Rafa Sánchez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crimen
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
Devis V.
Ok, il libro non è di per sé eccezionale, sicuramente si trova di meglio in giro. Ma è anche vero che si fa leggere, e ha il pregio di riuscire abbastanza bene a mettere in evidenza i mutamenti socio-economici che sono avvenuti (e tutt'ora avvengono) in Cina, e di come essi hanno attecchito sulla popolazione.
L'autore cerca di mescolare la sua "lezione" ad una storia che si presenta come un poliziesco-business thriller, buttandoci in mezzo alle vite di odierni cittadini cinesi in un contesto di a
...more
Maria Beltrami
Niente da fare, oggi come oggi i noir sono uno dei sistemi più diretti ed efficaci per farsi un'idea di una società, e questo noir cinese non fa eccezione.
L'indagine sulla morte di una scrittrice dissidente, un personaggio controverso, e forse nemmeno una brava scrittrice, che nessuno avrebbe notato se non avesse dato politicamente fastidio, diventa un pretesto per descrivere l'intreccio tra potere comunista, che tutt'ora governa la nazione e potere capitalista, che sconfina nella malavita.
I per
...more
Laura Besley
Jan 28, 2014 Laura Besley rated it liked it
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
Susana
Jun 18, 2014 Susana rated it really liked it
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
Tommi Mannila
Kirjassa ylikomisario Chen tasapainoilee poliittiselta murhalta vaikuttavan tapauksen sekä hänelle taloudellisesti varsin tärkeä käännöstyön välillä, antaen konstaapeli Yun hoitaa murhan tutkinnan pääosiltaan.

Kirjassa tuttuun tapaan tasapainoillaan poliittisesti puolueen maineen sekä oikeudenmukaisuuden välillä sekä murhatapauksen että "duunareiden" asuinpolitiikan suhteen.

Kirja ei aivan yllä kakkososan tasolle, mutta pitää kuitenkin sarjassa tähän asti lukemieni kirjojen suhteen kirkkaasti kakk
...more
vania
Nov 16, 2010 vania rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Come Giallo è piuttosto noioso; invece, come descrizione della Cina degli anni '90, anche.
Ladysatel
Jan 26, 2016 Ladysatel rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, crime, fiction
Entwined with a murder mystery is the continuing effect of the Chinese Cultural Revolution where intellectuals and educated youth were sent to the country side to be educated by the peasants. Mao hoped to get rid of his rivals and critics in this manner. It also put in motion a horrible time for all Chinese. Many did not survive and of those who did the effects were devastating. As China tries to move forward the memories and effects still affect the population. It also shows that the criminals ...more
Kay
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
...more
Gina
Jul 31, 2016 Gina rated it did not like it
In a word: Bland.

Pros: characters were realistic, got me interested in China's culture in the 90s and aspects of Mao's rule during the Cultural Revolution, mouth-watering descriptions of Chinese cuisine (had to get Chinese food while reading).

Cons: I had absolutely no investment in the characters. They were written in a hum-drum way, with all the boring minutiae of daily life. I don't read sensational cop thrillers because they are too fictitious, but Xiaolong's book was perhaps too realistic. T
...more
Pamela
Jan 29, 2015 Pamela rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, mystery, china, notes
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
...more
Haleth
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
...more
Ramon Sunico
Aug 27, 2011 Ramon Sunico rated it it was amazing
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
Sara
Aug 16, 2011 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  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
...more
P
Sep 10, 2013 P rated it liked it
Shelves: genre-fiction
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
Aug 16, 2010 Joyce Lagow rated it really liked it
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
...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)
  • Shanghai Redemption (Inspector Chen Cao #9)

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