The case that this book "novelizes" is fascinating and frustrating, as I'm sure the author would agree. Here we can learn a lot about the failings ofThe case that this book "novelizes" is fascinating and frustrating, as I'm sure the author would agree. Here we can learn a lot about the failings of law enforcement in British Hong Kong in the 70s and 80s, so much so that the whole idea of crime investigation is a joke. No podunk sheriff's department in the U.S. could possible do worse. We can also learn a lot--all of it very unpleasant--about attitudes toward homosexuality in the same place and time and the breathtaking hypocrisy involved in enforcing laws in the colony.
This story is difficult to tell because of the many people involved, the many instances of lies and misconduct, and the fact that neither news reports, inquests, court testimony, nor the people involved could be relied upon to report or tell the truth about anything. Bringing all of this information and a large amount of guess-work together and making a smooth narrative out of it is a pretty overwhelming challenge and the narrative does not always succeed. Sometimes it is very repetitious and, toward the end, the narrative seems to go off into a la-la-land of wild guesses.
The book purports to tell "the true story [that] has not been revealed until now," but I was not left with the impression of knowing the truth about much of anything in this story. Murder or suicide? Vast conspiracy involving nations, smaller conspiracy involving people covering their own behinds, or not a conspiracy, just a personal tragedy? Who knows? Well, at the very least it is a personal tragedy. Perhaps it is more.
I found the book a rewarding read. It's not written objectively or dryly, but that gives it an unusually personal tone that is sometimes gently joking and confiding. So be prepared for something that's not quite true crime but not true fiction either. And don't expect to know what's really true when you finish the book.
My conclusion is not really a spoiler. You'll have to make up your own mind!
As soon as I finished this book, I looked for others by Charles Philipp Martin. There are none! Get with it, Charles Philipp Martin, and write more boAs soon as I finished this book, I looked for others by Charles Philipp Martin. There are none! Get with it, Charles Philipp Martin, and write more books like this one. I will read them!...more
I would give this one 3.5 stars if I could. I've read all of the books in the series that are available in the US at this point and I think this one'sI would give this one 3.5 stars if I could. I've read all of the books in the series that are available in the US at this point and I think this one's the best. What made this one more enjoyable than the others? The plot featured much less jetting around all over the globe and focused more on two locales: Hong Kong and, especially, Macau. I think it gave a good sense of how quickly Macau has gone from being an island with its own complex ethnic history and traditions and its own sordid past to an island with gigantic casinos and hotels perched on it as invitations to a sordid present. I was particularly struck (who knows why) by the detail that the hotels are tremendously over-built already, though construction is ongoing. No one planned for the fact that most of the business comes from mainland Chinese who come only to gamble and spend no extra money on fancy hotel rooms and luxury goods. Doesn't sound like a place I want to visit!
Anyway, the settings and plot were focused and a woman who was prominent in the previous novel of the series played a very important role, while Ava has to basically be forced to even speak to her, because her anger and distrust linger. The relationship and grudging mutual respect that develop required that Hamilton create characters with greater depth and he's done that here. I especially enjoyed this new sensitivity to characterization. Some of the story is unbelievable, particularly the violent climax, but I was able to suspend my disbelief because Hamilton doesn't hesitate to scatter the bodies around and I was curious about whether any important characters would be killed. The writing is still humdrum but the product placements (the Cartier Tank Watch! The Brooks Brothers shirts! The Chanel suits! Starbucks VIA coffee!) are a little less intrusive. But he should just cut that OUT. Make the movie already!...more
Inadvertently, I'm doing this series in reverse chronological order. I thought it might get better as I went back in time, but it really doesn't. I crInadvertently, I'm doing this series in reverse chronological order. I thought it might get better as I went back in time, but it really doesn't. I criticized the portrayal of Margaret in the first novel I read (The Killing Room) in the series because she was a b***h on wheels and I couldn't figure out how she and Li had ever gotten together. Well, in this one, she whines constantly. Sorry, but it does not entertain me listening to women indulging in self-pity because they have children and have to slight their careers. C'mon. We've got an app for that and have had it since the 1960s. Anyway, this "Beijing Ripper" case was pretty interesting but when the solution finally comes it's quite mundane. Do I want to continue back in time to read the earlier book(s) in the series? Oh, I suppose I will, but I will probably be finished with this series at that point, unless I find out that Li has ditched Margaret and turned his attention elsewhere. Overall, I find this series run-of-the-mill except for its Chinese locale.
Qiu Xiaolong's series is far better with more complex characterizations, more complex political situations and insights, and much more layered cases. And poetry. If you like that in detective fiction!...more
I plan to read more in the series, because I've started with one of the later books, but I am not impressed. The environment (geographical, cultural,I plan to read more in the series, because I've started with one of the later books, but I am not impressed. The environment (geographical, cultural, political, social) in which the investigation takes place is a draw, but I find Margaret Campbell to be a totally unpleasant character, one about whom I don't care at all. I should go back and read an earlier book in the series so I can figure out what ever made her attractive to Li. I sure don't get it at this point. I think Mei-Ling is a much more attractive character and hope she appears elsewhere in later books....more
Absolutely one of the strangest books I have read. Reading this book is like living in a dream that becomes a nightmare. So much doesn't seem real (byAbsolutely one of the strangest books I have read. Reading this book is like living in a dream that becomes a nightmare. So much doesn't seem real (by this I mean it does not seem "realistic" or "naturalistic") (Grey, the main character, is extremely odd) and the views of Tokyo day and night are, well, surreal. It's a fascinating story, though, with a lot of action and intrigue and weirdness. I got used to this, though, and really enjoyed it. It's far more complex that Hayder's other books in terms of the range of characters and the depth with which we get to know them.
Apparently, I will like anything that she writes, no matter the subject, since I have now read everything she's written and am waiting for more. This book is not for everyone and will not make you eager to visit Tokyo. If you are a fan of her detective fiction, that doesn't mean you will automatically like this book, but you could give it a try. It's fantastical....more
I put this book in my "Global detective fiction" shelf, though let me say right away that it is not fiction. I enjoyed every minute of this book and iI put this book in my "Global detective fiction" shelf, though let me say right away that it is not fiction. I enjoyed every minute of this book and it ended all too soon.
The time is 1937 and the place is the area in and around the Foreign Legation quarters in old Peking. Politics all over the world are in turmoil with events leading to WWII taking place in Europe, and in China the brutal Japanese are invading and the already feeble nationalist government is on the ropes.
A nearly-19 year old Englishwoman, Pamela Werner, is killed, her body mutilated and dumped at the base of the Fox Tower just outside the Legation. The details of the joint Chinese and English investigation, its constraints and its flaws is fascinating in and of itself. When the investigation is unable to point to a culprit, Pamela's father spends the rest of his years in Peking doing the investigation that the police should have done. But his findings fall on deaf ears. Are the British afraid to lose face? Is that why the British powers ignore the findings and call their representative on the team home to Tientsin? Was the original investigation, which seemed fairly competent for the time and place, in fact, undercut by restraints and subterfuge on the Chinese side? Peking soon falls to the Japanese...is it just that everyone has more important things to think about than a dead girl who was a bit of a handful while she was alive and perhaps no better than she should have been?
Historian Paul French has reconstructed the entire case, from the events leading up to the fatal night, to the actions and investigations of all of the parties involved. He quite literally found by fortunate accident a folder of records stored in the British archives that traced the case, including ETC Werner's many letters filled with his additional investigations and pleading for more action on the case. From these records and his other investigations, French puts together a quite believable chain of events and points the finger at one man in particular. This case was unsolved from 1937 to 2011 and quite forgotten, but it is now resolved and there can be little doubt that French's version is valid.
Ok, THAT is the story. It's well-told and reads like an exciting murder mystery. For me, the bonus was the very detailed portrait of Peking during this period and the foreign presence in China's coastal cities such as Shanghai and Tientsin. I can't say enough about the lively realistic (and unsavory) picture that emerges of the Legation area of Peking. I spent half the time I was supposedly reading the book looking for maps online so I could follow the action. It turns out that many of the places and streets that feature prominently in the story are still there (remarkable, considering the construction in Beijing over the last few decades).
If you are interested in that aspect of the story, start with the Wikipedia entry on "Beijing Legation Quarter" and follow links to maps. There is also this Paul French link: http://us.midnightinpeking.com/pdf/a-...
Yardley has chosen a very clever way to examine modern China. What he does is pick a subject that most Americans will be somewhat familiar with, the NYardley has chosen a very clever way to examine modern China. What he does is pick a subject that most Americans will be somewhat familiar with, the NBA. Then he transplants the subject to China by following an American retired NBA coach who has been hired to coach a privately-owned team in one of the lesser-known (from the Western perspective) Chinese cities (Taiyuan in Shanxi province). We might think, well, the NBA is the NBA no matter where it lives and basketball is basketball. But Yardley quite brilliantly tells us a story that illuminates the culture and aspirations, and to some degree the history, of modern China by placing the known quantity of the NBA into an environment that is, in fact, very foreign and not particularly hospitable to American expectations about sports.
The Miami Heat need to make money by selling tickets and signing deals. Do the Brave Dragons have to make money in these ways? No, because Boss Wang is very, very rich. American NBA players roam around at will, throw their money around and make the headlines in ways good and bad. What about the Dragons' players? They live in a Spartan dorm outside the city center where they are virtual prisoners. But, what if an owner spends a lot of money to hire a new coach because he wants his team to get better, be "American" and play American-style ball? Well, you would then assume that he'd hire the best and give him leave to mold the team (except perhaps if he attended the George Steinbrenner School of Sports Management) using American methods (a wide range of kinds of fitness training suited to individual needs, forging relationships with individual players based on knowledge of their personalities and what works best with each, etc.). Old habits die hard, though, for men of Boss Wang's generation.
The story is frustrating and funny and informative in what it shows us about Chinese sports culture and its growing pains, though there is no doubt whatsoever of Yardley's sympathies with his subjects, particularly the young men who play professional basketball and want to be better players than they are. If you are looking for a book that makes fun of the Chinese, this isn't it. We get a lot of context so that we understand, for instance, why Boss Wang thinks that screaming at his players and telling them what pathetic, lazy failures they are will motivate them to improve.
If you ever thought that sports was a universal language, this book will make you re-think that assumption. You don't even have to like or understand basketball to enjoy this book....more
I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of articles and learned so much I hardly know where to start describing the book. This is a series of articles wrI thoroughly enjoyed this collection of articles and learned so much I hardly know where to start describing the book. This is a series of articles written by Fallows and published in The Atlantic Monthly December '06-November '08. The subjects range from China's self-made manufacturing billionaires, to how Macau became the gambling Mecca of the East, to what's really going on with Internet access in China. Every essay offers fascinating information that I have not come across elsewhere. Here are a few sort of random comments about what made an impression on me.
From "After the Earthquake," about the horrendous May 12, 2008, earthquake in Sichuan province that killed more than 100,000 people and left millions homeless and injured, Fallows reports the comments of a local elder regarding an earlier catastrophe: "Yao Minggao...said that the easiest way to tell city people from country people was by what they thought was the major disaster in modern Chinese history. If they said the Cultural Revolution, it meant they were from the city and viewed losing their careers and being sent to the farms as the ultimate hardship. If they said the Great Famine [starting in 1958], it meant they were country people who had seen many of their neighbors starve" (237). Fallows also comments that the date "5/12" when it appears in China carries the same punch and shocked recognition as "9/11" in the US.
I think the article I enjoyed most was "The Connection Has Been Reset" about the Internet in China, focusing on the period of the Beijing Olympics. More than anything else I've read, this article made me feel that I finally had at least a tentative grasp of both the philosophy behind the attempted control of the Internet by the Chinese government and the attitude of the average Internet-savvy Chinese toward this control. First, much is accomplished by the government by simply making it inconvenient to bypass the "Great Firewall." It can be done, sure, but most people aren't interested in working that hard to get their information. Second, there's this, quoted from a technical analysis conducted by two US universities: "'The presence of censorship, even if easy to evade, promotes self-censorship'" (183). In other words, while evading the GFW may require technical skills that many Chinese have, most people don't bother because of "nontechnical factors."
The only downside I felt in reading this series of articles, and this is not a criticism, was that developments in China and between China and the rest of the world are moving so quickly that even articles from 2007 or 2008 felt out of date. So much has happened since then. But if you want to see the view from January '08 of China's involvement in the world's financial meltdown and, especially, in the debt of the US, you should start with "The $1.4 Trillion Question" (144-68)....more
What I think is that the publication of this book has been delayed nearly a year after its announced date. Now it is not due out till May 2012. ReviewWhat I think is that the publication of this book has been delayed nearly a year after its announced date. Now it is not due out till May 2012. Reviews here discourage me from looking forward to it, though generally I have enjoyed the Inspector Chen novels....more
Many of the books I've read about China have been fascinating, compelling and informative, but none so much as this one. The author spent time in ChinMany of the books I've read about China have been fascinating, compelling and informative, but none so much as this one. The author spent time in China in the 1980s and then 20 years later, so she has a valuable double vision of China as it was then and as it is now. What I enjoyed the most about the book though, and what sets it apart from all of the others, is that this is a book about language. It is about the connection of language and culture. It is both deeply intellectual (but easily enjoyed by the non-linguist) and based in the use of language in everyday life, in stores and in the streets, for instance. If you are interested in language you will love this book, even if you have no interest in China. You will end up knowing quite a bit about modern China though, in spite of yourself. The book is short but every page will keep your interest and leave you intrigued and well-informed. Highly recommended!...more
Once I figured out HOW to read the book and WHAT it was going to expect of me as a reader, I surrendered myself to it and thoroughly enjoyed it. It'sOnce I figured out HOW to read the book and WHAT it was going to expect of me as a reader, I surrendered myself to it and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's one of those works of mystery that poses a question to be answered or a goal to be met, and once the main character gets there, the question/goal opens up to more questions and other goals that must be pursued. It's a crazy race of a book with fantasy, dreams, characters with multiple identities, etc. I liked it. It reminded me of Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase but with MORE of everything including confusion and a constantly-digging-deeper narrative....more