LJ's Reviews > A Loyal Character Dancer

A Loyal Character Dancer by Qiu Xiaolong
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Jan 04, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: china, contemporary_post_1945, male_author, mystery, police_procedural
Read in December, 2009

First Sentence: Chief Inspector Chen Cao, of the Shangahi Police Bureau, found himself once again walking through the morning mist toward Bund Park.

Chief Inspection Chen Cao has been assigned to escort U.S. Marshall Catherine Rohn. His mission is to make her happy, keep her safe and out of trouble. Her mission is to bring to the United States, Wen, the wife of an important criminal witness. When they go to get Wen, she has disappeared. Chen has to find her, Catherine wants to be an active part of the investigation, and someone wants them to stop.

Xiaolong’s book is filled with literary references, poetry, mouth-watering descriptions of food and fascinating information on China’s history. I’ve learned more about the Cultural Revolution and Chinese history reading Xiaolong’s books than I ever did in school but he conveys the information in a way that never slows the story or makes the book seem dry.

An author who not only entertains but makes me think is a treat. Several times, I found myself stopping to contemplate a point made by the author…”The line between truth and fiction was always being constructed and deconstructed by those in power.” His voice is unique and compelling…”There were quite a number of young people on the first floor, smoking, talking, stirring desires or memories into their coffee cups.” Writing such as that is impossible for me to resist.

Through the characters we elicit a look at some of the factors impacting people’s lives; how the Cultural Revaluation has a lasting impact, the importance of connections and favors, and that politics has a personal impact, particularly in this case where what is politically necessary much supersede what is personally desirous.

It has been awhile since I read the first book in this series and I’d forgotten just how much I like the characters. Chen Cao did not become a policeman by choice. His love of poetry and literature shape him. He is supported by the wonderful, fully-dimensional Yu, Peiqin and Old Hunter, Chan’s partner, his wife and father.

I also appreciated the connection of his friend Overseas Chinese Lu as a transition from the last book. US Marshall Catharine Rohn, Chen’s counterpart for the case, is also something of a love interest. That didn’t quite play true to me but I did sense the tension the author portrayed. The most fascinating character is Party Secretary Li, Chen’s superior. I hope we get to know more about his as the series proceeds.

The plot itself was interesting; with economic development comes increased organized crime. Amidst the scenic descriptions—and there is a very strong sense of place—food and literary references, there is also attacks on the character’s lives, a great battle scene and very well done twists in the plot.

The pace does bog down a bit and I wasn’t crazy about all the exposition at the end. I’d rather you show me than tell me.

I highly recommend this book but do suggest starting with the first in the series. For me, Xiaolong remains firmly on my auto-buy list and I look forward to the next in the series.

A LOYAL CHARACTER DANCER (Pol Proc-CI Chen Cao-Shanghai, China-Cont/1990s) - VG
Xiaolong, Quiu – 2nd in series
Soho Press, 2002, US Hardcover – ISBN: 1569473013
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Comments (showing 1-8)




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Laura glad to see you black LJ, we are just missing your magnificent reviews. Happy 2010!!


message 7: by LJ (new) - rated it 4 stars

LJ Thank you, Laura. How very kind.

I had a couple low reading months, but am back on track. I tend to post all my monthly reviews around the first Tuesday of each month, which is when my mystery group meets.

Happy 2010 to you as well!


Laura thanks a lot, (Misfit and I) we do appreciate your great reviews. Keep going, keep going...


message 5: by LJ (new) - rated it 4 stars

LJ I shall do. I'm about 3/4 through my first January book, remembering that my reading month goes from 1st Tuesday to 1st Monday. I'm reading David Dickinson's "Death of a Chancellor" and enjoying it very much.


message 4: by LJ (new) - rated it 4 stars

LJ Hi Jenny,

Absolutely:

Lord Francis Powerscourt series by David Dickinson:
1. Goodnight, Sweet Prince (2002)
2. Death and the Jubilee (2002)
3. Death of an Old Master (2004)
4. Death of a Chancellor (2004)
5. Death Called to the Bar (2006)
6. Death on the Nevskii Prospekt (2006)
7. Death On the Holy Mountain (2008)
8. Death of a Pilgrim (2009)
9. Death of a Wine Merchant (2010)

I really do enjoy his writing.

Enjoy,
LJ


message 3: by LJ (new) - rated it 4 stars

LJ Oops, unless, of course, you meant the Qiu Xiaolong books. In that case the order is:

Series - Inspector Chen
1. Death of a Red Heroine (2000)
2. A Loyal Character Dancer (2002)
3. When Red Is Black (2004)
4. A Case of Two Cities (2006)
5. Red Mandarin Dress (2007)
6. The Mao Case (2009)

There; I've now covered both bases.


Kathy Turner I enjoyed your review! I especially liked your quote of stirring desires or memories into their coffee cups as that line also delighted me. Indeed, I suppose the line also came to Qiu because of his love Of T. S. Elliot - The Waste Land opens with:
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.


Kathy


message 1: by LJ (new) - rated it 4 stars

LJ Thank you, Kathy. He is such a wonderful writer. I always so look forward to each new book.


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