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Death of a Red Heroine

(Inspector Chen Cao #1)

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  3,887 ratings  ·  576 reviews
Qiu Xiaolong's Anthony Award-winning debut introduces Inspector Chen of the Shanghai Police.

A young “national model worker,” renowned for her adherence to the principles of the Communist Party, turns up dead in a Shanghai canal. As Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Special Cases Bureau struggles to trace the hidden threads of her past, he finds himself challenging the ver
Paperback, 465 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Soho Crime (first published 2000)
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3.80  · 
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If you want to read a novel written originally in English about China and Chinese culture, you can't do better than start with this book. Qiu Xiaolong (in Chinese, the family name comes at the beginning) is not only China born and bred but, as a poet and translator of ancient Chinese Tang poetry and former teacher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is also a bona fide member of the Chinese literati. As an immigrant to the United States where he chose to stay on after the Tiananmen incide ...more
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
I had already read Red Mandarin Dress by Qiu Xiaolong and wanted to read more in this series.

This book introduces us to Chief Inspector Chen,poet & idealist in a corrupt and changing China. Guan was a National Model Worker who appeared to have no life outside of her job & The Party. So why was she murdered?

I'm giving this one 4 very weak stars. I do like Chen as a character - in spite of it having a touch of "Women want to be with him, men want to be him," and I was interested in his world. I liked the poetry quotations
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“La giustizia era come le sfere colorate nelle mani di un prestigiatore, che cambiavano colore e forma in continuazione, sotto la luce della politica.”

Non rovino la lettura a nessuno dicendo che questo libro racconta di un mistero e che l’enigma sta nel capire chi ha ucciso una donna di nome Guan.
La compagna Guan pubblicamente conosciuta come Lavoratrice Modello e inserita in quella carovana di maschere che il Partito Comunista Cinese acclama a sostegno di concetti che possano tenere assiem
First Sentence: The body was found at 4:40 p.m., on May 11, 1990, in Baili Canal, an out-of-the-way canal, about twenty miles to the west of Shanghai.

Inspector Chen Cao is a poet, translator of Western literature, including mysteries, and newly assigned as head of the Special Case Squad. The naked body of a young woman has been found in a canal. The victim, Guan Hongying, had been recognized as a National Model Worker. As Chen and Detective Yu move forward in their investigation, their primary s
Manuel Antão
Oct 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

"Who says that the splendor of a grass blade returns
The Love of the spring that forever returns?"

In "Death of a Red Heroine" by Qiu Xiaolong

With this ends "Death of a Red Heroine". Here the main protagonist wonders whether a son's return for his mother's love is always inadequate, as well as one's responsability to one's country.

When I tackled this book, I didn’t know what to expect.

Xiaolong’s main protagonist is not an ordinary Chines

2.5 Stars

How good did the blurb sound? A detective novel that takes place in Communist China! Unfortunately, and despite almost every other person I know enjoying it, I found this novel pretty underwhelming. Proof, I guess, of just how subjective reading can be. It’s not a ‘bad’ book, it had a lot of promise, and it picked up in the middle after a slow start. But in the end it just wasn’t for me and I can mainly pinpoint this to four things: way too much exposition and introspection on unimporta
Poeta, traduttore di gialli occidentali come il suo autore, l’ispettore capo Chen si ritrova a dirigere una squadra speciale del dipartimento di polizia a Shanghai. Fare il poliziotto non è una sua scelta, il suo sogno sarebbe occuparsi di letteratura a tempo pieno, ma il Partito ha deciso diversamente.
Siamo in Cina negli anni ‘90. La Rivoluzione Culturale è un ricordo recente, che ha segnato la vita di molti. Adesso, con la politica delle Porte Aperte, tira un vento nuovo. Le condizioni dei cin
Sourojit Das
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
A nice well-balanced read about a police investigation in China. Subtly criticising the one-party rule and everything that it stands for. Original treatment and a keen sense of day to day life inside the bamboo curtain makes this book a nice read.
Kathy Chumley
I came for the mystery. Stayed for the history.

Death of a Red Heroine is at once a detective story and the story of China's changes that took place in the early 1990s. From what I understand the author wanted to explore the changes as capitalism began to creep into socialist China and felt that a detective novel was the best way to get it across. Qui said a cop walks around, talks to people, and considers the context in which the murder occurred.

If you're expecting a straight up detective novel
This is a book of two parts, completely separate and wonderfully woven together.

The first part to the book is centred around Comrade Chief Inspector Chen Cao and his investigation of National Model Worker Guan Hongying, murdered and dumped in a canal. Set in the early '90s just after the infamous Tiananmen Square protests of '89 at a time of change for The Chinese Communist Party. Chen finds he is fighting not only to find the killer, but fighting against his peers and The Party.

May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, crime
Murder in Shanghai...

When the body of a young woman is found in a canal, Inspector Chen of the Special Cases unit decides to take on the case, initially simply because his subordinate, Detective Yu, was the only detective available to attend the crime scene. But, once the body is identified – in itself no easy task in a country as huge and populous as China – it transpires the victim is Guan Hongying, a national model worker: a title that denotes membership of the Communist Party and a position
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2001-reads
Death of a Red Heroine is an unusual and rather extraordinary book set in Shanghai, China, in the 1990s. A police officer and his friend are ostensibly patrolling the Suzhou River. In reality, they are meeting each other for the first time in 20 years and fishing off the boat. However, their reunion is marred by the discovery of a dead body. What transpires is an investigation that exposes us to the culture and societal norms of a place that is quite unknown to most people in the Western hemisph ...more
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
DEATH OF A RED HEROINE. (2000). Qui Xiaolong. ****.
This is a fine first novel by this Shanghai born American import. There is a mystery at the core of it. A young woman, one who has been declared a National Model Worker, is found in an isolated canal, naked in a large plastic garbage bag. Chief Inspector Chen of the Special Crimes Department of the Shanghai Police has taken on the job of solving the crime. He is advised by one of the old, retired members of the party that he should take note of
Feb 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Qiu Xiaolong is a novelist, translator, poet, and professor who has lived in St. Louis since 1988 when he came from China to the USA to study. Events in China prevented his returning there. He has written a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Chen Cao in Shanghai, of which this present volume was the first.

The novel’s plot is standard for the genre—sex, blackmail, and murder—and the narrative is straightforward and entertaining if unremarkable. The author’s ear for dialogue is acute, and
Grace Tjan
There is a lot to be liked in this debut novel, set in post-Tiananmen Shanghai, where people still cook in communal kitchens, personal phones (landlines!) are a rare privilege, and private enterprises are just beginning to sprout like bamboo shoots after a spring rain. Qiu Xiaolong, a Shanghai born-and-bred émigré, ably --- and at times evocatively --- captures the sights and sounds of his native city for a foreign audience, while sprinkling his narrative (originally written in English) with jus ...more
Alfonso D'agostino
Ho appena finito di leggere un giallo cinese.

Ok, detta così fa un po’ ridere. Giallo, cinese.

Mentirei se non descrivessi la tentazione come quasi irresistibile: pronto ad approdare in Estremo Oriente per il mio giro del mondo letterario (qui l’elenco di nazioni visitate), il gioco di parole veniva facile facile facile. E, ovviamente, non mi dispiaceva affatto l’idea di godermi un genere letterario molto mio con sfumature diverse da quelle europee od occidentali in genere.

Da questo punto di vista
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was recommended to me as a way of understanding the HCC (children of the high cadre communist party members) and the changes that have ocurred in modern China. It is a murder mystery set in Shanghai in the 1990s during Deng's capitalist reform. Incredibly interesting and well written. The main character, Inspector Chen is a poet (shades of PD James) and a man searching for justice. I'm hooked on this author now and understand there are more.
Book Concierge
The naked body of a young woman is found in a remote canal. Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Special Case Squad, Homicide Division, Shanghai Police Bureau and his deputy, Detective Yu Guangming, discover that she is Guan Hongying, a national model worker. How could a young woman with such a responsible position have come to this end? Who might have killed her? Her coworkers and neighbors all swear that she had no boyfriend, that she lived a quiet, exemplary life, devoted to the Party and her work ...more
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
A police procedural set in Shanghai in 1990, Death of a Red Heroine has a rather mundane and straightforward plot which normally would not be enough to fill 484 pages. BUT the value of this book, and the very justifiable reason for its length, is the way the author has interwoven everyday life in china at the time, Chinese politics, some history, a wonderful selection of Chinese poetry from the song and Tang dynasties, references to Chinese classics such as The Dream of the Red Chamber, and a te ...more
Blaine DeSantis
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
A really fine debut effort by Qiu Xiaolong who I first heard of on an NPR broadcast. This is the first of his Inspector Chen detective novels set in Shanghai with this book taking place in 1990 one year after the Tienanman Square protests. The book is both a mystery as well as a look at the cultural conflicts that are going on between the old China and new China, as well as an in the background love story. Chen is the head of the Special Crimes Unit, as well as being a poet and literary intellec ...more
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
A young “national model worker,” a famous woman who has been nationally lauded for her fealty to the Communist Party, turns up dead in a Shanghai canal. The pursuit of the murderer is only part of what happens in this slowly unfolding mystery. The greatest suspense concerns whether Inspector Chen will find himself in jeopardy if he uncovers a case which will be an embarrassment to the Party.

China is changing to accept a market economy, but it is an uneasy time nevertheless. The story takes place
Sadie Forsythe
Jun 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
On finishing this book, I closed it feeling satisfied. This is generally all I ask of a book, but if I think back, I also remember that it took a good 200 pages for this book to get rolling and for me to really become interested and vested in it.

Part of this is probably due to the fact that I only have a loose understanding of the events surrounding the Cultural Revolution and the subsequent Party politics that play an important part in this book. But it also just has a slow start, which isn't h
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
If you are looking for a suspenseful thriller, stop right here. This is not one of those, and it's a long book. We are looking at plodding detective work here; one small clue at a time. And we get great insight into the Chinese culture and politics during the 90's. I love historical fiction like this. It was a slow read, but well worth the ride.
Oct 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shanghai and environs, 1990.

It's purely by chance that the strangled body of model worker Guan Hongying is found dumped in a remote canal; by all rights she could have remained there undisturbed for decades. Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Homicide Division's Special Case Squad is put on the case, alongside his somewhat resentful sidekick Detective Yu Guangming. Soon they discover there's one single, obvious suspect for the killing: high-flying photographer Wu Xiaoming.

The trouble is th
It was not people that make interpretations, but interpretations that make people.
While I'm doing my best to expand my reading on a demographical level, I'm fairly predictable when it comes to my enjoyment of various genres. I'll pick up a mystery novel every so often under special circumstances (Murder on the Orient Express for the sake of a movie and a famous woman writer, for example), but I can't recall ever enjoying them for the sake of the mystery. I liked both of the Natsuo Kirino crime

Description: Shanghai, May 1990. The body of a national model worker is found in Baili Canal. So begins the first of Qiu Xiaolong's Inspector Chen novels. Poet and translator turned detective Chen Cao now heads the Special Case Squad, an assignment that brings political scrutiny with every move. Dramatised by Joy Wilkinson.

Directed by Toby Swift

Dramatisations of the second and third books in the Inspector Chen series, A Loyal Character Dance and When Red i
May 31, 2015 rated it liked it
Amid nepotism, corruption, party politics, murder and hedonism, Xiaolong introduces the party's rising star Inspector Chen who often quotes poems from Tang dynasty and writes his own on the side.

What starts off as a routine murder mystery slowly morphs to a study of 90s China, Shanghai specifically. Through the eyes of Chen readers view the cramped living spaces, common cooking area, crawling traffic, living situations of ordinary government workers, pride and adoration of a Chinese housewife an
Jan 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie, LJ
From BBC Radio 4 - Drama:
Shanghai, May 1990. The body of a national model worker is found in Baili Canal. So begins the first of Qiu Xiaolong's Inspector Chen novels. Poet and translator turned detective Chen Cao now heads the Special Case Squad, an assignment that brings political scrutiny with every move. Dramatised by Joy Wilkinson.

Directed by Toby Swift

Dramatisations of the second and third books in the Inspector Chen series, A Loyal Character Dance and When Red is Black, will follow.

Qiu Xia
Mar 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have had a busy week and so haven't had as much reading time as I wanted, and I was always anxious to get back to this novel. It is probably more about everyday life and politics in Shanghai in the recent past of the early '90's than it is a detective story, although the two are inextricably linked and the plot is certainly a good one. I must say I realised how horribly ignorant of recent (and not so recent) Chinese history I was. I knew about Mao and communism and that was about it really. I ...more
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, 2016
A new-to-me author with a very thoughtful mystery. I enjoyed learning quite a bit about culture in modern (set in 1990) Shanghai, China. It is clear without reading the author's biography that he is quite knowledgeable of Chinese poetry as the main character, Chief Inspector Chen, is a modernist poet in addition to being a police officer and poetry is quoted rather frequently throughout the novel. It is an interesting addition to the usual police procedural type of mystery.
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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

Other books in the series

Inspector Chen Cao (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Il était une fois l'inspecteur Chen
  • L'ultimo respiro del drago
“If you work hard enough at something, it begins to make itself part of you, even though you do not really like it and know that part isn't real.” 6 likes
“Al fin y al cabo, un hombre es sólo lo que ha decidido hacer o no hacer.” 3 likes
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