Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “When Red Is Black (Inspector Chen Cao #3)” as Want to Read:
When Red Is Black (Inspector Chen Cao #3)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

When Red Is Black

(Inspector Chen Cao #3)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  1,553 ratings  ·  177 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,553 ratings  ·  177 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
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
Bettie




Description: 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 on from Death of a Red Heroine & A Loyal Character Dancer.

When the murder of a dis
...more
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
Sophie
Jun 01, 2011 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
Christopher Williams
Another really good book in this series by the dissident Chinese writer Xiaolong. I like the characters of Chen and Lu a lot and the descriptions of life in China in the 1990's seem very well done.
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
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 08, 2010 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
LauraT
Jun 14, 2016 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!!!!
Sandie
Jan 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Although this is number 3 in the series, this is the second book by Qiu Xiaolong that I have read. The first was Death of a Red Heroine. Both were lent to me by my sister-in-law, who is also a mystery fan.
The author was born in Shanghai, and to me seems to reflect a Chinese mentality in his writing and his characters. While his plotting and characters are fine, I found reading about the Chinese way of thinking more interesting.

While the story takes place in contemporary Shanghai, the backstor
...more
Emmett
Apr 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
The backdrop of the cultural exploration of China from the revolution to the modern-day economic model proves to be more fascinating than the centrepiece mystery which initiates the reader into this world. With the evolution of Chinese society from the early days of a working-class centred society to the typical capitalist economy, the lingering traces of the past - such as the peasantry who thought they had committed themselves to a good cause - still bears upon the present despite the rapidity ...more
Chana
Crime is sad, isn't it? Whether on a national scale or a personal scale, how tragic is murder.
A political dissident, or someone who might possibly be seen as such, is murdered. Sergeant Yu is in charge of the investigation as his boss, Inspector Chen, is on vacation and working on a translation of a big important building proposal that involves overseas funding. Chen ends up with "a little secretary" as part of the perks of doing the translating. Yu is helped with his investigation by his intel
...more
Andrew
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the third in the very enjoyable Inspector Chen series. My main enjoyment in the series is however more around the wonderfully descriptive picture of China in the 1990's; its culture, food, art and politics and in this book the picture of how the Maoist cultural revolution was viewed by later generation of communists.
The plot itself revolves around the murder of a former red guard from said cultural revolution who had published the story of her love affair with one of her prisoners a fam
...more
Shabbeer Hassan
Oct 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: whodunit, 2018
In the continuing series of Inspector Chen Cao, we see the clash of communism in the new era of capitalism and how he decides to make himself peace to both, all during a murder mystery running behind the scenes. I personally liked this book, less because of the non-existent mystery/whodunit but more due to the brief glimpse at the political machinations behind it all.

My Rating - 3/5
Stephen Douglas Rowland
2. The third novel in the unique Inspector Chen series is the worst so far -- not terrible by any means, but unfortunately static and often boring. I will probably go on to read the fourth, but if things don't pick up a bit, I won't be tempted to continue. ...more
Leslie
Aug 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, asian
The look at life in Shanghai in the 1990s was more interesting than the murder mystery but it was still a satisfying mystery.
Mish Middelmann
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Re-reading this series after five years - and after visiting Shanghai recently - I am struck by the many levels at which Qiu Xiaolong processes the huge revolutions in China in the twentieth century. In this book, his Inspector Chen grapples with the very tangible opportunities and temptations of being a favoured party cadre in the early 1990s - he is just red (and obedient) enough to be acceptable to the party, and he clearly finds value in both the partially-implemented egalitarian vision of s ...more
Gina
May 01, 2016 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
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
Huw Evans
Nov 28, 2011 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
Susan
Apr 05, 2010 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
David Schwan
Apr 06, 2014 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
Cheyanne
Feb 19, 2016 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
Joe Cummings
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
[It] reconfirmed Old Hunter's maxim that the past is always present. Almost twenty years later , people still looked at the Cultural Revolution from their own perspective forged at the time. (p.123)


The third volume in Qui Xialong's Inspector Chen Cao series is his 2004 novel When Red is Black . Like the first two volumes, it deals with the staff and the work of a special unit in the Shanghai Police during the 1990's when China was moving away from a totally socialist and Maoist society. It was
...more
ReadForDessert
*****Scorri per recensione in italiano*****

I am fascinated by Qiu Xiaolong’s novels: I love how these books can show the every day life in the Shanghai of the ’90s (especially the food: I love Chinese cuisine and reading the descriptions makes my mouth water! 😆), and also the political situation (and it’s impact on society) at that time.

I really like the space dedicated to Yu and especially to his wife, Peiqin: I love her characters and also like to see more of the female’s perspective of the so
...more
Orion
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
When Red is Black uses the story of a murdered author of a book banned by the Communist government over 10 years earlier to describe the delicate balance and shifting forces in a Shanghai torn between its Maoist past and its commercialized future. In a city where state-run businesses find themselves having to compete with new Capitalist enterprises, and loyal Communist workers see their security and privilege stripped away by the new changes, the citizens must learn to balance their proletariat ...more
Syrdarya
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1990s, mystery, china
Chief Inspector Chen is hired by Gu, the businessman who appeared in the previous book as the owner of a club that wanted a parking lot through Chen's connections, to do a translation for a company who is hoping to build a 1930s-style shopping, dining, and living complex. Chen takes a vacation to complete the project, which means that when a dissident author named Yin Lige is found murdered in her tiny room in a shikumen-style house, Chen's partner Yu is in charge of the investigation.

Yu is assi
...more
William
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
I have nothing to add to what others have already written. Despite the
rating, I did enjoy reading this, but almost entirely because of the insight
it provides to China's changing society in the 1990s. People in Shanghai
are getting used to popcorn, teabags and plain cooked beef, while older
traditions continue unabated. I never knew, for instance, that it was bad
luck to walk under a laundry line with women's underwear. I will have
to be careful going forward.

More seriously, readers of this book lear
...more
Jennifer Collins
As the third book in the Inspector Chen mystery series, When Red is Black took me a bit longer to get into it than the previous novels, but for obvious enough reasons. Whereas the first two books in the series remained focused on Inspector Chen, this installment has a dual focus on him and his lead detective. The book's blurb didn't suggest this in any way at all, so although I enjoyed getting to know Yu and his family, the split focus of the book just wasn't what I was expecting, and I think my ...more
Roberta
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I continue to love these books, the third in the series. It's nice to get closer to the characters and I like that fact that Pequin is now more integral to the story.

In this book, it is up to Detective Yu, Chen’s partner, to take charge of a new case. Yin, a novelist, has been murdered in her room. At first it seems that only a neighbor could have committed the crime, but when one confesses, Yu cannot believe that he is really the killer. As Yu looks further into Yin’s life, ample motives begin
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Eye of Jade (A Mei Wang Mystery, #1)
  • The Last Six Million Seconds
  • The Lord of Death (Inspector Shan, #6)
  • Jade Lady Burning (Sergeants Sueño and Bascom #1)
  • The Boat to Redemption
  • Legacies: A Chinese Mosaic
  • Mad Hatter's Holiday
  • Jade Palace Vendetta (Matsuyama Kaze, #2)
  • Zen Attitude (Rei Shimura, #2)
  • Black Arrow (Sugawara Akitada, #3)
  • Katherine
  • The Interior (Red Princess, #2)
  • A Dictionary of Maqiao
  • Sezione Suicidi
  • Death of a Nationalist (Tejada, #1)
  • December Heat
  • Inspector Imanishi Investigates
See similar books…
317 followers
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)
  • 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)
  • Il était une fois l'inspecteur Chen
  • L'ultimo respiro del drago
“My life began with you, and my future goes on with you—there’s nothing else.” 0 likes
“No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main … any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” 0 likes
More quotes…