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Enigma of China (Inspector Chen Cao #8)

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  591 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Department is in an unusual situation—a poet by training and inclination, he was assigned by the party to the Police Department after he graduated college, where he has continued to shine. Now he's a rising cadre in the party, in line to take over the top politic position in the police department, while being one of most resp ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 17th 2014 by Minotaur Books (first published 2012)
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Community Reviews

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Apr 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
The three stars are for the writing, which is pedestrian for the most part. The main problem is the same as for Donna Leon: they both need to convey a lot of background information about a different culture, and they choose to do a lot of that education via clunky question and answer dialogues in which the detective asks friends about current trends that he ought to know about already. But I keep reading Inspector Chen Cao mysteries because they are an enjoyable way to learn something about Chin ...more
Bobby D
Jun 18, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the latest and 8th book in the Inspector Chen series. I have read each in order and all my reviews are posted on What drew me to the series was the unique time and setting in Shanghai, China as the country emerges with its new blended capitalism.
Although I have enjoyed the series none of the books have captured the quality of the first book, “Death of a Chinese Heroine”. The characters mostly carry forward from that book and have been underdeveloped as the series progresses
Enigma of China
by Qiu Xiaolong
4 stars
pp. 277

What I love about reading Qiu Xiaolong's Chief Inspector Chen series is the way Xiaolong immerses the reader in the setting of Shanghai, China and his eighth most current mystery, Enigma of China is no exception. It has been interesting for the reader to followi the changes in China through the eyes of Inspector Chen. Here we see China, a country with socialism with Chinese characteristics, which has grown progressively more materialistic and in the ca
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best yet in great series I'm a big fan of the Chief Inspector Chen Cao series. All of the books give a fascinating picture of present-day China, and just as China has changed over the years, so have the plots of the mysteries and Chen Cao himself. Before I read this latest book, I was skeptical of the claim in Publishers Weekly that the series "has gotten stronger with age," because I hadn't actually found that to be true of the previous book, Don't Cry for Me, Tai Lake. But in this novel, Chen ...more
Paul DiBara
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
QX's Inspector Chen is quintessentially Chinese. Patently obvious as that may seem Chen, the poet / police officer embodies spiritual and material aspects that reflect the modern turmoil of contemporary China. Conflicting values posturing for dominance over the Chinese psyche.

While not anti-materialistic, the soul of the inspector is committed to justice and fairness. With each volume I see a further maturing of the character of Chen. Up to this point he has managed to balance his basic ethics w
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It's full of references to classic Chinese literature, like the Dream of Red Mansions, which is L.'s and my favourite book. It's a great detective story set in modern Shanghai. I've asked L. Wenhui newspaper and "shanggui" do exist in modern China. I'm sure if he read it, he would recognize the streets and places, maybe even the people. But the most charming part for me was not svn a compelling detective story set in modern China. Most charming part for me was the storytelling ...more
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, china
With Enigma of China as in Don't Cry, Tai Lake Qiu goes beyond the damage caused by the Cultural Revolution as he uncovers basic flaws in the fabric of life in China during the boom. Here, the enigma is simply that everything comes down to influence, while the cause for weeping into Tai Lake is the policy that economic growth trumps environmental concerns. In both books, Chen finds attractive women who do not fit into his career arc. Although both mysteries are formulaic, one learns quite a bit ...more
May 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good story as always with Xiaolong, but rather more bare prose-wise than his 4 or 5 previous ones i had read. The profuse amount of dialog was very stilted, and the ending was so abrupt that I tried getting another copy, thinking mine was defective. Not so, I guess! I wouldn't have expected cliff-hanger endings from this author.
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another wonderful novel by Qui Xiaolong. It's part of the Inspector Chen mystery series, but also so much more. Chen is both a poet and a policeman, who holds a moderately high position in the Party. He is constantly struggling to reconcile his desire for justice, kindness, and honor with the rampant corruption he sees in his day-to-day job. Because he is a good policeman and because he has the protection of some major Party members, he has been able to survive so far.

In this particular book, X
Dan Downing
Jan 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One wonders, what with China's size, how deeply change penetrates. In a single long lifetime the country has changed beyond reckoning. There are a few---very few, I grant---alive from the time of the Qing Dynasty, who witnessed the Republic of China, the Japanese occupation, the Revolution of 1947, The Great Leap Forward (into the pit of death) and the Cultural Revolution, followed by the fractured China of today: a vast country searching for a way to uphold principle and increase the standard o ...more
Pat K
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was probably, the most complex of the Inspector Chen series. Xiaolong attempts, in this murder mystery, to explore the interplay between Chen's desire to pursue justice, loyalty to his country, fear of repercussions within a corrupt system and personal self-fulfillment. While it is not my favourite of the series, It was very much worth reading for the beautiful writing and the insight into the Chinese way of life as well as an interesting murder mystery.
Vikas Datta
May 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best of the series - never have the stark choices confronting out good inspector - and a lot many other of his ilk - in the new China been brought so well - and there is an intriguing mystery also, though the full denouement has been left to the next in the series. Can't wait to get that in my hands..
Susan Ovans
Too much poetry, most of which seemed pointless, two corpses who may or may not have been murdered, and I never did learn whodunnit. The real Enigma of China is how this passionless prose became a mystery series.
Elina Lauro
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just love this series. Realistic picture of Shanghai, its traditional food, places, people and culture. Mixed with a nice detective story set in Chinese political scene. ...more
Jan 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another characteristic of China's socialism was its reliance on shuanggui, a sort of extralegal detention by the Party disciplinary bodies. The practice began as a response to the uncontrollable corruption of the one-party system. Initially, the word meant "two specifics:" a Party official implicated in a criminal or corruption probe would be detained in a specific (gui) place and for a specific (gui) period of time. The Chinese constitution stipulated that all forms of detention had to be autho ...more
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: suspense
If you're looking for an intriguing mystery that provides a glimpse into the politics and culture of China today the "Enigma of China" will not disappoint.
Melanie Ho
My review, first published in the Asian Review of Books and then republished in Caixin:

9 August 2013 — While discussions on modern China usually take a heavy tone—or sometimes a flippant or sarcastic one—novelist Qiu Xiaolong has instead navigated a successful path of combining the issues of the moment with a charming whodunit. Enigma of China marks the eighth installment of the Inspector Chen series, which star the poetry-quoting senior policeman Chen Cao (Chief Inspector of the Shanghai Police
ZaBeth  Marsh
It is timely that as i write, the protesters are blocking the streets of Hong Kong ( and demanding more control from Beijing. The very premise of Xiaolong's book Enigma of China is a government determined - no matter the cost - to keep harmony in a country that is increasingly dissatisfied with its government.

This is the first Inspector Chen novel I have read but it is the eighth book in the series. I was surprised that it didn't feel like I was coming late to the table eve
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book after reading a profile of its author: Qiu Xiaolong is a Chinese expat who writes detective novels in English. While people who speak a second language fluently are common, people who write novels in a second language are virtually unheard of. That Xiaolong has constructed an ongoing series is astounding.

"Enigma of China" follows Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai police force. Inspector Chen is actually a frustrated poet who was assigned to a job as a policeman and
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I usually enjoy Inspector Chen novels. Either my book is missing the last chapter or this one needs more resolution. Time to look up the next one I guess.
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, cina
in questo mondo di "Polvere Rossa"

Chen Cao membro del Partito e ispettore del Dipartimento di Polizia di Shanghai sezione "casi sensibili" è coinvolto ancora una volta in un insabbiamento, che è pressappoco la sua funzione all'interno del Dipartimento dal momento che dietro i titoli e il prestigio non c'è altro che il solito servo dell'Imperatore...nell'ottica di un aggiornamento delle tematiche qua il reato è stato commesso all'interno di una "ricerca di carne umana" che è il modo colorito con
Kevin Vrieze
Apr 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: enigma-of-china
Number 8 in the Chen Cao series. The series is great and this is the best yet. The shuanggui situation aside the similarities in the rest of the story were remarkably similar to current Western political trends which I found intriguing. The relationship with the reporter Lianping is really very sweet and poetic and at the same time very central to the entire story. As far as this thread goes, while I somehow missed this book when it first came out I bought both it and #9 - The Shanghai Redemptio ...more
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china, inspecor-chen
The impact of Socialization with Chinese Characteristics has created the high ranking cadres and their children. Another group is the Big Bucks who are making fortunes in the new China. Both of these groups have influence and can persuade the authorities to look the other way if necessary. Corruption is rife in the upper levels of Chinese Society. Left behind are those who do not have acccess to either group and are still living in poverty.

Chief Inspector Chen Cao, a member of the Shanghai Polic
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This is the penultimate one in the series--at least for the moment--and I manged to lay hands on it and read it before turning to the new one (which I only have from the library for a limited time.) I'm glad I did. What is perhaps most interesting to me about this series is the tone with which the author approaches China. There is a vivid sense of modernization and dramatic progress but also a growing unease with the inequity and corruption that seems to come along with it. This one is quite sob ...more
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I enjoy how literature and especially Chinese poetry are lightly laced throughout the Chen series. Over the years that I've been reading this series, Inspector Chen - cop, poet, translator, and rising political cadre, has become more cautious and circumspect in his approach to solving cases and dealing with superiors and inter-departmental rivals. Now nearing middle-age, Chen, once the young upstart, is saddled with more and more meaningless paperwork and is always couching his communications in ...more
Margaret Kalvar
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A classic Inspector Chen mystery- I think of him as the Chinese Adam Dagliesh, although I think his conflicts are even more stark, given the corruption and party politics within the Chinese bureaucracy---- he does well and the stakes get higher. This book is especially timely, with the anti-corruption campaign the background. Some of the standard favorite sidekicks- Yu and Pequin- are there, and a new female interest, a journalist with whom Chen seems to be developing a rather ambiguous relation ...more
Jesus Flores
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: detectives, china
El Enigma de China

Another Chen inspector case, this time he has to certify a dead goverment oficial acussed of corruption commit suicide. But when the police officer in charge of the investigation dies Chen decides to follow the dead detective line, where maybe the man was killed, maybe even both.

Problem is the solution could bring him big trouble with the high officers of the China party.
Add a new romantic interest for Chen, one that really feels natural. And hints on the control of China inte
Aug 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As my first venture into Inspector Chen Cao's world of contemporary Shanghai policing, I read with fascination about wide-spread government corruption, totalitarian internet control, Confucian philosophy, medieval Chinese poetry, and the enormous hypocrisy of the Chinese government in their futile attempts to control citizens who look to cyberspace in a feeble effort to exercise freedom of speech.

Not a great work of literature or even a great mystery, but the sheer bravado of the author in criti
An interesting but very slow paced book. It is more about Chinese philosophy in today's world with a mixture of poetry than in the solution of a couple of homicides. It is extremely well written but it is a book more for the philosopher than the mystery fan.
Qui Xiaolong has written a number of books and although born in China, he makes his home in St. Louis , Missouri. It is a different style than I am used to.....not bad , just different. I am curious if all his books are paced as this one is.
Aug 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this as a library ebook, which meant it got to the head of the queue because of due date. Almost a formula Inspector Chen - food descriptions, the intrepid and forceful female character, the detailed descriptions of the setting, maybe more poetry than most. I enjoy all that. Is this a spoiler? I was reading on the subway, got to the end, and it appeared that the book just stopped, without resolving the mystery and without Chen giving his love interest the inevitable brush off. That's why it ...more
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Life and art imitating each other? 1 7 Sep 05, 2013 06:11PM  
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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 (10 books)
  • Death of a Red Heroine (Inspector Chen Cao #1)
  • 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)
  • Shanghai Redemption (Inspector Chen Cao #9)
  • Il était une fois l'inspecteur Chen

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