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Ghost Month

(Taipei Night Market #1)

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  557 ratings  ·  125 reviews
August is Ghost Month in Taiwan-a time to commemorate the dead: burn incense, visit shrines, commemorate ancestors, and avoid unlucky situations, large purchases, and bodies of water.

Jing-nan, a young man who runs a food stand in a bustling Taipei night market, doesn't consider himself superstitious, but this August is going to haunt him no matter what he does. He is shock
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published July 29th 2014 by Soho Crime (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  557 ratings  ·  125 reviews

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James Thane
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
Ghost Month is set mostly in the bustling night market in Taipei. The protagonist, Jing-nan runs a food stand there, which he inherited from his parents. He also inherited a huge debt that was initially incurred by Jing-nan's grandfather and which has been passed down to him along with the food stand. Jing-nan once had dreams of escaping to America, going to college there, and then remaining in the U.S., along with his girlfriend, Julia, who has been the love of his life since high school. But t ...more
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I won this on the Goodreads giveaway. And I am SO happy I did!! Bear with me I'm not great with reviews but I'm going to try because this book is excellent. Jing-nan and his high school sweetheart ,Julia, made a promise to each other that they would not speak until they went to America ,graduated from college and made a life for themselves. Jing-jab would then go find his love and they would marry. Things don't work out that way. Julia was killed and Jing-jan gets in deep when he tries to figure ...more
Aug 12, 2014 rated it liked it
I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book. The setting of the night market in Taiwan was fascinating and I loved learning about Ghost Month and other elements of Taiwanese culture. But I often felt as if the narrator was explaining things to an audience instead of conducting an inner monologue, and I eventually found this part of the book tedious. The information was interesting but it felt out of step with the story. The story was a pretty straight-forward whodunit but it lacked the suspens ...more
REALLY wanted to like this book, as I want to like all books set in Taiwan. I lived in Taipei longer than I've lived in any other city; my wife is from there, my sons were born there, and so it really is my second home. But this was just lame - not so much a novel as a "Guide to Everything Taiwan" Wikipedia page, with little plot nuggets scattered along the way. In just the first 80 pages, there are endless essays on Taiwanese history, politics, food, architecture, religion - you name it - so th ...more
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Enjoyable enough as place porn for Taiwan-heads. I felt that the mystery/thriller story could have been pretty good too, if I'd been able to care even a little bit about the protagonist. But he was just...empty. I feel like the author tried too hard to make him an "ordinary guy"; especially compared with the other characters, who were mostly caricatures. The crazy nerd loser, the crazy obsessive rich bitch, the manic pixie dream girl. Meanwhile, Julia, clearly the most interesting of the bunch, ...more
Oct 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A sidewalk noodle shop in Taipei City's Shilin Night Market during summer's Ghost Month (when "supposedly the gates of the underworld are opened and spirits of the dead are allowed to walk among the living once again") is the vivid backdrop for Ed Lin's "Ghost Month." Protagonist Jing-nan has no interest in appeasing ghosts. He's still bitter that a few years earlier his parents died and left him the noodle shop saddled with staggering debt. Meanwhile, his high school sweetheart and love of his ...more
Jun 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: z3-2019-read-in
This book by Taiwanese-American author Ed Lin barely qualifies as a mystery novel, though it teaches much about past and present Taiwan. I might have rated it higher if it were categorized as contemporary fiction.
This story is set in Taiwan and uses the setting to give us history of the island and the people who live there, in particular the local character and color of Taipei. It felt fine to be in this book. Jing-nan runs a food stand in the Taipei night market, a stand that his grandfather started and has been passed down through his father to him. One day he sees in the news that a binlang girl (betel-nut beauty) has been killed and it is his girlfriend that he had been planning to marry. He had not ...more
Nov 02, 2016 rated it liked it
I picked up this book (not my usual type, as I'm usually a science fiction/fantasy fan) because a friend of mine has recently moved to Taiwan, specifically Taipei. What I wanted from this book was a sense of day-to-day life in Taipei. I hate to admit it, but I literally knew next to nothing about Taiwan or its people and was really looking for an easy way to absorb some information about a country that is completely new to me.

I got exactly that experience from GHOST MONTH.

Or, at least, I got en
Aug 07, 2014 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book and was thoroughly entertained through the build up. Being Taiwanese-American, it was fun to read about Taiwan. However, the big reveal lost me. The pieces don't fit together and you're left with a feeling that all the history about Taiwan, ghost month, and politics was gratuitous. It was almost like the author wanted to write about Taiwan and needed an excuse to do so, thereby creating a mystery that came out of left field. ...more
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
The setting is pretty amazing--Taipei, about which I know almost nothing. It's a diverse and vibrant place, corrupt and lavish and full of contradictions. The food, too, is really remarkable. Lots of descriptions there. And the main character is an interesting figure. The problem is that the plot felt sort of slack to me--as the main character seems to be sort of slack. So I had to push myself through the book in the end. Not sure I'd go for a second if there really is one. ...more
{ U n s o l v e d M y s t e r y }
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Suspense lovers
Recommended to { U n s o l v e d M y s t e r y } by: Given to me for a honest review

- My Description -
It's Ghost Month in Taiwan.

Beginning in August each year, Ghost Month honors deceased ancestors.

Incense and money are burned.
People visit shrines and temples.
Large purchases are scarce.
Bodies of water are avoided.

Jing-nan runs a night market food stall.
Unknown Pleasures sells hot fried food and steaming soups.
It's a family owned business.
It has stood the test of time for decades.

Julia, Jing-nan's long time love and high school sweetheart, is found murdered.
She was wor
Peter A
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
In the search for mysteries from around the world, I came across this book, a mystery set in Taiwan. I have wanted to start this several times over the last two or three years, but some other book always seemed more immediate, more urgent, or more important.

In preparing for a three month stay in Taiwan, I decide that it was time to read this. And I am very glad that I did! This is a very good book on several levels. First, as a mystery; second, as a coming to terms with a close friend’s death; a
Martha Bullen
Jul 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I sought out the mystery author's table at Book Expo in May to pick up a signed copy of Ghost Month for my husband, who often travels to Taiwan. I was intrigued to hear that the book is set in one of Taiipei's famous night markets.

Unfortunately, the night market is the most engaging character in the book. Lin is a Taiwanese American, and he does a terrific job bringing the vivid sights, sounds, aromas (sizzling meat skewers, burbling hot pot and the noxious stinky tofu) to life. If only he coul
Jen Sinclair
Jan 26, 2016 rated it liked it
We selected "Ghost Month" as our monthly book club read under the recommendation of one of our members who had visited Taiwan and was looking forward to revisiting the area. I found the setting of the story and tidbits about the culture interesting, yet explained in not-infrequent information dumps that could be tedious and in a narrative that changed from first person storytelling to second person tour guide. For example, when the protagonist, Jing-nan, suggests that while tourist brochures tel ...more
Frank Chen
Oct 07, 2014 rated it liked it
A fun romp through Taiwan. Having partially grown up in Taiwan, it was fun to see an entire novel written in English set in the city. The author sets a good pace that moves the narrative long, though perhaps does a too much direct explanation for my tastes ("now let me give you a Wikipedia-esque article about the origin of the various ethnic groups on the island"). I would have preferred more "learn-by-observing" rather than "learn-by-lecture".

The author's English is grammatically flawless but m
Jill Waldman
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
So I'm not a mystery person, but my daughter's friend's father is the author so I gave this a shot. It's the story of a young Taiwanese man, and he and his girlfriend promise to go to college in the States and then marry once they have made it. When family tragedy intervenes, he has to return home to run his family's food stand at the night market, and he never contacts the girlfriend out of pride. Then she is murdered and he goes to find out who did it. Though again I'm not a mystery person, I ...more
Carol Jean
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lin is a vivid writer, and this mystery novel has a fascinating premise. Its protagonist has been waiting, running his family's stall in Taipei's night market, to become a success so that he can marry his childhood sweetheart. He hasn't seen her in 10 years, but he is sure she has done well at her American university, and that she is waiting to hear from him. He is shocked to discover that she has been murdered a short distance from his market, while engaged in a questionable profession. This is ...more
Tad Richards
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
A murder mystery should have a murder in it fairly near the front, and Ghost Month appropriately puts right on the first page. What’s a little less usual is that then a third of the book goes by before the hero gets around to trying to solve it. Instead, we mostly get the details of his running a food stall in Taipei’s night market.
What’s really extraordinary is that this works. Lin is a good enough writer, and his mise en scene is interesting enough, that my attention never flagged. The mise e
Rich Saskal
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am a fan of the detective/mystery story in a foreign locale genre, if that is indeed a genre, and this is a good example of such. The lead character is no detective, rather the owner of a stall in a Taipei night food market with a complicated past, who gets caught up in trying to unravel the mystery of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, who it turns out had an even more complicated past. Anyway, the mystery is interesting, and the story provides an interesting view into the life of society of Ta ...more
Feb 29, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was so great to read a book set in Taiwan (and I learned a lot about the country!). But the mystery part of it wasn't that well-executed. ...more
Josine van Heek
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asia, favorites
A crime story that paints a great picture of Taipei and Taiwanese society. Recommended!
May 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Huge lesson in Taiwanese culture and history, with some fun CIA/mob thriller action. However it gets very lecture-y in places, and while it's fascinating, I could have done with facts and context being better incorporated into the story rather than offered as baldly stated lengthy asides. ...more
Susan Shea
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ed Lin opens a window into a wonderful world I knew nothing about, Taiwan, its night food markets, and the rush of modern life among older traditions. It's fast-paced and off-beat and I liked it a lot. ...more
Scott Vanderpoel
Feb 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Great book if you’re heading to Taiwan, with vivid descriptions of the night markets and a nice historical orientation. Mediocre book, otherwise.
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
To be clear, I wanted to like this book. I came across Ed Lin a long while ago while browsing books by Asian-American authors in the Kinokuniya bookstore in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. I was thrilled to see an author that shared the same last name as me, but it took a few years to actually get around to reading one of his books. I liked how much information Lin put in about the history and politics of Taiwan. It made reading the book feel at times like it was hitting you over the head with "now l ...more
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Modern noir set in Taipei, this book is a solid start to a series. On the plus side, Lin creates a rich atmosphere in his night markets, and fills it with a host of rich background characters. You get a great feel of the world of Jing-nan, the protagonist. For the reader who is new to all things Taiwan, Lin also puts plenty of historical context throughout the narrative, skillfully explaining the situation on the ground without losing the noir-style prose that makes this a fun book to read. The ...more
Aug 13, 2014 rated it liked it
This book was not what I expected, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, in fact it can turn out to be a wonderful thing. And I am glad I read it. However, I felt that the author bit off more than he could chew. At first, I was enthralled by the immediacy of the Taiwan setting - the author places you right in the midst of the action - you can feel the hustle-bustle of people and activity, while practically tasting the many flavors of the late-night restaurant district where the main character wor ...more
Gloria Feit
Mar 06, 2015 rated it liked it

This novel is as complicated and inscrutable as the Chinese, and probably could have been split into two or three books. It is a detailed history if Taiwan, a deep look at the culture and its people from the original aborigines to its more recent takeover following the civil war on the mainland and the settlement of the forces led by Chiang Kai-shek. Then it is a love story of sorts. And lastly, it is a mystery.

The story takes place during Ghost Month, a period in which the dead are commemorate
Feb 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
A murder-mystery set in a night market in Taipei, Ghost Month entertains from start to finish in spite of the occasional stumble. Protagonist Jing-nan is a regular working stiff who owns a stall in the night market, selling food to locals and tourists alike. When his high school lover is murdered, he becomes an impromptu detective and deals with local gangsters, corrupt police, and the CIA. I loved the scenes within the market that were food-centered; Lin certainly knows his way around the local ...more
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Ed Lin is a journalist by training and an all-around stand-up kinda guy. He's the author of several books: Waylaid, his literary debut, and his Robert Chow crime series, set in 1970s Manhattan Chinatown: This Is a Bust, Snakes Can't Run, and One Red Bastard. Lin, who is of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, is the first author to win three Asian American Literary Awards. Lin lives in New York with his ...more

Other books in the series

Taipei Night Market (3 books)
  • Incensed (Taipei Night Market #2)
  • 99 Ways to Die (Taipei Night Market #3)

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