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A Perfect Crime

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A chilling literary thriller about a motiveless murder in provincial China.

On a normal day in provincial China, a teenager goes about his regular business, but he's also planning the brutal murder of his only friend. He lures her over, strangles her, stuffs her body into the washing machine and flees town, whereupon a perilous game of cat-and-mouse begins.

A shocking investigation into the despair that traps the rural poor as well as a technically brilliant excursion into the claustrophobic realm of classic horror and suspense, A Perfect Crime is a thrilling and stylish novel about a motiveless murder that echoes Kafka's absurdism, Camus' nihilism and Dostoyevsky's depravity. With exceptional tonal control, A Yi steadily reveals the psychological backstory that enables us to make sense of the story's dramatic violence and provides chillingly apt insights into a country on the cusp of enormous social, political and economic change.

224 pages, Hardcover

First published February 1, 2012

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About the author

A Yi

35 books24 followers
A Yi is a Chinese writer living in Beijing. He worked as a police officer before becoming editor-in-chief of Chutzpah. He is the author of two collections of short stories and has published fiction in Granta and the Guardian. In 2010 he was shortlisted for the People’s Literature Top 20 Literary Giants of the Future.

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5 stars
79 (9%)
4 stars
212 (26%)
3 stars
298 (37%)
2 stars
144 (18%)
1 star
59 (7%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 169 reviews
Profile Image for Adeeb.
671 reviews33 followers
August 19, 2015
This was a pleasant surprise. I was drawn by the title, synopsis, and cover at the bookstore and thought I would buy it. The book was just translated to English and did not have many reviews. Oh booooooy. This was SOOOOOO good. It gave me chills, goosebumps, and creeps.

I am still scarred by this book. It sounds a message. It will eat you alive. The book is not a light read; in fact it is very very dark. You don't get to see through the mind of a very creepy killer everyday!

I can't review this book properly because I don't wanna spoil anything, but READ IT!
Profile Image for Imi.
378 reviews110 followers
December 8, 2016
This is not a mystery as you may expect from a novel about a murder. From the get go, the reader knows who the killer is, how his victim was chosen, how he planned the crime and his escape, and, most importantly, we know his motives, why he decided to commit such a gruesome, unforgivable act, even if his motives seem incomprehensible to any decent, moral human being. We know all this because the novel is told from the killer's perspective.

That's not to say this book doesn't raise any questions. In fact, there's probably more questions than answers. I couldn't help thinking (sadly) how relevant this book in these times. Killers of this type aren't uncommon. The bored, disillusioned, angry, young, white man. Someone who kills just because he's bored, just because he can, just because he hates his life, society and everyone in it. How did we, as a society, get to this point where these kind of murders are everyday occurrences? What starts off as a study of the motives of a killer becomes much more when you consider the wider implications for society as a whole.

To sum up, this novel wasn't what I was expecting. For one thing, it got me thinking, but was also a quick, well-paced read. Recommended.
Profile Image for Antonomasia.
972 reviews1,193 followers
November 19, 2015
Having forgotten, or not read, the blurb, I started this newly-translated Chinese novella expecting a detective story. In fact, the narrator is a late teenage boy (whom we later learn is named Su), and he's intent on committing a murder, though yet to settle on a victim. His tone is disarmingly calm and matter-of-fact rather than sinister: I never doubted, for instance, that the narrator was reliable - and for a while it was almost bizarre when he mentioned violent acts, because they didn't fit with the person one would otherwise expect from the way he spoke. (Reading whilst tired and dizzy only added to the sense of unreality.) When violence isn't on the agenda, he doesn't sound consumed by hate and despising, and he has a reasonable understanding of some others, alongside a level of disaffection that sounds fairly standard for a teenager from a difficult family. His arrogant irritation with some people is similar to Raskolnikov's, but not as strong or frequent, and not delirious. This tone is probably more realistic than the narrator whose every paragraph signposts their wickedness: news reports about kids who commit major violent crimes often indicate people didn't think they were that bad before.

A Perfect Crime is also an excellent piece of writing and translation, combining the clear, simple prose of the best thrillers and crime fiction with imaginative metaphors grounded in Chinese mythology and landscape. There was never a word out of place - except for one minor continuity error relating to a mobile phone battery. It's the style that gets this book four stars: not having read a great deal of Chinese fiction, the local detail was very interesting, but originality of plot was not its strong point - aspects of the story were quite similar to Camus' L'Etranger.

Su's motivation could be considered existential; as he says in the final chapters

Su comes from what appears to be in British terms a lower middle class family, one that has had mixed fortunes, and at the opening of the story lives with his inconsistently strict aunt. This kind of farming-out to relatives, familiar from Victorian novels, implicitly sounds like it is still relatively common. As Su goes on the run through the Chinese countryside, we hear incidental details about, among other things, shopping and the imagery that sometimes fuels it, conditions on trains, frequent compulsory use of ID, the cheaper types of hotel, and the living conditions of impoverished peasant farmers and their families - who in some ways, to Western eyes, live as if in a different century. It is clear that the police can be brutal: to the innocent - beating up an unwell old farmer who accidentally knocked over an officer whilst rushing to the loo, for example - as well as towards those who have committed serious crimes. The following spoiler relates to material already spoilt by the blurb:

A very fast and good quality read that also gave an intriguing picture of contemporary China, even if classic literature has told stories of similarly destructive young men before.

Interview with the translator here in which she highlights some of the political aspects of the book.
Profile Image for Lou.
773 reviews
January 31, 2019
In any story, I like to have diverse POV, so bad characters are always worthy to read. In this book, however, the killer is empty and boring; although I think that his motivation was interesting and had a philosophical side.

The story doesn't give a reason to keep reading, and if you read the first chapters and then skip right to the final chapter, you won't miss anything.

I won this book through GoodReads and I thank to the author for providing me this copy but this fact didn't influence the review.
Profile Image for Oriana.
82 reviews7 followers
October 27, 2022
Me parece una obra decente, pero que no logra transmitir o "hacer sentir" el vacío que quiere demostrar como motivo del protagonista. Lo entiendo (obviando que no asesinaría a alguien y mucho menos por el motivo aquí narrado), incluso me hizo reflexionar en algunas cosas, pero no logra dejarme la sensación de que nada tiene sentido al terminar de leerlo lo cual es, de forma notoria, el objetivo del autor.

Al principio me pareció innovador, pero a mediados del relato sentí que no me estaba contando nada. En la última parte retomé el interés con el final.

No es un libro que recomendaría.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Viencienta.
305 reviews48 followers
October 5, 2021
Tengo que alejarme de los crímenes asiáticos, no los entiendo.
Volvemos a un crimen arbitrario y desde la distancia, no hay conexión entre nada ni nadie, aunque quizá el autor haya querido expresar ese vacío, que no digo yo que no... un coñazo absoluto y eso que es cortito!
Me rindo... que sopor más malo.
Profile Image for Javier Casado.
Author 8 books62 followers
August 21, 2019
Frío e insustancial. Una pena, porque la premisa de partida era muy atractiva: un joven, al que intuímos psicópata o al menos sociópata, planea un asesinato porque sí, porque está harto de una vida insulsa y busca emociones. Busca no sólo la emoción del asesinato, sino la de la huída y la persecución por parte de la policía. Quiere disfrutar del juego del gato y el ratón, y por ello, incluso va dejando pistas para que el juego no le resulte demasiado fácil. Si a todo esto le unimos un marco que nos resulta exótico, como es China, parece que de ahí debería salir un resultado al menos interesante. Pero no: el autor consigue aburrirnos con un texto frío y lejano que sólo he conseguido terminar gracias a su brevedad.
Profile Image for Pupottina.
584 reviews57 followers
April 28, 2016

Che cosa significa "non c'è un motivo"?

"Ora capisco, capisco tutto. Non voglio rimanere intrappolato nell'illusione che mi voglia bene."
E adesso? Un titolo semplice e intrigante per una storia noir che racconta una vicenda che affonda le radici nella quotidianità di ognuno di noi, a volte tanto banale da scivolare in qualche gesto di assurda follia. È opera di uno scrittore cinese che non conoscevo ancora, A Yi. Il suo romanzo breve mi è piaciuto molto. L'ho trovato intelligente e coinvolgente, lucido e dettagliato nella narrazione dei gesti e delle motivazioni, irrazionali, che spingono il protagonista a pianificare un omicidio, apparentemente compiuto senza un vero perché, ma in realtà denso di troppe frustrazioni ed insoddisfazioni. Quello che poteva essere un suicidio per depressione diventa un efferato delitto con la conseguente fuga, però, senza troppa voglia di farla franca.
"Mi sarebbe piaciuto essere qualcuno di eccezionale. Ma qualsiasi cosa finisce come acqua nel deserto: evapora."
Lo sconvolgente protagonista, un normalissimo ragazzo della provincia cinese, insoddisfatto della propria esistenza senza lavoro, decide di diventare eccezionale per qualcosa che lo faccia ricordare, che gli permetta di uscire dall'anonimato facendo del male alla più innocente delle creature che conosce, una ragazza, dolce e perbene, che ha mal riposto in lui la sua fiducia.
"Lei è un'esca. La natura mi guarda profetica e stupefatta mentre cado in trappola, un passo dopo l'altro."
Il suo è un progetto totalmente folle, grottesco.
"Dovevo fare del male a lei, che era una così brava ragazza. Non ero tanto io a volerlo, quanto lei a imporlo".
Tanto interessante, quanto sconvolgente. Un romanzo adatto per riflettere sulla mancanza di empatia e sull'anaffettività che domina il presente.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,125 reviews34 followers
April 12, 2018
Disappointing. I was initially drawn in by the stark prose, hypnotic in its simplicity.

But this is just another story of the mind of a psychopath. It’s done much better in Fight Club & American Psycho. And if you want disaffected teen boys... well, they’re everywhere.
Profile Image for Leah Bayer.
567 reviews200 followers
February 9, 2017
This is the story of a teenage boy who hates his life and decides to kill somebody. That's... that's pretty much it. He plans a murder, commits a murder, goes on the run, etc. It's exactly what it says on the box. And, like much Asian crime fiction, this is whydunnit rather than a whodunnit--because obviously we know who did it and how it was done because our protagonist is the criminal. The core "mystery" of the novel is why he committed the crime, because he's very vague about his intentions. We're in his head, but it's clear that his narration is intentionally misleading (so there is an element of the unreliable narrator).

I found something in this book severely lacking. I think there was just no soul to it. Sure, we're in the head of a sociopath, but the narration is as bland as his personality. There's no connection between reader and protagonist. It's definitely possible to make a murderer relateable (or at least entertaining), but I think the goal here was to create an almost alien protagonist that was impossible to identify with. In which case... success, I guess? But it doesn't make for a very engaging read.

The writing was decent and it was paced well, so I don't want to knock it down below 3 stars. And I didn't hate reading it... but I didn't enjoy it either. It was an entirely neutral reading experience. I do think the final "why I did it" reveal was well done, but it also lacked any element of surprise. While our narrator is trying to hide his motives for the "big reveal" any intuitive reader will guess why long before he decides to tell us. So there's no wow moment, just another "that was well written but I don't care at all" type of scene.
Profile Image for Andy Weston.
2,384 reviews139 followers
May 16, 2019
Initially a notable book in that it’s the shortest author’s surname that I have ever read.
Also though, and more seriously, it’s the sort of book I seek out, original crime writing. The book has a clever title, and is an unsettling melange of adolescent rage, escapism and the consequent shocking media reaction. The author has used his own background in law enforcement to delve into the troubled mind of young man barely out of boyhood. If we can’t see the evil in him straight away, Yi’s narrator soon earns it from us with his apathetic and disturbing attitude to small acts of violence, and his prods at the homeless, even before he embarks on his mission of murder. Yet the skill in the writing is that by now the reader is compelled to the story, which in the prologue seemed far from possible.
On another level, there are subliminal comments on the Chinese justice system, and recent actual school atrocities. Though the media and society’s so-called experts insist on pigeon-holing him (a "fallen prince"? a sexual predator? filled with rage?) could the driving force have just been boredom?
Profile Image for Jay.
225 reviews47 followers
March 2, 2016
I have received this book through Goodreads Giveaway :)

I was looking through the list on Goodreads Giveaway when this cover caught my attention. I read the blurb, decided it's not my thing and kept scrolling. Then I came across it again and the cover was just too eye catching! So I read the blurb again, realised it's not my thing (again), yet decided to enter. Nothing to lose, right?

The next day I got the "Congratulations" email and I knew, I KNEW it would be Perfect Crime by A Yi.

Now, I like disturbing books. No. I love them.

This one made me feel sick and nothing even really happened.

The story is pretty straightforward - 19yo guy plans a murder, executes murder and flees town. We're in his head through the whole time.

When I didn't have it in my hands I was itching to read it, but when I started again, all I wanted was to get it away from me so I could bloody breathe again. I made it halfway before I had to put it in my "I'll finish it when I'm ready" pile.

The narrator (we're not told his name) is.... I wouldn't describe him as "calm", but he didn't care. He seemed BORED.

He didn't spend a lot of time thinking about things which is probably why I had to keep taking breaks, so one of us could process what just happened. He was inconsistent, irrational and unreliable, yet he was the sanest madman around.

I couldn't figure him out!

I simultaneously recommend that you read it and also stay the fuck away from it.
Profile Image for Matias Cerizola.
390 reviews18 followers
January 27, 2022
Una Pizca De Maldad.- Ah Yi

"Cada día, al despertarme, porque por más que uno postergue el momento, al final tiene que despertarse, ¿no?, me enfrentaba a una pregunta angustiante: ¿Y ahora, que puedo hacer?"

Zhou es un adolescente que se hospeda en la casa de sus tíos mientras estudia para rendir el examen de ingreso a la universidad. Con una relación distante con su madre, una netamente mala con su tía y un resentimiento siempre latente con la sociedad que lo rodea, Zhou empieza a planificar sus próximas acciones minuciosamente, acciones que desembocarán en el asesinato sin un motivo aparente.

Narrado en primera persona, Una Pizca De Maldad es un libro bastante denso en su lectura, que no es lo mismo que sea aburrido. El problema viene por el personaje principal, este adolescente con pensamientos que buscan justificar su obrar durante la historia y que al ser en su mayoría descabellados y producto de una mente enferma, nos resulta muy difícil empatizar con él y por ende con su historia. Juega muy a favor la habilidad del autor de poder meternos en la cabeza de este muchacho complejo.

En muy pocas ocasiones, el protagonista realiza una crítica hacia la sociedad en la que podemos coincidir y ahí viene el gran conflicto, sabernos correspondientes con las ideas de este sociópata asesino. Si bien no es un libro particularmente gore o sangriento, es lo suficientemente detallado en algunas descripciones, sumado a algunos de los tópicos que trata como para avisar que no es una lectura para todo el mundo. Peques abstenerse.


Libro leído para el club de lectura asiática #ClubLcAsia
Profile Image for Mircalla .
648 reviews83 followers
May 7, 2016
e adesso nulla

pronti? partenza! via!

un adolescente problematico pianifica e compie l'insensato omicidio di una coetanea dolce e fiduciosa che accetta di seguirlo per aiutarlo e finisce mangiata dal lupo

tutto il racconto è in prima persona e l'unica cosa che il lettore capirà è che "non c'è un motivo" lui ha ucciso per prendere una vita, la sua gli sembra vana e alla fine accetta la pena di morte...due vite sprecate, ma deve essere quello che succede quando non si hanno in mano le redini della propria vita e qualcun altro decide per noi, si deve essere per quello che il motivo non c'è...
Profile Image for Dennis.
801 reviews31 followers
May 18, 2019
I'd completely forgotten that I'd read this book until I came across it and realized I'd never noted it in Good Reads. I think this was because I found this book so boring and annoying to read that it was easy to pass over the egoist, nihilistic vision of the narrator. There's no doubt in my mind that it mirrors the attitude of a lot of juvenile murderers but it felt more like the writer, who worked in criminal justice for many years, needed to purge his system of all the ugliness he'd seen. To those who haven't read it, this is NOT a crime thriller but an unrepentant braggadocio confession but not a particularly interesting one for me. Thank God it was short!
Profile Image for Vanessa.
175 reviews1 follower
February 20, 2016
Honestly? If you are an adult - don't bother. Teenager with issues plans and murders friend for no good reason. Flees, then lets himself be arrested and tried. Reason for murder unclear other than (possibly) because he can, someone at home pissed him off, he hates his family, he hates everyone, and craves attention.

Made no sense whatsoever!
Profile Image for Zeynep Gunduz Seyhan.
259 reviews12 followers
November 23, 2019
Kitabı çok beğendim. İlk defa Çin edebiyatından bir eser okuyorum ve hiç de yabancılamadım. Kitapta katilin gözünden anlatılıyor tüm olaylar ve biz bir insanın nasıl katil olduğunu, hangi duygularla bu işi yaptığını , nasıl planlar kurduğunu görüyoruz. Kitabın son bölümünde katil motivasyonunu da net bir şekilde açıklamış. Kısa bir kitaptı, romandan ziyade öykü gibi ama sıkılmadan bir solukta bitirdim.
Profile Image for Arja-täti.
1,980 reviews82 followers
January 22, 2022
Kirja oli aivan toisenlainen kuin kuvittelin. Paljon mielenkiintoisempi ja parempi. Ei mikään tyypillinen dekkari ja lisämausteena itselle vieras kulttuuri. Kirjaa luki uteliaana, koska ei osannut lainkaan arvella, mihin suuntaan tarina vie.
Profile Image for Ashley Mae.
44 reviews41 followers
September 24, 2015
3/5 Stars. A unique and interesting take on the traditional crime novel.

"Whenever I started something, I would picture its inevitable ending."

Review originally posted on Fictional Living.

Set in China, A Perfect crime is a first-person telling from a bored Chinese student. In his need for excitement, the boy carries out a plan to brutally murder a fellow classmate, leaving her in a washing machine inside the apartment he shared with his aunt.

Now he's on the run for his crimes, but how long will that last? Will the police catch up to him, or will his need to make a point about life and society drive him to turn himself in?

I originally heard about this book from the All The Books podcast by Book Riot (which I love!). Being a mostly YA reader, I felt the longing to step out of my comfort zone and dive a little deeper, and darker, into a crime novel.

What first drew me in was the fact that, unlike other crime novels, this story was told from the point of view of the murderer. I found myself curious if I would develop Stockholm Syndrome and learn to love the narrator, fighting for his freedom and justifying his insanely brutal murder.

Secondly, I discovered that the author, A Yi, is a former cop-turned-writer. The things this man would have seen and his ability to dive into the mind of a murderer would make for a very interesting point of view indeed.

Both are very logical reasonings to jump out of YA for a book-long hiatus and attempt this little thriller.

But that jump was more like a three month long free fall.

My bookmark lived on page 71 for a good two out of the three months. Why page 71? Because 71 pages is how long it took me to want to stab myself 37 times and dive head first into a washing machine.

No, this book is not as horrible as I make it out to be. It's an interesting twist on the crime novel, its dark and twisty like us humans tend to love, and it is indeed a thrill ride.

But the narrator just fell flat for me. His innate boredom with life left me bored as well, most of the time. I could see the thrills and chills but I couldn't feel them, like watching a chase seen on the big screen without the volume: you know its intense, but you just aren't fully in it.

I find that length could have contributed to my lack of following in this book. I can't even tell you how long the narrator was on the run because it felt like a couple days for me. Things happened quickly and I didn't always find them easy to follow.

Yes, its a look into a troubled and messed up mind, but you would think a cat and mouse game with police would have me on the edge of my seat.

Overall, this story in unique, interesting, and definitely a great POV for a crime novel. Many factors could have gone into my inability to love this story: My undying love for YA, the story being translated (I had a hard time following settings and layouts through unfamiliar territories that would be second nature to a Chinese audience), my stubborn need to have faith in a narrator and not detest them.

Sadly, this story wasn't one I wanted to finish, but was forced to by my OCD. It's not a book I would recommend wholeheartedly, but I would encourage you to take this review with a grain of salt and give the mere 210 pages a shot. It is unique, and I value books for that in a time when love triangles and predictable endings are a dime-a-dozen.
Profile Image for Kimbofo.
763 reviews152 followers
May 16, 2015
I do love a dark crime novel — and A Yi’s A Perfect Crime is probably one of the darkest I’ve read in a long time.

Set in China, it follows the exploits of a disaffected 19-year-old student who decides he’s so bored he needs to do something to make his life more exciting. Where others might go on a holiday or take up a new hobby, this nameless young man decides to murder a fellow student by luring her into the apartment he shares with his aunt. Here, he brutally stabs her to death and then shoves her body into a washing machine. He then goes on the run, criss-crossing the country, in what turns out to be a cat-and-mouse game with the police.

To read the rest of my review, please visit my blog.
Profile Image for Mobyskine.
888 reviews110 followers
December 15, 2018
The blurb got me hooked. I like how it started, the plot was intense but fascinating. It was predictable too but reading how the main character trying his best to plot 'a perfect crime' just out of boredom and escapism really got me staying to the narrative till the end. A very straightforward murder case, nothing fancy or mysterious even the way it was planned was just out of the blue-- perhaps this was more a story of the murderer point of view about his own crime. The reason was vague, he was honest too, the chapters defining each portion perfectly. Plot moving rapidly and tight, it was psychotic at a point, depressing and awkward as well. Though the trial and appeal part were a bit distressful but I think the writer was great in making it interesting that I keep on wanting to know what will happen. It plays a lot with emotion, about family and morality, life and regret, love and attention. It was actually not a perfect crime but the drama and scenes made out of it was truly enthralling. Love the last part.
Profile Image for Kanchan.
43 reviews1 follower
May 17, 2021
Most of the other popular Chinese fiction I come across is in the Historical Fiction category so it was interesting to read a crime thriller set in modern day China. The book starts off by our teenage protagonist setting off to buy himself a suit at bargain prices and gets a thrill at seeing the desperation of the shopkeeper. We then learn he lives with his aunt in the city at a military compound while his mum is busy making money in their native. He later invites his classmate over, stabs her 37 times, puts her headfirst into a top loading washing machine and goes on the run. He eventually gets caught and the prosecutor/public/even us readers really want to know why he did something so gruesome. In our book club we discussed perhaps some fault lays at the China's governance/societal structure, his family's neglect, his suicidal tendencies or he just bored and it was a game. All of us had our own conclusions. I would definitely recommended it as a psychological fiction.
Profile Image for Nina Rmn.
50 reviews1 follower
July 16, 2020
I give it a 2 only because it's not the the kind of thrill that I'm into. However, I praise the author for making us read from the killer's POV only on his murder plan but really, the bigger content of this story is about us, the society and how we have responsibilities towards each other. It's a very personal type of read because you're almost practically reading a diary. Readers know from the get go who the killer is, who he's going to murder, how he's going to do it, his motive, etc. If anything, the author makes some of us feel that we can turn an innocent kid into a cold blooded murderer.
Profile Image for Priyanka Pujari.
9 reviews1 follower
May 16, 2021
The only good thing about this book is that it's small.
I read it for a book club. I was excited when I read the blurb, but the book was really disappointing.
I constantly kept comparing it with "Vernon God Little" by DBC Pierre because:
1. Both the books has similar senseless violence
2. They were difficult to read.
Where Vernon God Little was difficult to read, the ending made a lot of sense.

The book felt disjointed. Some of the parts were very difficult to read.

Overall a pretty below the average read.
Profile Image for Dayangku Nuraini Wahed.
150 reviews2 followers
July 10, 2021
This was surprisingly a pleasure to finish! The start and build-up is rather slow, but it is a relaxing read with a satisfying conclusion. I can't explain it as eloquently as I would like to, but the conclusion gave me such a satisfaction. I would say it is legit psychopath thriller.
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