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The Firemaker

(The China Thrillers #1)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  4,412 ratings  ·  423 reviews

Margaret Campbell, a Chicago forensic pathologist, has been invited by the Chinese government to teach at the Beijing police university. She has accepted the six-week assignment with misgivings but is desperate to escape a troubled life in America. Arriving in Beijing, she checks “nothing to declare” on the health declaration they gave her on the plane---nothing, that is,
Hardcover, 353 pages
Published September 1st 2005 by Minotaur Books (first published 1999)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  4,412 ratings  ·  423 reviews

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Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-completed
By the time Peter May wrote this first novel of his first series he had published 4 other standalone novels in the prior two decades. I haven’t read his earliest work yet, but it would be interesting to discover more about the launch of his writing journey.

This novel was a good initial outing for the China series. It is high-octane action and has a solid, fast pace throughout. As he mentions in his author’s notes, this is a fictional account of events that could very well happen in our world tod
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Suspense thriller fans
Recommended to Paula by: Netgalley
I recently read The Blackhouse by Peter May and was glad to be given the opportunity to read his republished earlier work The Firemaker on NetGalley.

May sets The Firemaker in China of which he has personal knowledge. This makes the book both educational and entertaining. The descriptions of life in Beijing and Chinese culture are fascinating.

Margaret Campbell, an American forensic pathologist from Chicago, is invited to teach in Beijing for six weeks. She arrives totally unprepared for life in
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am discovering that Peter May writes interesting novels, often mysteries, in many settings, many cultures, and appears to do so well. In the new introduction to Firemaker, May discussed his time in China, his research and relationships with members of the Chinese Police who assisted his understanding of their society and how they worked. And May passes much of this along through his story. I believe I have begun to grasp some of the fundamentals of Chinese society that are quite different from ...more
Feb 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have read many of Peter May's latest books and in fact his most recent 'Coffin Road' was the best novel I have read so far this year. So when offered the opportunity to read one of his earlier books it was a perfect chance to sample the his series based in China.
I enjoy Peter May's writing style, which I have found to be excellent stories interspersed with descriptive text that can often educate as well as entertain. This book did just that, set in China it gave an excellent insight into the c
Kylie H
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
A first book in this series by Peter May. Very different to the Enzo McLeod books that I have read so far. This is set in China, and although dated I found the cultural and historical information very interesting.
Margaret Campbell is a pathologist from the US who has accepted a short stint as a guest lecturer at a University in Beijing. It seems from the start that everything Margaret does is an affront to the Chinese people that she is supposed to be working with. After a series of events she f
Nov 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
This achieves the single star more because it is incorrectly classified than anything else. It is a romance. A romance with a murder story draped over it. A sheep in lamb’s clothing.

This was really not for me, didn’t like the plot, didn’t like the constant references to just how different Chinese culture is, didn’t like a relationship dominating all else (and one which grows from dislike to full blown love in less than a week).

Julian King
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
Perhaps I came to this with unreasonable expectations: I loved May's Lewis trilogy.

Here, he goes even further out of the way: to China. Good idea. But straight black hair and a Chinese name does not a Chinese make.

After a good 40-50 pages at the beginning of the novel, in which the cultural differences between China and the west are explored, as soon as the police investigation proper begins, suddenly it is as if none of this had ever been: we are presented with any old cop in Chinese clothing.
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scottish-authors
Book one in the China thrillers series.
As usual Peter May gives his readers value for money with this book.
Before starting this book I new next to nothing about Chinese history or it's culture. By the end of the book I was a lot more enlightened.

This starts with the classic East meets West and when they do there's fireworks. When Li Yan, a Beijing Policeman and Dr.Margaret Campbell, a visiting forensic pathologist from the USA , meet for the first time it's an instant dislike for both of them
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been a fan of Peter May ever since I picked up the first book in his Lewis Trilogy, The Blackhouse, a few years ago. Whilst none of his books have ever reached the same high, I have enjoyed them all.

The Lewis Trilogy will always be my favourite. The first one pulled me in and I was so engaged I went out and brought books two and three instantly. I thoroughly enjoyed them and promised myself I would read more. It took me a while, but I finally got hold of Entry Island. Like books two and t
Terence M
Audiobook - 13:53 hours - Narrator: Peter Forbes
3.0 Stars
I have 19 books in my Peter May collection, and his only other work that I had listened to previously was "The Blackhouse" (#1 of "The Lewis Trilogy"), an excellent novel to which I awarded five stars. I selected "The Firemaker" as my next Peter May because it was the first of six books in "The China Thrillers" series. I won't say I was disappointed with "The Firemaker" because I enjoyed it, but based on "The Blackhouse" I think I may have
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a great action-filled tale this is from Peter May, published in 1999 no less. I can't imagine why I had not tried this before now as I like his writing. Little "guy" against the giant corporation in cahoots with top government officials equals a very entertaining read. In this case the "little guy" is more like a duo, a Chinese Inspector working with a brilliant American pathologist who walk into more than big trouble by investigating a burning death.
Site of Action: mostly Beijing, 1990's
Aug 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
THE FIREMAKER (Police Procedural-China-Cont) – VG
May, Peter – Standalone
Thomas Dunne Books, 2005- Hardcover
Margaret Campbell is a Chicago forensic pathologist in China for six weeks to lecture at the Beijing police university. Senior Detective Li Yan is newly promoted to Deputy Section Chief. This first case is of a man burned to death in a public place. Margaret, a specialist in burned victims, performs the autopsy and declares it murder. Two other murders follow and at all three is found the s
Colin Mitchell
Having read the Lewis Trilogy it was with great expectation that I started on this the first of the China thrillers. Unfortunately I was disappointed, the main character, Dr Margaret Campbell arrived in China to lecture at the University ill prepared for the experience was rude, overbearing and so drunk in the first few days that she failed to turn up at work. So frustrating.

As the story unfolds more pages are devoted to the relationship between herself and the detective Li Yan, than on the plot
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
I got eight percent of the way into this book. TBH, I thought I did pretty well to get that far.

If you want soap opera melodrama obviousness in a book, you will love this.

If you've read May's Lewis Men trilogy, don't sully the memory by going anywhere near this egregious garbage.
Rhian Eleri
When I read the sentence ;
...'get him into a freezer quick, before he cooks...' I thought yes, I'm going to love this book! sadly though, this was as far as the gore went. I admit, I did read no.3 in this series by mistake, and didn't know it was part if a series until mid-read. That was called Killing room and was sickeningly gory (a good thing)
so I think my expectations where high for the 1st in series. So I found it a difficult read In a way that I was just unable to connect with the story an
Jul 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
3.5 stars rounded up (extra half point for audio version).

This is a detective / thriller / romance set in China featuring American pathologist Margaret Campbell & Chinese detective Li Yan.

I liked the story and the characters - Peter May is not afraid to break boundaries and head in to territory from which there is no return! And the setting gives it an interesting edge over other books in this genre.

I will certainly be reading the next in the series - highly recommended.
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What do I say about The Fire Maker? What can I say? (My reviews are currently a little rough, but with a little practice hopefully I'll be able to convey all the thing I need to.)

Let's start with the setting: post-Mao China of the 1990's, a period of history that Westerners know so very little about. I wanted to drown in the descriptions of this new Beijing in the era after the Cultural Revolution. Business booming practically overnight, wealth flooding into the county as it modernized yet still
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
A burned corpse in a park in Beijing is the beginning of a strange mystery for Beijing detective Li Yan and forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell. Together they must work out who the man is if it was suicide or murder. And if it was murder, who would want to kill him? Since they got on the wrong foot with each other at the first meeting must they also find a way to work together without frictions with is easier said than done.

Peter May's Lewis trilogy is one that I truly enjoyed reading so I wa
Apr 22, 2016 rated it liked it
This one has good points and not so good points, probably in equal measures. The author is determined that we should learn lots of things about Chinese culture ( a bit out of date but not his fault since the book is quite old), about genetic modification ( he holds very strong views on this) and about techniques used in post-mortems (at least this was really interesting). This information is occasionally delivered via dialogue between someone knowledgeable and someone who must live under a rock ...more
Susan Johnson
Jan 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: net-galley
I like Peter May's Lewis Island books and was really looking forward to this one. This is set in China when American forensic pathologist, Margaret Campbell, accepts a short teaching stint at the People's University of Public Security in Beijing. She is recovering from a personal tragedy and is cranky, out of sorts and not the least bit interested in China's customs and way of life. She just wanted a change of pace and is quite convinced of her American superiority. She is a pain to be around. A ...more
3 no 7
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
“The Firemaker” is part of Peter May’s series set in China. I have read and loved his books set in Scotland, but somehow had not read any of the China series. May tells a great story, and I loved this one, as well. I enjoyed reading a mystery in the midst of the complex and diverse life in Beijing.

The main character, Margaret Campbell leaves America to get away from some personal problems, but she is not prepared for the cultural differences she finds in Beijing. She is stereotypically uninforme
May 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
Peter May's China mysteries have been reissued by Poisoned Pen Press. This is good news, because since he first wrote them I have become interested in Chinese culture and life (lived in Taiwan, been to China, have a Chinese daughter-in-law, and a son who speaks Mandarin fluently and spends some summers there as part of his job). So this first book in a series of six I found quite exciting, even allowing for the explanations of Chinese culture sprinkled in at some length (because the American pro ...more
Feb 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2015
I found this book a very interesting read. I loved the interplay between Margaret Campbell and LI Yan. Learned a lot of 'how not to act in China' through Margaret's mistakes. I have read Peter May's The Lewis Trilogy and didn't know what to expect for the Beijing series but May does not disappoint. He has well-developed characters and many surprises at the end. If you are interested in finding out about China's laws and history, then you will be sure to enjoy this book. I can't wait to read the ...more
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book #1 in the China thrillers introducing Li Yan and Dr. Margaret Campbell. Dr. Campbell arrives in Beijing for a 6 week guest lecture at the Centre of Material Evidence Determination. Her first autopsy is on a burn victim found in one of the city's parks and introduces her to Li Yan, a new up-and-coming Beijing detective. A series of suspicious deaths entangled the two in a major crime investigation.

A very good beginning to a series by Peter May. I look forward to reading more.
May 14, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The story in itself wasn't that bad - a good thriller to keep you occupied for an afternoon or so, even though I guessed all the details of the climax about 100 pages before any of the main characters.

But MY GOD why is the author so obsessed with us knowing that his main female character isn't EVER wearing a bra ?? First of all, it's unrealistic and unprofessional as FUCK, second of all, has he ever met an actual woman? I'm seriously starting to doubt it.
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourite, e-book
This...was one of the best books I've read recently. ...more
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this! It's so very well researched and full of detail. Can't wait to pick up the next in the series! ...more
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
A mildly above-average boilerplate detective thriller.

It's interesting in parts but the author insists on hitting you in the face with a sledgehammer-like cue for every single major plot reveal. It makes the rest of the book a half-intriguing half-tortuous slog through page after page of Orientalist exposition, half-baked Frankenfood conspiracies and a stunningly obnoxious and unlikable central character which the author tries to save about 200 pages too late.

The fact that it is set in China (o
May 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: at-the-library
I really enjoyed this book - the mystery was interesting and well put together, intriguing stuff set against a fascinating cultural backdrop. Someone said they felt the pieces of Chinese culture were lectures, but I felt that the book did a great job of explaining major cultural or historical significance without seeming like we were taking a departure to textbook or cultural handbooks. Truly the part where Margaret and Li Yan go back and forth on human rights issues is beautifully done - a grea ...more
Susan in Perthshire
May 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Having really enjoyed his 'Enzo' and 'Lewis' series, I am sorry to say I was disappointed in this - the first of the novels set in China. I liked the first couple of chapters as they set the scene and highlighted the cultural context in which Margaret was going to work; but found it difficult to empathise with either of the protagonists and frankly I thought the story meandered quite a lot. Not up to Enzo's standard I'm afraid. I will read the second one to see if I like it any the better. ...more
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Play Book Tag: The Firemaker by Peter May - 3.5 stars 3 11 Apr 15, 2016 02:45AM  

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